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Make The Most Of Your Victorian Renovation

Most property experts would agree that period features add value to a home and recommend that every effort is made to retain them. Here, Tony Pell, product manager at JELD-WEN, one of the UK's largest timber windows and door manufacturers, looks at the ways in which timber can be used to restore Victorian properties to their former glory.

Keep those sliding sashes.
Sliding sash windows are synonymous with the Victorian era - even though the style of window dates back to Georgian times, it was the Victorians that really made them their own. They believed that a healthy home had to be well ventilated and the design of sash windows means that when the lower half of the window is raised, cool fresh air flows into the room; lower the top half of the window and the stale warm air escapes from the room.

Partial opening of both the upper and lower windows creates a perfect circulation of air throughout the home. Sliding sash windows are as popular today as they ever have been, particularly for new homes in conservation areas as they can help meet planning requirements because they allow for sympathetic renovation.

Timber sliding sash windows are aspirational and can add significant value to a property. The great thing about timber windows and particularly sliding sash styles is that in many cases they can be repaired if they have become damaged after years of wear. Where this is not possible, you should replace the original units with matching new timber equivalents. Inappropriate windows installed on a period Victorian property, for example PVC-U, can reduce a home's overall value and appeal to future buyers.

Modern timber preservative treatments and factory finishes however, mean that timber windows offer better performance and a longer life than ever before. Look out for the BSI Kitemark which gives you peace of mind that your timber windows meet with British Standards.

Do your research on neighbouring properties.
When renovating your Victorian home it is worth checking neighbouring properties as they may retain original features that have long since been lost on your property. Pay particular attention to doors and windows as these are such an emotive area in renovations - choosing an incorrect style may compromise the whole renovation.

Although the Victorians most commonly fitted sliding sash, many properties also had casement windows. These were predominantly fitted on the sides and rear of the property, with Sash and Bay windows on the front.

Whichever window style you have in your Victorian house, make sure they are made from timber - not only because they look good, but because old buildings tend to 'settle' and therefore adjust their shape and size.

Timber is more flexible than other materials and can be planed to fit if the brickwork is slightly out of shape.

Re-create an original bay.
Bay windows were really popular in Victorian times as they made the frontage of a house look larger and more sophisticated, so the property appeared more expensive. The most popular style at the time was the projecting bay, because it caught the sunlight and enabled a good view of the street. Bays came in a choice of splayed or square, single storey or full height, with a choice of hipped, gabled, flat or lean to roofs.

Most Victorian Bay windows had a very solid construction with stone piers and frames providing a major architectural feature. Builders in later eras tried to recreate the beauty of Bay windows but skimped on foundations to save money - some were only built with single width brickwork. The result was that some of the houses settled at an alarming angle due to the difference in movement between the Bay window and the main structure of the house. It is common to find cracks in Bay windows of this type. If your property has Bay windows that are in need of repair, you must remember not to remove any timbers supporting the roof or floor structure above, if in doubt, consult a qualified builder.

In severe cases rebuilding may be necessary and the bay window may need to be replaced completely. Should this be the case you would need to give careful consideration to Building Regulations, as Approved Document L requires the thermal performance around openings to achieve levels that some traditional methods of bay window installation cannot meet. Approved Document 'A' also requires the incorporation of certain structural elements. Traditional methods often created a 'cold bridge' between the brickwork and Bay, which is unacceptable under current regulations. Consult our windows specialists for more details on 0845 122 2890

Renovate shutters.
If you are lucky enough to have timber shutters in your Victorian house, make sure you retain them as a feature. The Victorians used shutters predominantly for security - closing them at night gave added protection from forced entry. Many modern windows now have security built into the window, however the shutter still creates an attractive complement, particularly to Sash windows.

Besides enhancing the period look of your home when closed, they also add an element of sound and heat insulation - although again most windows now have this feature designed into them. Shutters are definitely worth renovating if you have them, or alternatively buying new from one of the companies that specialise in traditional-style shutters.

