Secondary Glazing in Period Homes

It’s a chilly Thursday evening when fifteen people crowd into a beautiful early Victorian home just off Whiteladies Road. Despite the high ceilings and solid walls, the home is toasty warm, partly thanks to the secondary glazing that’s been installed in the house. To help people find out more about secondary glazing and its benefits, Bristol Green Doors organised an evening event of information and discussion for householders across Bristol.

Draughts and heat loss through windows is a common problem in Edwardian and Victorian homes, which often have their original sash windows. Most of the fifteen people who lived in Victorian or Georgian homes and were united over the challenges of keeping their homes warm, reducing draughts, soundproofing and tackling condensation issues. For many people, double glazing is unaffordable, not allowed due to planning restrictions, or maybe they simply do not wish to change the appearance of their period homes.

Starting off the evening, Pete Insole, a Principal Historic Environment Officer from the Bristol City Council Planning Division talked about the local planning issues, listed building consent, and some of the research they’ve come across regarding secondary glazing and slim-fitting double glazing. They are strongly supportive of secondary glazing, and believe when it’s done well, it can both reduce heat loss and retain the period features of the home. He pointed out that listed building consent only takes 8 weeks to obtain, and is a relatively straightforward process.

Next up, the hosts Angela and Will talked about their experiences. Inspired by being involved in Sustainable Redland, they have a number of different types of glazing/secondary glazing in their home, and talked through the different approaches they’ve taken and the relative advantages and disadvantages. Their first foray into secondary glazing was getting a local joiner to build custom frames to fit windows in their hallway, which are permanently attached over the windows. They noticed a significant improvement with this, but the attachment method had its drawbacks.

In the lounge, the had a system fitted by CosyHome Co, which involves refurbishing and draught proofing the sashes, then using magnetic strips to fit sheets of high quality Plexiglas onto each window frame in such a way that the sashes are still able to open with the secondary glazing in place. They were so pleased with the system that they proceeded to have the same system installed in their bedroom and the guest room. Will commented that since they installed the secondary glazing and a woodburning stove, “It’s really a very warm room now!” Angela agreed that it had improved the warmth, and also made a significant difference to the noise too. She estimates that the system takes half an hour to remove (from a large four window bay), which they do over the summer months to stop the Plexiglas colouring with time.

After a tour of the different windows in the house, and chatting as people refreshed their cups of tea, Steve Mardall, of Ascent Architecture, talked about his experience of Slimline double glazing. He brought samples from four leading manufacturers, and explained how in many sash windows, it’s possible to replace the single pane of glass with a slim double glazing panel, while still retaining the original window frame and structure. There are challenges due to the additional weight of the glass requiring adjustment to the sash weights, but he feels this offers a good option for people who want to retain their original sash window aesthetic.

Dan from Bristol Green Doors rounded off the evening with an overview of different options, based on much of his own experience and their benefits and challenges. The first is using semi-permanent glass panels, and a system such as Easy Fix to allow the panels to be removed. This is medium cost, but can be difficult to install and remove. Next was the CosyGlazing system, which is higher cost but easier to install/remove and allows the windows to still operate. He touched on a DIY perspex solution that some people opt for, as well as the simple and temporary Seal N Save, a temporary film that can be applied with a hairdryer for a single winter.

There was also discussion of the permanent solutions, including the slimline refurb that Steve had talked about, and the installation of sliding ‘hotel style’ frames.

In conclusion, it was discussed that each home should be considered as an individual case study; there are many issues such as usage, condensation, storage and aesthetic, and each option has different benefits and challenges. 

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