Wintery street

How to Winter-Proof Your Windows

If, like most of us, you want to reduce your heating bills, you’ll need to pay close attention to your windows – largely because they lose heat much faster than the surrounding walls. This, as you might imagine, is especially important when temperatures drop, so it’s worth thinking about before winter arrives.

What are the Most Winter-Proof Window Designs?

Let’s look at a few popular varieties of window, and how effective they are at retaining heat.

Casement Windows

A casement window operates via a hinge, and usually opens outwards. This makes it compatible with draught-reducing silicon seals, which run around the edges of the window and are compressed when the window is closed. These seals will degrade over time, gradually losing their elasticity, and so must be replaced every so often.

Sash Windows

By contrast, a sash window moves up and down (or from side to side) within the frame. In place of soft seals (which would create friction and prevent the window from moving), sash windows feature draught-excluding brushes.

Like the seals in casement windows, these brushes will wear away over time, and so should ideally be replaced every few years.

Older Windows

If you’re the owner of an older property in a conservation area, the changes you can make to your home will be limited. This is because your planning officer will want any replacement windows to conform with your existing windows.

houses in a UK village

In fact, it can sometimes be tricky to get double-glazing installed in older properties. Firstly, the difference in pressure between the interior and exterior of a double-glazed window can produce a noticeable bowing effect on the glass. Then there’s the fact that double-glazing for period properties tends to cost considerably more than typical double-glazed windows.

That’s not to say that owners of older properties are out of luck – there are plenty of new windows which work well in older properties.

Bay Windows

Bay windows, technically speaking, aren’t windows.

They’re groups of several windows, arranged together. As such, bay windows can either be casement or sash. Given that bay window protrude slightly from the building, they’re a little more vulnerable to cold spells than most other types of window.

This means you’ll want to dress the windows properly and ensure they’re thoroughly maintained.

Arched Head Windows

Arched head windows feature an arch at the top for added visual interest. The top of the arch is usually sealed into place, with the bottom of the window functioning like a traditional sash window.

What is Best for Winter: Double or Triple Glazing?

Argon-filled double glazing is the gold standard for modern windows, but there are ways to make the technology even more efficient. You could choose windows with a denser gas, like krypton or xenon – but that’s often overkill, especially since they cost considerably more than argon-filled windows.

Another option is to increase the depth of the cavity, but this would result in an incredibly thick window, and exacerbate the bowing effect we’ve already discussed. What’s more, a cavity that’s too thick can create convection currents, via which heat can be transmitted from one panel to the other.

In Scandinavia and other particularly-cold parts of the world, a popular solution is triple-glazing. Triple-glazing is formed of, as you might have guessed, three panels of glass rather than two.

houses in Svalbard

Triple-glazed windows are trickier to manufacture than double-glazed windows, so they understandably cost more. They also reduce the amount of light entering the property’s interior, and how much heat is gained through sunlight exposure. As such, if your window is south-facing, you might end up reducing the energy efficiency of your property by installing triple-glazing.

We should bear in mind that winter is relatively short in the UK, so the added expense incurred by triple-glazing should be offset against the light-reducing effect it has for the rest of the year. For most of us, there are many energy-saving measures worth considering before triple-glazing is worth the expense.

Window Ratings Explained

If you’re comparing different windows, you’ll have probably encountered all sorts of arcane terminology. To confuse matters further, British and American manufacturers use different rating systems.

U-factor

The u-factor (or u-rating) measures the rate at which heat flows from one side of a window to the other. The lower the number, the more efficient the window.

U-rating is usually determined using the centre of the glass, which means the effect of the frame is discounted. You should expect a good double-glazed window to achieve a u-rating of around 0.3. U-factor is related to R-value, which is more commonly used to calculate the efficiency of solid brickwork.

Solar Heat Gains Coefficient (SHGC)

Whenever sunlight hits your window, some of it will pass through, leaving the remainder to bounce away. In doing so, this portion will help heat your property. The higher a window’s SHGC, the more heat it gains through solar energy. In winter, this extra heat will make a difference to both your comfort, and to your energy expenditure.

Visual Transmittance (VT)

This works just like the SHGC, except instead of measuring the proportion of heat energy entering the building, we’re measuring the amount of visible light. The two don’t always correlate, as manufacturers add special coatings that filter out certain wavelengths.

Air Leakage (AL)

Air leakage measures the volume of air that can circulate through a window in a given timeframe. The lower the AL rating, the draughtier the window. In many cases, a little circulation is required to allow the building to ‘breathe’ and thereby prevent damp.

