What maintenance is required for timber sash windows, and how often should it be performed?

Timber sash windows, with their classic aesthetics and inherent sustainability, are regaining popularity in modern homes. However, they do require periodic maintenance to keep them functioning well, weather-tight, and enhancing the charm of a home.

Understanding what maintenance timber sash windows need and the recommended schedules will help ensure they continue gracing your home for years.

Annual Maintenance

Several maintenance tasks should be performed annually on timber sash windows to maintain their good working order and weather resistance:

  • Check putty seals around glass panes – Any cracked or missing putty should be repaired to prevent air and water infiltration. Carefully remove old putty, insert backer rod, and reseal with new putty. Allow several days for proper curing before painting.
  • Touch up paint and finishes – Inspect paint and clear finishes on sash, trim, and sills. Sand and touch up worn areas and spots with exposed wood to maintain protective coatings. Use high quality paints/finishes made specifically for windows.
  • Clean weather stripping – Use a mild detergent and soft brush to clean dust and debris from weather stripping at the sash and frame joints. Replace any worn weather stripping to enable proper sealing. Ensure strips seat tightly when sashes are closed.
  • Check sash cord condition – older sash windows have a pulley-and-weight system with cotton sash cords that can fray and break over time. Check cords for wear and replace if frayed or cracked. New braided vinyl cords last significantly longer.
  • Test sash movement – Window sashes should slide smoothly when opening and closing. Check tracks for paint buildup or dirt impeding movement. Remove obstacles, repair tracks if damaged, and lubricate with spray graphite if sticking occurs.
  • Clean debris from window frames and sills – Use soft brush and mild cleaner to fully remove dirt, insect and bird nests, leaves, and other debris that frequently collects in window openings. Ensure drain holes are clear. Check frames and sills for any damage.
  • Inspect sealants and caulking – Carefully check perimeter sealants around frames for deterioration or gaps. Cut out and replace old caulking to ensure water cannot infiltrate behind siding or wall finishings. Use high quality polyurethane window and door caulking.

5-Year Maintenance

In addition to yearly maintenance, several tasks should be performed every 5 years:

  • Sand and repaint windows – Depending on climate and exposure, paint or clear coats can deteriorate after 5 years. Lightly sand to abrade finishes, wipe clean, and repaint with a quality exterior paint formulated for windows. Ensure all surfaces including sash, trim, sills, and frames have adequate protection. Prime before painting.
  • Check glass pane putty seals – While checking and repairing cracked putty is done annually, consider replacing old putty entirely every 5 years. New putty helps ensure glass remains sealed and restores a neatly finished look. Carefully remove old putty with a putty knife, cut glazing points, if necessary, replace backer rod, and re-glaze panes with new putty.
  • Assess window frames and sills – Timber windows can start showing signs of noticeable deterioration after 5 years or longer depending on materials and exposure. Thoroughly check around the frames and sills for soft, blistered, cracked or warped wood. Make all necessary repairs or replace sections if damage is too extensive. Water damage occurs quickly on unprotected areas.
  • Consider reglazing – If multiple panes need resealing each year, it likely means the glazing putty is deteriorating from age and heat/cold cycles. Reglazing provides an opportunity to check for glass cracks also. Consider hiring a professional glazier for this large task to ensure air and watertight results.

10-Year Maintenance

In addition to the annual and 5-year maintenance, several maintenance procedures should occur every 10 years:

  • Check window frames and sills again – Even if properly finished and sealed, sills and lower sections of window frames bear the brunt of weathering and often show age over longer periods of time. Reassess these areas closely every decade and repair or replace sections as needed.
  • Consider repainting or new finish coat – While paints and finishes may still appear intact after 10 years, environmental exposure can deteriorate coatings before visible signs appear. Consider sanding frames/sashes and applying fresh paint after a decade to renew protection and aesthetics. Alternatively apply a clear coat to maintain the aged wood look.
  • Check window hardware – Hardware such as sash locks, lifts, hinges, and pulls also endure weathering and use over 10 years. Inspect hardware for proper function and snug fit. Replace loose or damaged pieces as needed to enable smooth operation.

When to Call a Professional

While diligent homeowners can perform much of the routine maintenance on timber sash windows themselves, there are times when it is wise to hire a professional window repair service. If deterioration in window frames and sills has become excessive, replacement of sections or entire windows may be needed. A skilled technician has the expertise to properly fit and install new pieces for a solid, weather-tight seal. They also have access to quality wood profiles and glass that maintain the architectural aesthetics.

Additionally, if window components such as sash cords, pulleys, or counterbalance weights need replacement, consider hiring a professional to accomplish the work promptly and correctly. Adjusting the counterbalance system can be tricky and is best handled by an experienced window repair technician. For extensive overhauls including reglazing, sill replacement, hardware updates, or finish restoration, you get what you pay for with superior results by using a professional sash window service. Their skill and efficiency typically outweigh do-it-yourself savings on big projects.

Final Words

Regular attention and care given to traditional wood sash windows preserves their sustainability, maintains curb appeal, stops minor issues becoming major repairs, and ensures pleasant and efficient operation for air flow.

Following these maintenance best practices per the recommended schedule keeps timber windows enhancing your home for decades to come. Reach out to a professional window repair service if large issues emerge. Performing routine upkeep is the best way to fully enjoy your home’s beautiful wood windows.

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