Architect's clinic: How much maintenance do timber windows require?
Query: I like the idea of timber windows but I'm worried about maintenance and durability - should I go for a maintenance-free option?
Answer: Most elements of your home will require some degree of maintenance over the decades - the grass will need to be cut several times a year, internal and external walls will need to be painted now and then, the boiler will need to be serviced. So windows are no different.
No matter what frames you opt for, the windows will need to be cleaned periodically in any event.
The question then becomes whether or not you want to add the maintenance of timber window frames to the list of other items within your home that will also need maintenance.
You say you like the idea of them, so you're now essentially weighing up your like of timber windows against your dislike of having to maintain them.
Timber windows can be a beautiful feature of any home. Timber as a material is very tactile and 'homely' and helps create a sense of relaxation and build a closeness to nature.
Depending on your house, the timber windows may frame views of mature gardens, which will help the house and garden relate to each other.
Furthermore, if the timber is unpainted (but protected externally with a clear sealant, for example), then it helps to create a very 'warm' light when sunlight passes through the windows - much more so than would be achievable with, say, PVC windows.
The material used for the window frames can also then be used in other elements within and without the house - built-in furniture/ room dividers internally and benches, storage units, planters, fencing, etc, externally, all of which will help create a unified aesthetic for your home.
The maintenance involved with timber windows can vary, however. If the windows are either stained or painted externally you are likely looking at a light sanding and re-application of the paint or stain ideally every three to five years.
However, you also have the option of allowing the timber to weather, which, if it is carefully selected, detailed and constructed at the outset, can create a beautiful, changing, ageing look as the wood naturally silvers over time - personally, I love how this intuitively hints to the visitor that the house is not 'new' - a house should be allowed to age gracefully, and carefully selected timber windows will facilitate this.
In terms of durability, most timber windows, again, once carefully specified and fabricated, will last for 30 years plus, comparable to other window types.
The most probable eventual issues with any windows are as likely to be around the glazed units themselves as with the frames they sit into.
Most timber windows are made using hardwoods such as teak, mahogany or iroko. In recent years, a newer timber product, Accoya, is being widely used for external joinery, as it is specially processed to form a product that possesses particularly robust properties to combat air-borne moisture - one of the main challenges our climate poses for any building material.
Finally, if you decide to go with timber windows, work with a specialist joiner who has experience and in-depth knowledge of working with various timber types and who can advise you and your architect on the best solution for your home.
- If you are considering changes to your home, consider working with a registered architect. Look on riai.ie, the registration body for architects in Ireland.
- Gareth Brennan is a partner in Brennan Furlong Architects & Urban Planners, brennanfurlong.ie