British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC)

The BFRC are the central body responsible for upholding window standards in the UK. They issue licences to approved manufacturers, and stipulate which retailers are authorised to sell approved windows. To make things a little less confusing for the customer, each window approved by the BFRC comes is rated between E and A++. This rating combines all the measurements we’ve described into a simple grade, so it’s easy to make rough comparisons between different windows.

How to Insulate Your Windows for the Winter

Whatever windows you’ve chosen, there are several steps you might take to increase their heat-retaining abilities for the season.

Heavy dressing

Heavy curtains can reduce heat lost through the windows by preventing the cold air around the glass from mixing with the warm air in the room. To get the best from this, you’ll need to actually draw your curtains at night-time.

Secondary Glazing

Secondary glazing works a little like double-glazing, except instead of two glass panels built into the same unit, a second panel is fitted to the inside of the existing window. Since there’s no pressure difference, there’s no bowing effect. What’s more, you can remove the secondary glazing when the weather gets warmer.

You can also get flexible and rigid plastic secondary glazing, called winter window clings, which can be fitted to the window frame for winter.

Re-sealing

As windows age, the seals which run around the edges wear out – i.e. the stuff that runs around the edge of the frame, and the brushes and rubber strips that sit on the frame’s inside. Make a habit of inspecting these every year, and replace them when necessary.

Draught Excluders

These are long, tubular cushions, often crammed underneath leaky doors. If your windows are draughty, they can serve the same purpose.

Low-e glass

Low-emissivity glass is glazing that’s coated with a very thin layer of reflective metal, that helps prevent heat escaping. Most modern windows are low-emissivity.

Need new windows? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

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wooden windows

Argon vs. Krypton vs. Xenon in Windows

When it comes to energy efficiency, windows are notoriously vulnerable.  Given a chance, they’ll drain the heat out of your home and into the great outdoors, far faster than brickwork and doors.

Of course, this isn’t a new problem, but in recent years better solutions have entered the market.  Of these, double-glazing is the best-known.  In a double-glazed window, two glass panels are placed parallel with one another, with a layer of insulating gas sandwiched in-between.

The precise makeup of this gas has changed over the years.  When the technology first appeared in Victorian Scotland, manufacturers used ordinary air.  During the middle of the 20th century, manufacturing techniques became more sophisticated, and the air was replaced with a vacuum.  Inside a modern double-glazed window, however, you’re likely to find one of three noble gases: namely argon, krypton or xenon.  Take a look at the periodic table, and you’ll find them stacked on the right-hand side.

But what are the practical differences between these gases?  Why is argon used in double glazing instead of air?

Why Argon in Windows?

Argon gas windows represent, in most situations, the optimal balance between performance and cost.  If you shop for double-glazed windows, you’ll tend to find that they feature argon alongside low-emissivity glass, and thereby drop heat gain during summer while keeping the interior cosy during winter.

Argon offers a thermal conductivity around a third lower than ordinary air, for only a marginal increase in cost.  Treated well, argon-filled double-glazing will last for more than two decades, losing only a fraction of its performance over the years.

Are Argon Filled Windows Worth It?

In most cases, argon-filled windows are an obvious choice.  Having said that, some circumstances might call for a more expensive, high-performance gas.

Why Krypton in Windows?

Krypton represents something of a middle-ground between argon and xenon.  It’s more expensive than the former, but less so than the latter.  It’s yet to overtake argon as the industry standard, on account of its higher price, but this might well change in the future, should manufacturing techniques become even more sophisticated.

Krypton-filled double-glazing tends to be thin.  Indeed, if krypton is used in a wider gap than, say, 20mm, convection currents will begin to form that transfer heat from the interior of the window to the exterior.

In old buildings, cavities were filled with single-paned windows, meaning there might not be sufficient room for a thicker argon-filled window.  You might therefore consider krypton-insulated windows as a means of preserving the aesthetic of the building while enhancing the insulation.  It’s worth considering the potential difficulties inherent in obtaining planning permission for a double-glazed window in a period property, since the difference in pressure between the two sides will generate a bowing effect on the glass.  This can undermine the appearance of the property from the outside.  That said, this drawback is common to every sort of double-glazing – not just krypton-filled windows.

If you don’t have any such space-restrictions to worry about, then you might cram multiple layers of krypton gas into the same window.  Triple-glazed krypton-insulated windows incorporate three panes of glass, the middle of which will interrupt the convection currents we’ve just discussed.  In the UK, such windows are installed only rarely, since temperatures don’t often dip low enough to justify them.  If you’d like to go down this route, however, krypton is worth considering.

Are Krypton-Filled Windows Worth It?

It’s difficult to state with certainty whether krypton-filled windows justify their price-point, as the answer will depend on your aims.  Most in the building industry will view them as an extravagance, but if you consider energy efficiency to be important, krypton might well prove tempting.

