If you’re restoring a property and looking for original reclaimed windows to replicate the period, it’s worth considering the implications from both an environmental and financial perspective. Using anything reclaimed is a worthwhile endeavour, but it’s generally quite hard to find salvaged windows that will match the building’s exact measurements, as they are often more expensive than modern equivalents, and you will struggle to comply with current building regulations regarding insulation.
However, if you do want to use them for aesthetic purposes, you need to ensure you are buying something with longevity and that your money is well spent.
How do I check the quality of salvaged windows?
The condition of reclaimed windows will depend on where they have been sourced from, the plight of the original building and the reasons why it was demolished. Most wooden windows are removed because they are rotten, so check all joints thoroughly. A good way of checking quality is to stick a screwdriver or bradawl in the bottom corner of the frame – if it goes straight in, then the wood is rotten.
Restoring reclaimed windows
It’s worth asking yourself whether you need the complete window. Many people salvage windows for decorative reasons, such as saving the original stained or leaded glass, which can be fitted into a new frame of sound condition. Restoring glass is a specialist job but leaded glass can be repaired reasonably easily and cost-effectively as the lead is soft.
Sash windows on the other hand are fairly complicated to restore, and you do need to understand their structure to be able to know what you’re sourcing. It may depend on the part of the country you are in, for example, as Glaswegian sash windows are constructed in a different way to English ones. Always use a reputable company to restore sash windows; there are lots that specialise in their renovation.
Are salvaged windows expensive?
Whenever I’m pricing salvage, the first question I ask is what the market is for the piece. For a reclaimed window with particular dimensions, and of a certain style and condition, the market is fairly small, and so the chance of finding someone who wants it is very tight, so I would price it relatively cheaply. If you are lucky enough to find the one you’re looking for, you could probably get it at a good price.
Upcycling reclaimed windows
I often suggest using reclaimed windows internally where insulation isn’t an issue. A lot are used in pubs and restaurants to create internal divisions, or transformed into decorative mirrors – an effective way of upcycling windows while creating a striking architectural feature. Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek launched his career with a range of cabinets made using old windows. A lot of them were really charming, anthropomorphic-looking items of furniture – a unique way of reusing unusual salvaged items.