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Preserving the Beauty of the Sash Window

Updated on June 5, 2016

Sash windows are one of the original features of older homes that add to their charm and demonstrate the authenticity of a Georgian or Victorian property. If you have original sash windows though, you may be complaining about feeling draughts, and having difficulty in operating the sashes or concerned about security.

You don’t want to change the style of your windows and spoil the look of your house, but you’d like to feel cosy inside, and to be able to open and close your windows without a struggle. So how can you preserve them and add to your comfort and safety?

Don’t despair: there are ways of getting your sash windows back to their former glory, and plenty of modern yet authentic sash fixtures and fittings available such as locks, fasteners and stops that are period in style, yet offer the security benefits of today. Here we’ve provided for you a step by step guide to renovating your sash windows.

There are ways of getting your sash windows back to their former glory.
There are ways of getting your sash windows back to their former glory.

Removing and Preparing the Sash

First you need to carefully remove each sash. To do this, you must first pry off the mouldings in front of the lower sash before pulling it out. Then take off the chains or cords on each side. Be sure to knot the cords so that they won’t be pulled into the weight pockets. Next do the same for the upper sash, removing the beading with care and taking off the cords or chains. Also take off all the sash hardware and store it safely if you want to use it again, or haven’t decided what to replace.

Now strip out the old putty and pull out the glazier’s points. You could find that using a heat gun with a nozzle shield helps to soften the putty enough to make it easier to scrape away. When you take out the glass, be sure to mark it so that you know which pane goes where, so you can put it back again later.

The next step is to inspect the sash joints and remove and repair any damaged areas of wood with epoxy filler. This has to be left to dry for about 12 hours and then trimmed before leaving it for another day and sanding it well. After that, make sure it’s free of dust and give it a coat of primer to stop the wood dredging the oil out of the putty and turning it brittle all too soon.

Refitting the Panes

At this point, it’s time to add your fresh putty or glazing compound. Roll it between your gloved hands and, with the inside of the window uppermost, press it down into the groove around the glass opening. Fit the correct pane of glass by pushing it well down into the compound.

Your putty knife is useful again to push in your glazier’s points – two for each side or more for extra-large windows. Place them not more than 12 inches apart. Add more putty around the inside and flatten it to make it neat and tidy with your putty knife. The putty should be left for about a week before covering it with an oil-based primer. Once that is dry, you can apply a top coat to both the putty and the sash, preferably with acrylic latex paint.

Keeping out the Draughts

To ensure that cold air doesn’t get through the windows, they need weather-proofing with a weather-stripping kit to seal up all the cracks. A durable alternative to modern silicone strips is spring bronze, which is just as effective if properly installed and nailed into place. It will also complement any other metals in your rooms. This weather-proofing is the final step before you rehang the panes, and will give you draught-free windows without resorting to adding double glazing to your sash windows.

Finishing Touches: Authentic Sash Window Hardware

Before you finally rehang your sashes, it is time to consider the sash fittings. It is probably a good idea at this stage to replace the fasteners, lifts, handles and screws and stops and add sash stops to prevent the windows from opening beyond a certain point when operated, allowing winds to be left slightly open for ventilation with the reassurance that they cannot be opened further from outside.

A range of styles and metals are available such as polished brass, chrome, nickel and antique brass. You can also make your home more secure by adding your selection of the different types of locks you can buy these days.

Once the hardware is all in place, make sure the pulley axles are lubricated well, then replace the cords or chains on the upper sash and fix the parting beads in place. With the cords or chains hooked to the lower sash, put the stops back on the jamb.

So now everything is in place and your sash windows are as good as new, if not better. Looking as smart as ever, they will now be easier to slide up and down as required and protect you from the elements whilst keeping you safe and secure.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Fitch FastenerA sash beehive locking fastenerA sash fastener in antique brassA satin nickel sash lift handle
A Fitch Fastener
A Fitch Fastener
A sash beehive locking fastener
A sash beehive locking fastener
A sash fastener in antique brass
A sash fastener in antique brass
A satin nickel sash lift handle
A satin nickel sash lift handle

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