Why Xenon in Windows?

Let’s take a moment to consider trends in the world of architecture.  A modern skyscraper has a surface area made almost entirely from glass, and they’re not an exception – courthouses, swimming baths, service stations and office buildings across the country are increasingly transparent.  The advantages of this approach are obvious: glass allows more natural light into an interior, and helps us to see the world outside.

But how can architects incorporate such large expanses of glass without compromising the energy efficiency of the building?  One answer comes in the form of xenon.  Xenon-filled windows are a relatively recent innovation, and sit at the forefront of glazing technology.  They’ll insulate wonderfully.  But this performance comes with a price tag to match.

Xenon gas windows are therefore permitted in exceptional circumstances only.  If a business wants to achieve LEED certification for their headquarters, for example, then xenon might just be a way to do it.  Some residential circumstances might also warrant the use of xenon-filled double-glazing – but these are rare.

Are Xenon-Filled Windows Worth It?

The short answer is: probably not.  Xenon’s eye-watering price puts it out of reach of all but the most ambitious homeowners.  That said, if you’re planning your dream property, and you’d like to incorporate a lot of glass, then the performance of xenon might make it worth considering.

So What Should You Choose for Your Windows:  Argon, Krypton or Xenon?

When it comes to energy efficiency in double-glazed windows, the three gases could accurately be labelled as ‘Good, Better and Best’.  A denser gas will perform better as an insulator, but this performance comes at a cost.

Your choice of window will, to a large extent, depend on your personal tastes and circumstances.  For most of us, the insulating qualities of argon will be more than sufficient, and the cost of the more effective materials will outweigh their advantages.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or conservation windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

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condensation on window

Replacing Windows in a Conservation Area

Double glazing is pretty much a modern essential, and few of us that live in a house which has it could imagine reverting to living in a home with single glazing and the cold, the draughts, and the condensation that comes with it.

Unfortunately for some of us, we don’t have a choice. Specifically, those living in conservation areas may find they’re unable to upgrade to double glazing, or that they have to fight very hard to be given the green light.

Let’s explore why this might be, and what can be done to replace windows while still adhering to the rules of living in a conservation area.

What is a conservation area?

Most areas have very loose planning restrictions and homeowners can, within reason, do pretty much what they like to their properties. The result is that streets lack uniformity and can feel thrown together.

Other areas have very strict planning laws – generally when historic buildings are present, and modern home improvements would have a detrimental effect on the identity of the area, and undermine the value of its properties.

Conservation areas exist to combat this phenomenon.  They limit what can be built in the area and the changes that can be made to existing buildings. This serves to protect the aesthetics of the area and the value of its properties.  What’s more, if you buy a house in a street that has a certain look, an area’s conservation status offers assurance that the look will remain more-or-less consistent in the future.

Since 1967, more than 9000 conservation areas have been designated across England.  In practice, they allow your local authority greater control over what can be thrown up and knocked down, including things like satellite dishes and trees.

What’s the difference between a conservation area and a listed building?

When a home is in a conservation area the only concern is how it appears from the street. This means that brickwork, doors, and windows must be consistent.

If a building’s listed, the interior is protected, too. Exactly what this means is unique to each building but as a general rule, the internal structure of the building must not change and repairs and renovations must be carried out using original materials.

If your home isn’t listed, but you live in a conservation area, you might need to apply for planning permission before carrying out improvements that affect the external appearance of your property, such as replacing your windows.  This will be the case if the property is subject to something called an article 4 direction – a special power that gives your local planning authority (and in some cases, the government) the ability to withdraw some of your permitted development rights.

I live in a conservation area: should I repair or replace my windows?

If you’re jumping through hoops to secure planning permission for the windows you want, you might be tempted to save yourself the hassle and just repair them, instead.

Unfortunately, you’ll still need to follow the rules – if repairing your windows involves replacing the glass itself, you probably won’t be able to get away with changing the sort of glass you use, for example.

In either case, the name of the game should be to replicate your current window as closely as possible.  This might mean that you end up paying slightly over the odds – but the investment will prove worthwhile in the long run.  For one thing, you’ll not be forced to tear the window out and start afresh; for another, you’ll be preserving the value of the entire street.

What about double glazing?

Double glazing works by sandwiching a layer of inert gas between two panes of glass.  This severely restricts the flow of heat from one side to the other, increasing the energy efficiency of any given property.

But double glazed windows look different to windows with a single pane of glass.  For one thing, they require a chunkier frame.  For another, the glass tends to bend and bow as the atmospheric pressure changes relative to the gas inside the window.  From the street, this creates a warping effect that would look out of place in a period property.

