On a cold Monday morning, we entered an unassuming looking railway arch in Twickenham. When you step inside, you’ll find an Aladdin’s cave of sash windows of all shapes and sizes, all either awaiting restoration or fully restored to their original glory and awaiting reinstallation back into their original box frames.
Even at this early hour, things are busy, with sash restorer Gary busy sanding down a window, taking pains to ensure that all the paint is carefully removed from the glass.
The frame and the glass could be over 100 years old, so this is a job that requires patience, a close eye for detail and a very steady hand. Gary has been a painter for most of his working life, so working with sashes is something he’s been doing for many years.
Gary is a dedicated member of the SashWise team, which was founded by Dan Johnston. But it wasn’t Dan’s first career. In fact, before founding the company he worked for the BBC as a Project Manager, often being posted overseas.
But, having lived in the Twickenham and Teddington area for many years, he began to yearn to set up a business of his own, helping people living in the local area.
A friend of Dan’s from Bristol had recently set up a sash window installation company. Having always been very practical, Dan saw an opportunity to set up a similar operation in South West London.
What particularly appealed was that the housing stock in this part of London is of the right era to provide a never-ending supply of sash windows needing repairs and restoration.
Dan learned his craft quickly and the business began to grow based mainly on word of mouth and recommendations. Dan wanted to specialise in traditional timber sash windows because he was drawn to the historical nature and functionality of this type of window.
During lockdown, business has boomed, as homeowners began working from home and taking a much greater interest in their homes and interiors than in “normal” times.
Sash windows can last for hundreds of years – with care
There are a number of issues that can affect older sash windows. The most obvious is degradation of the wooden frames. A window built and installed in the 1800s is bound to show signs of age by now. Moisture outside and condensation inside can all eat away at the wood. Depending on the age of the frame, it may or may not be salvageable, but if anybody can rescue a window, it’s Dan and the team.
When a local homeowner contacts SashWise to discuss restoration, it’s essential that one of the team surveys the windows first to assess the level of restoration required.
In a typical restoration project, the windows will be removed and taken back to SashWise’s workshop under the arches in Twickenham. There, the paint will be stripped back to the wood and any necessary repairs or replacements to the wooden frame made.
|There are 85 conservation areas in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames alone and many more throughout South West London and Surrey.|
Sometimes windows are not straightforward to restore. One memorable set of windows was a spectacular curved set belonging to an old Admiralty building. Curved wood and glass is particularly challenging but also is an opportunity to show off the skills the SashWise team have acquired over the years.
Fortunately, most projects are rather more straightforward. But they can include windows with stained glass, unusually shaped frames and occasionally casement windows are also needed.
Is restoring sash windows a wise investment?
Apart from improving the insulation (thermal and sound) of your home and thus reducing energy bills, restoring or replacing your sash windows can prove a wise investment. New timber sashes can last for many years and may even add value to your home on resale.
Sashes come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing is certain which is that SashWise will have experience of handling any type of sash window and restoring them back to their former beauty and full working order.