Do Up Diary #50 My tips on choosing & preparing timber windows for a new extension

Wooden windows in new extension
Looking down on the West Wing dormers from the scaffolding on the main house

Whooo hoooo, we’re half way through!! Well, half way through fitting windows that is and how things have changed since my post at the start of December – Plastic Fantastic or Terrific Timber? The main house is still freezing to live in as the wind howls through the new extension, through the main house and into our solitary remaining bedroom but it’s definitely marginally less freezing now all the window openings have been filled in! I love them. I absolutely love them. Although it’s a brand new extension, it’s been designed very much with a period feel in place. From the reclaimed brick and slate tiles to the deep decorative fascias, I wanted the new West Wing to look like it had always been there, albeit with contemporary touches like the bi-folds and anthracite cladding. I considered aluminium window frames in a dark grey but they just wouldn’t have had the same effect as timber, and upvc certainly wouldn’t. It must be said that timber is much more work than upvc or aluminium. Though all were delivered primed and ‘ready’, I wanted to do a top notch job. Usually a builder would fit & seal them, then a decorator would come and paint using an external undercoat and top coat when in situ, but I wanted more peace of mind for future maintenance. So, before the windows were fitted, I painted the external face and all the sides with two coats of a high quality trade flexible primer undercoat and then a first coat of the Farrow & Ball Railings which is my external colour. As you can see below, I got a bit stir crazy painting into the night 😉

Losing it….

And every bar, all 56 of them, had to be painted on all 4 sides, this was the most irritating and fiddly bit of the whole job! 2015-02-23_0001However, the result is that your windows are totally protected from the elements and it’s a far better job than simply fitting them already primed with the thin coat from the makers, then painting post-fit. It meant getting the windows delivered and making space for them to be painted a few days before the fitting was scheduled (unless you’re fitting them yourself obv), but it’s undoubtedly a better job and will give a longer lasting finish.

Painting and getting in the top Daddy Dormer with it’s four openings

That’s six windows – one garage, three bedrooms, one bathroom and one hall – done so far, with eleven openers…. and we’ve not even got to the two bays of the main house, 7 metres high and 2.5 metres wide each. Thank gawd it’ll be Spring when they arrive and my little fingers won’t be freezing off late at night trying to paint those beasts! My best advice for wooden windows:

  • Shop around locally for a joinery workshop / firm to measure & make for you. Our quote varied wildly and we opted for a local company which came highly recommended. It’s a shame that such firms are few and far between now that joinery skills like these have been lost in the UK, but they do exist if you look hard enough & ask around.
  • Use hardwood if you can afford it. Softwood used to be ok for external windows but I was told the trees are cut down young these days and hence the quality isn’t as good as it was years ago, it’s quite literally softer so there’s more chance of movement and splitting. The smaller the window, the more chance you have of getting away with softwood.
  • On these smaller windows pictured, maximum height 1m, I was happy with softwood frames and hardwood cills, plus I’ve been double strict on painting and protection so they should be fine. On the much bigger bays to do later in spring, we’ll use hardwood for the frames too.
  • Properly prime and undercoat before the windows are fitted, as I’ve described above. Unscrew the hinges and openers and take these off before you paint, it’s SO much easier. Use the best quality paint you can afford.
  • Top Tip: Ask your joinery firm to prime your windows in grey if you are using a dark colour top coat, white if you are using a pale colour top coat. I asked for dark on the outside and white on the inside #typicaldesigner 😉
  • If you’re concerned about security, did you know that wooden windows can also be fitted with espagnolette locks, which are the long bar type locks which you normally see on the side of double glazing window openers? When you turn the handle, the bar and little mushrooms knobs on it raise up and down, locking the window in a number of different places. I think these are better and more secure than regular handles and you also then don’t need window stays at the bottom. These are what I have chosen.

Do you have any tips? Pop them in the comment box below, I’d love to hear them. Next on the blog will be bi-folds and cladding, pop back soon x FYI: I used Johnstones Trade Stormshield flexible undercoat / primer (not freebies, we bought it all as I like the quality of this product – HERE

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