With all that said, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with installing double glazed windows into a conservation area – provided that the local conservation committee don’t judge your new window to be a considerable departure from the old one.  If you’re replacing a single glazed window with a double glazed one, you might find that this necessitates a slightly chunkier frame, and glazing bars that sit atop the surface of a larger pane rather than dividing the window into smaller ones.

What’s next?

Planning restrictions can seem a little, well, restrictive.  Especially when you’re the one needing to wriggle free of them.  In the case of conservation areas, your local officials will have the final word over what’s allowed and what isn’t – this can mean it’s worth meeting with your conservation officer before you make your application, to talk through the options.  Getting on good terms with them, and supplying them with a detailed plan of your intentions, will vastly increase your chances of being given the go-ahead.

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sliding window

What Are Trickle Vents For (and do you need them?)

Over the past few decades, considerable advancements have been made in the art of draught-exclusion.  Modern windows are airtight, which is great – in terms of energy-efficiency.

Unfortunately, while we don’t want draughts to get into our home, an entirely air-tight interior is bad news for moisture and air quality levels.  After all, there’s no point in having an air-tight window if you can’t see out of it because it’s covered in condensation!

For this reason, window-manufacturers began to build little cold air vents in the frames of their windows, which allow a small amount of air to pass from one side of the window to the other.  These are known as trickle-vents.

window with trickle vent

Do you have to have trickle vents?

The short answer is – it depends.

It was once the case that building regulations stipulated a ‘no worse than existing’ clause for trickle vents. This basically meant that if you were replacing a window with a trickle vent, you’d need to bring in another window with a trickle vent.

This rule went pretty much unchallenged until 2006, when the Department for Communities and Local Government (they’re the people in charge of building regulations) decided that all new windows should come with trickle ventilation.  The fenestration industry, much of which still manufactures and sells trickle-free windows, was displeased. After some discussion, the rules changed. What was once considered mandatory is now merely advisable.

This means that homeowners have a little more freedom to make their own decisions about the sort of windows they’d like installed.  The company carrying out the installation is sure to have an opinion on the property’s ventilation requirements, and it’s usually best to follow their advice.

What size trickle vents do you need?

If you’re replacing windows with trickle vents, the ventilators should be “no smaller in geometric open area than the existing ventilators“.

If this isn’t known, “habitable rooms should have trickle ventilator of 5000mm2 equivalent area and wet rooms should have 2500mm2 equivalent area“.

What are the alternatives to trickle vents?

There’s a very simple alternative to fitting windows with trickle vents – opening a window. It’s a good idea to open all the windows in the house for a few minutes every day (yes – even in winter!) to allow moist air to escape, and dry air to replace it.

This is especially important in the bathroom and kitchen.

Can I fit trickle vents into my existing window?

If you’ve got a problem with condensation in an older window, it is sometimes possible to install a trickle vent.  That said, fitting a vent takes considerable time and skill. In many cases, the best solution would simply be to get the window replaced.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

condensation on window

Why Is There Condensation Between My Window Panes?

A steamed-up window is quite a common sight in modern homes – particularly if it’s cold outside and you’ve got the heating cranked up.  As the airborne moisture comes into contact with a cold window pane it condenses. This is normal (although you may want to take steps to reduce the amount of moisture in your home). Condensation that forms between the panes, however, is evidence of something a great deal more concerning.

How does double glazing work?

Double glazing makes a significant difference to the energy-efficiency of a building.  By sandwiching a layer of air between two panes of glass, we can slow the transfer of heat from one side to the other considerably.  When an inert gas like argon or xenon is used inside the cavity, the flow of heat is reduced even further.

In order to deal with any moisture that might get trapped between the panes during sealing, window manufacturers would use silica balls; the sort that you find shipped alongside electronic equipment.  These balls act as a desiccant; they’ll absorb small amounts of moisture, and prevent condensation from forming.

So what does all this mean for windows in which condensation has formed?  Simply put, it means that the seal which safeguards the interior of the window has broken, and airborne moisture from outside has found its way in.  The more condensation inside the window, the greater the degree to which the seals have failed.  This doesn’t just, of course, mean that you’ll need to put up with more condensation blocking your view of the outside world; it also means that your window will be far less energy-efficient.

Do I need to replace the window?

If your window’s still under the manufacturer’s guarantee, you’ll want to get it replaced straight away.  The window has failed, and they’re obliged to correct it.

If your guarantee has expired, you have a decision to make.  A double-glazed window with a broken seal will still function better than a single-paned window, but it won’t be anywhere near as insulating as a window with an intact seal.  Repairing the seal is difficult and expensive. It requires an engineer to identify where the leak is, suck the gas from the window, and refill it.  If there are multiple tiny leaks spread across the edge of the glass, a repair would be near-impossible.