Make the most of your garden.
The Victorians not only recognised the health benefits of fitting good windows, but also how important the garden was in enhancing the health and happiness of a home dweller. In many Victorian homes you find double doors opening from the back parlour or dining room into the garden. These are know as 'French doors' and are synonymous with classic style. Now, over a century later, most modern architecture is based around adding light and bringing the outdoors indoors. There are a wide range of timber French doors and more contemporary folding sliding doors available that allow you to open up your Victorian home and make the best use of light and space. For more information consult the JELD-WEN doors catalogue, available on request by calling 0845 122 2890.

Make sure you rebate your new windows.
Victorian windows were always rebated into the wall - usually set back from the face of the brickwork by 100mm. This provided the windows with some protection against the driving rain and wind. Some windows in Victorian renovations are fitted flush with the face of the wall which is not in keeping with the original design. If your sliding sash windows need replacing, make sure when you order your windows that you let us know they are for a Victorian renovation - that way we can recomend that they are set back in the wall to increase your home's authenticity.

Choose the appropriate decorative glass.
The fanlights in many Victorian front doors were glazed with tiny decorative coloured panes with leading used to create intricate patterns. Replacement entrance doors are available that replicate this appearance and come with double glazed units to improve the thermal efficiency of the original design. There are many doors within our range that will enhance the overall period look of a Victorian property.

You will be able to tell if the glass is original in your existing Victorian door by looking through the glass and moving your head from side to side - if you see distortions in the image then it is most likely that it is original - modern float glass does not have the same imperfections as glass produced in Victorian times.

Victorians understood the benefits of roof windows.
The Victorians often kept the living quarters for the servants in the attic which is why you sometimes find small iron skylights or rooflights in this style of property. These windows were either non-opening or hinged and, because they were single glazed, often suffer from condensation. Rust and decay over time now means that many of these windows have since needed replacing. Replica rooflights are available that are double glazed, which elimates the problem of condensation, but retains the period look.

Make a feature out of your front door.
A major feature of Victorian homes was an elaborate entrance, which denoted the status of the owner and their property. The more expensive the house, the more elaborate the mouldings. Timber is therefore a great choice for replacing Victorian entrance doors as it offers extensive design possibilities and can provide an authentic Victorian feel. Early Victorian doors were normally six panel, with four panelled doors becoming more popular later. The lower panels were made of thick solid timber, with the upper panels featuring decorative mouldings and coloured glass, with fanlights above. JELD-WEN offers doors that replicate this period perfectly and are ideal for Victorian renovations. This includes the new Kensington timber door range, with its decorative triple glazed units, black leading and bevelled glass. The benefits of replacing with a modern engineered timber entrance door means the door should not warp, crack or split. The Kensington range is also supplied with 5" stiles for added structural stablility and is provided unfinished, to be decorated to suit individual tastes.

Use bold colours.
The Victorians had bright bold tastes for their windows and doors. Brunswick green, redish browns, maroon and dark red were all popular colours and gave homes an individual look. Only the most expensive hardwoods were stained instead of painted to show off their exclusive woodgrains. A simple way to capture the Victorian era is to experiment with colour - and there are many paint ranges, such as Farrow and Ball, that reflect the Victorian era . We advise that you choose a water-based timber paint that allows the timber to breathe, ensuring a long life for the door or window as well as protecting the environment.

Queen Victoria's reign, from 1837 to 1901 was the longest of any British monarchy. Her rule marked the advent of the industrial revolution which saw both a change in the way people lived - with a move towards city living and also how they lived - with air and light driving the design and layout of new homes. These themes are still as relevant today as they were back then and show why it is very important that period properties, such as Victorian homes are correctly restored."

For more information on timber doors, windows or patio doors for Victorian renovations, contact JELD-WEN on 0845 122 2890 or visit the website www.jeld-wen.co.uk.

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