Ultimately, the window will need to be replaced.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

Man installing a window

How to Choose a Window Installer

You’ve thought long and hard about new windows for your home; you considered style, materials, energy efficiency and price. Now you have them bought and ready it can be tempting to get them fitted as soon as possible. Unfortunately choosing a window installer requires just as much consideration as choosing the windows themselves. That’s because it’s critical they are fitted properly otherwise they could cause you several issues down the line. We’re here to help though, with our expert tips on finding the best window fitter.

How do you install new windows?

While it can be tempting to want to save a few pounds, when it comes to installing windows we recommend you seek help from a professional. When windows aren’t installed properly they can cause multiple problems, such as air and water leaks, and chances are you’ll probably have to get them adjusted eventually anyway. Play it safe and get your new windows installed by a professional fitter.

What’s more, if you damage your windows by installing them yourself you will be liable for the breakages. We recommend you always seek the services of a professional window installer.

When having your windows installed you should also consider time scales. If you’ve found someone to fit your new windows you should also check if they will be removing your old windows. If not, do they need you to remove the glass alone or the entire frame? Discuss this with your installer before agreeing a time for them to come and fit your panes. You should also try and ensure you remove and replace your windows in one day. You don’t want to start the job at 4pm on a Friday and have to wait until Monday for completion – this leaves your home cold and vulnerable.

How to choose a window fitter

  • Check they are certified by an approved body. Your installer should have a FENSA or CERTASS This ensures they have the right qualifications and you can be assured that they know what they’re doing. The last thing you want is to spend money on new windows only for them to be ruined by poor installation.
  • Don’t automatically choose the cheapest rate. While it can be tempting to save money, the cheapest rate may be a risky option. You should bear price in mind; the most expensive doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best service, but you should base your decision on other more important criterion. For example checking their certification should be the first thing you consider.
  • Larger companies will charge more, often unnecessarily. There is nothing wrong with choosing an established windows installer but be aware they will charge more for installation. A local installer, with the same accreditation and skillset, will likely be a lot cheaper and may also be more willing to be flexible to your schedule as they have more lenient work demands.
  • Check to see if they’ll be removing your old windows as well as installing your new frames. The last thing you want is to miss your time slot because the old windows are still in place when they come to fit your new ones. Clarify this before to make sure.
  • Check recommendations, reviews and previous work. This is as important a task as checking the installer is certified. If your fitter has the right qualifications but has a string of recent, bad reviews saying their installation work wasn’t level and caused air leaks, then they are probably not the right person or company for the job. Reviews are a good way to check their services are up to scratch. When looking for an installer you could always start by asking friends and family for their recommendations as it might save you a lot of legwork. Still do your research on the recommendations, but this may help you find someone quicker.
  • Get multiple quotes for services. You might find several people equally qualified with great reviews, then you can start using price comparisons to find the best installer.
  • Don’t be pressured into signing anything immediately. Do your research first, never go with your first quote just because the salesperson was convincing. Always do your research.
  • Check the company or fitter has insurance. If anything was to go wrong with the installation and your windows got damaged you want to ensure you can hold your fitter liable. Check they have the appropriate insurance because otherwise you’re going to face a hefty bill.

How much does it cost to install a window?

Different companies will charge different rates and it is possible to have a huge difference between your cheapest quote and your most expensive. With this in mind, it’s difficult to give you a quantifiable range. Local contractors or smaller installation companies will be a lot cheaper than established national brands but bear in mind there are other important checks you will need to consider before even thinking about price. Once you’ve checked the window fitter is legitimate and has good reviews then you can consider affordability.

Do expect to pay a deposit upfront. This is not unusual, you want to guarantee someone will turn up to fit your windows when they say and they want to guarantee they’re not going to waste their time and resources to be let down at the last minute. A deposit is expected and gives both parties security. Don’t pay a deposit to your first quote however, make sure you shop around and find the best services before signing any agreements and handing over any deposits.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

Plant on a window ledge

How to Choose Curtains That Will Help Soundproof Your Home

There are many reasons you may want to soundproof your home. While sound is great at opportune times – we all love hearing the voices of our loved ones, watching our favourite TV shows and listening to our favourite songs; there are occasions where we might want to block out unwanted noises. For example when in the comfort of your home you want to be able to enjoy peace and quiet. You don’t necessarily want to hear noisy neighbours, the weather on the windows, traffic outside, or children playing on the street. Often, you want to be able to sit down, relax, and get away from the busyness of everyday life.

Unfortunately while you can’t control the volume of the outside world, there are steps you can take to soundproof your home and curtains are arguably the cheapest and most efficient way of doing so.

What are the ways that I can soundproof my home?

There are multiple ways to soundproof your home and while all will help to block out noise, some are more convenient than other.

  • Soundproofing foam/material. This usually involves sticking adhesive panels to the walls in your home. While this is ideal if you happen to have a recording studio in your home or garage, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing solution for your living room.
  • Gap sealers are designed to sit underneath your door to help block out noise from other rooms.
  • Air conditioning. Some people install air conditioning so they don’t have to open their windows in spring and summer. However air conditioning can be quite noisy in itself so this may not be the most viable soundproofing solution (however at the same time, some people might find the white noise air conditioning produces soothing).
  • Thick carpets are great for controlling noise within the home, no longer will you have to listen to footsteps on creaky floorboards, but this doesn’t help as much with outside noises.
  • Heavyweight curtains are great for absorbing sound waves. This option is affordable and offers other benefits so we are going to look in detail at how they can help soundproof your home.

How do curtains help with soundproofing?

While there are many ways to soundproof your home, many of them can be rather expensive and time consuming. A cheap and popular option for many homeowners is sound-blocking curtains.  It is common knowledge that noise travels but certain types of materials can help prevent that. Hard surfaces like tiles and wood will help sound travel by reflecting the waves whereas softer materials like carpet and curtains help to stop sound in its tracks by absorbing the waves.

Outside noise commonly enters your home through your windows or doors. Curtains act as a guard and absorb exterior noise trying to get inside your home.

There are certain types of curtain that will be more successful in helping to block out sound so we’ve put together some tips on how to find the most effective curtains for cancelling out unwanted sounds.

What type of curtains are best for soundproofing your home?

Heavy blackout curtains are by far the best option for blocking out sound, and they have other benefits, too. They block out light, while the thickness of the curtains helps prevent cold drafts from entering the home. These are commonly used in the bedroom for blocking out those lighter spring and summer mornings when the sun rises before our alarm.

blackout curtains

Curtains are often the cheapest and most aesthetically pleasing soundproofing solution. Not all curtains qualify as sound absorbers however; there are certain qualities you will need to look out for.

When buying curtains you should consider the height, width, weight, style and material of the curtains – all are contributing factors in helping block out unwanted noise.

Generally the thicker a curtain is, the better it will be at absorbing noise, so you should consider the weight of the curtain then when making your choice. The heavier the better, so look for thicker materials.

Suede and velvet are quite thick and the microfibres on softer materials help to absorb more sound waves. You should also look for layered curtains as the extra lining makes them naturally thicker. Thicker curtains are obviously more expensive but they are the cheapest way of soundproofing your home and they come with multiple benefits. You could also save money and line your curtains yourself by stitching materials together, but that is your choice.

When looking for good soundproofing curtains you should also consider their width and style. Wide curtains that have pleats in are better at blocking sound waves. The wider the curtain, the more gather they have so will create tighter creases in the curtain. The creases in the curtain will help to reflect soundwaves but the pleats will also thicken the curtain, providing more material. This makes it harder for sound to travel through.  Wide curtains are often twice the size of your window but for maximum effect you should look at pleated curtains that are three times your window size.

Another factor that will help block out sound is the length of the curtain. Put your curtain rail slightly higher than the window and allow your curtains to sit slightly on the floor. When measuring for your curtains, allow an extra 10-15 inches to your height measurements to get this added length – exact quantities will depend on your preference and how your window sits but roughly 10-15 extra inches would be a good fit. The extra height will cover your window completely, acting as a screen from outdoor noises.

There are many ways you can soundproof your home but none are perhaps as convenient and cost-effective as curtains. Soft materials like curtains and carpets absorb sound waves ensuring sound doesn’t travel. This is useful for keeping noise inside your home and great for preventing exterior noise creeping in. There are certain types of curtains you need to look for and often these can be more costly, however when you consider the many benefits they offer and compare them to other solutions, they are a worthy investment.

Wider, longer, thicker and heavier curtains with pleats are the most efficient option, and as well as sound protection they also help to keep your home warmer and block out the light.

water condensation

Why Does My Double Glazing Get Condensation On the Inside?

Is there condensation on the inside of your windows? Have you noticed that your windows are wet on the inside in the morning?

This can be a worrying find (understandably) but the good news is that the phenomenon actually indicates that your windows are working as they should. In fact, you’re as likely to get condensation on new windows as old windows, and new windows may even increase condensation, since they should reduce draughts in the home.

That said, condensation on the inside of windows is something we should try to reduce, since it can damage window frames. It’s also indicative of a bigger problem – excessive moisture in the home.

Why do you get condensation on the inside of a window?

One of the main advantages of double glazing is its ability to prevent heat from moving from one side of the glass to the other.  It does this by sandwiching a vacuum (or a layer of inert gas) between two sheets of glass.  When heat energy builds on one side, it has trouble passing through this inner layer, and so instead is mostly conducted back into the room.

This will prevent heat escaping, and reduce your energy bills,  but in doing so it’ll create a considerable difference in heat from one side of the glass to the other.  It’s this difference that creates the conditions for condensation.

Cold air contains less energy than warm air, and it’s less capable of keeping water vapour in its gaseous form.  This means that the air inside your home will be damper than the air outside.  When this air hits a cold surface, like a window, it will lose the energy necessary to hold onto the airborne water, and so that water will be deposited.  Over time, this effect causes the build-up of water condensing on the glass.

Chances are, you will notice this happening primarily in  three rooms of the house:

  • The kitchen.
  • The bathroom.
  • The bedroom.

Cooking, showering and bathing all create substantial moisture which unless you keep the rooms very well ventilated, will settle on the windows. This probably isn’t surprising. What is puzzling is why we get condensation on bedroom windows, since we’re probably not cooking or showering in there.

The most likely reason is that during our waking hours we typically move around the house but at night we’re confined to one small space for 8 hours or more, often with the door closed. This causes all the water we lose over those 8 hours to build up. We also tend to keep bedrooms a little cooler than the rest of the house, which mean the surface of the windows will be colder, and water will be more likely to condense when it hits it.

What’s bad about condensation?

Condensation can reduce the lifespan of a window, as it’ll encourage the growth of mould which can damage the frame.  It can also be taken as evidence that the humidity inside your home is excessive – which can be a health concern.

How do you stop condensation on windows?

To prevent condensation settling on windows we need to take steps to reduce the amount of condensation in the home generally.  Ideally, we want humidity levels to be at around 50%.  In order to achieve this, we might try the following:

Ventilate

Aim to open windows for about 20 minutes daily (yes, even in winter!) This will allow the damp air to escape and (unless it’s especially humid outside) dry air to replace it.

Installing trickle vents can help reduce condensation too.

Use extractor fans

If you’re cooking or showering, an extractor fan will remove damp air before it can settle on surfaces and cause problems.

Dry laundry outside

Drying laundry inside significantly increases the amount of water vapour in the air.  The water has to go somewhere, after all.

If drying laundry outside isn’t an option, ensure the space around your laundry is as ventilated as possible.

Manage other humidity sources

When you’re taking steps to guard against excess humidity, you’ll want to consider the things that can contribute to it.  One of the most obvious causes are the living beings which inhabit a house – each of which, be they humans, dogs, cats or guinea pigs, will emit water vapour over the course of the day.  Paradoxically, you might also encounter an uptick in humidity when you return from a spell away – as an empty house will be unheated, and therefore prone to absorbing moisture, which will be released when the heat rises again.

Invest in a dehumidifer

If the steps above don’t remedy the problem, or at least don’t sufficiently reduce condensation in the home, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier, which  will extract moisture from the air.

Do double glazed windows stop condensation?

While condensation can be worse on single glazed windows (due to the internal surface of the window being much colder than the internal surface of a double glazed window) replacing single glazed windows with double glazing is not enough to eliminate the problem. The reason being is that although the inside of your new windows will be warmer, they will simultaneously eliminate draughts. This will reduce ventilation, and contribute to the build-up of moisture.

Acute causes of condensation

If your condensation has appeared almost overnight, then you might be wondering what could possibly have caused it.  There are several potential short-term contributing factors.

Winter

When the weather outside gets cold, the chances of condensation occurring increase substantially.  At the start of winter, it’s therefore worth taking preventative steps before the condensation has a chance to develop.

New windows

Newer double-glazed windows are able to do their job much more effectively than old ones, so don’t be surprised to see more condensation after getting new windows installed.

Underfloor heating

Radiators help warm air to rise and circulate, so if you’ve swapped out your radiators for underfloor heating, you might see an uptick in condensation on your windows.

What about condensation between the panes?

So far, we’ve been talking about condensation on the inside of the glass – but what happens when vapour gets in between the window panes?  This means that the window has sprung a leak, which has allowed the water vapour to get in.  The inert gases inside a modern double-glazed window contribute enormously to its ability to retain heat, so if yours is showing this symptom, it’s probably time to replace your windows.

For more information, take a look at our blog post on why condensation forms between window panes.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

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Tree in a field on a sunny day

Why Does Double Glazing Help to Keep Us Cool in Summer?

Double glazing is found in offices, homes and government buildings across the world, thanks to its remarkable insulative properties.  It will considerably outperform a single, ordinary pane of glass in impeding the flow of heat, and for this reason it’s a weapon of choice for homeowners looking to reduce their bills during those icy winter months.

But does double glazing keep heat out as well as in?  The answer is yes: a less often-touted benefit of double glazing is that it’ll help keep your home cooler in summer – which is invaluable if we’re to get a good night’s sleep during those July heat waves.

sun through window

How does double glazing work?

Double glazing works by limiting the amount of heat energy that can transfer from one side of the window to the other through convection.  It does this by placing two separate panes of glass parallel to one another, and leaving an empty space in between.  When one side of the glass becomes hotter, its molecules begin to vibrate very quickly, causing a chain reaction that spreads across the solid glass.  But this heat energy is unable to pass through the empty space on the other side, since there are far fewer particles through which to transfer the energy.  The heat is thus slowed down.   This effect is even more pronounced in modern forms of double glazing, which substitute empty space for a vacuum, or an inert gas like argon.

How do I compare different sorts of double glazing?

In order to see how effectively your window will contain heat (and noise), check its energy efficiency rating.  This score is presented on a scale of A+-G, with A+ being the best and G being the worst.  While a window’s rating will indicate its real-world performance, this performance will be impacted if the window suffers damage over time.

When the seal around the edge of a double-glazed window breaks, the gas trapped inside will be able to escape.  This effect becomes especially obvious during winter, when water droplets begin to condense between the window panes.  This is evidence that water vapour has found its way in through a gap, which means that the gas inside your window has escaped.   This will vastly reduce its ability to repel (and contain) heat, and so the window will need replacing.  Fortunately, this sort of wear-and-tear takes many years to manifest, but with the right maintenance, the day of failure can be delayed considerably.

How else can I keep my property cool during summer?

Of course, double-glazing isn’t the only way we can prevent heat from entering our homes.  In hotter climates, it’s common practice for windows to be fitted with shutters, which block heat from entering the house.  For obvious reasons, this is less common in the UK, but we can apply the same principle and close our curtains or blinds when the sun is beating down on the sides of our houses in the height of summer.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.

Windows with external shutters

Why Are Double-Glazed Windows Filled With Argon?

When it comes to thermal efficiency, windows are among the most vulnerable points in any home. It’s through these sheets of glass that so much of the heat we generate escapes into the outside world.  This waste places a considerable strain on both our wallets, and the environment.

Thankfully, certain sorts of window offer considerable protection against this loss of heat.  Of these, the most widespread is double glazing, which features in a majority of homes in the United Kingdom.  It works by placing two panes of glass parallel to one another in the frame – an arrangement which helps to impede the flow of heat from one side of the window to the other.

If you’d like to understand why this is so, then consider a frying pan on a stove.  While the pan itself might be scalding hot, the air just a few inches above is cool enough that you can hold your hand there.  This is because the metal of the pan is an excellent conductor of heat, while the air around it is a relatively poor one.  Double glazing harnesses this principle, and it’s been enormously successful in doing so.

How has double glazing been improved?

Since its invention, double glazing has been improved in several key ways.  Perhaps the most obvious of these is triple-glazing, which sees a trio of glass panels being used in place of a mere pair.  But triple-glazing is difficult to manufacture, and comes with its own downsides.

Other advances have come about from using thicker panes, and wider gaps.  Manufacturers can also choose to fill the gaps with insulating gases.   For a time, among the most popular option was a vacuum, which slows convection even more effectively than the dehydrated air it replaced.  In modern double-glazed windows, however, a different and quite specific filling is used.

Where does argon come in?

Inert gases like argon, krypton and xenon are more often used by manufacturers today.  Each offers considerable improvements in thermal efficiency and noise reduction.  Of the three, argon is the least effective – but it’s also the least expensive, making it a material of choice for modern window-makers.

Argon is heavier than air, and so provides superior insulation and sound-proofing characteristics.  It’s also far more resistant to the formation of condensation, and will corrode the surrounding window far less than its equivalents – particularly at the bottom of the window, where condensation tends to start forming.

Since argon significantly improves the insulating properties of a window, it’s a popular choice for large, wall-encompassing windows and French doors.   Since the glass is more efficient as an insulator, we’re able to use more of it.  This allows homeowners to create that sense of extra space without compromising on their heating bills.  If you’re looking to upgrade your existing windows, an argon filled double-glazed replacement makes a sensible choice: it’ll offer energy efficiency savings which more than justify its initial extra cost, within just a few years.

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows.