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Wooden window guide

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Wooden windows are timeless, durable and boast excellent technical features. They look the part without compromising on thermal efficiency and sound insulation.

From timeless oak to bright pine and luxurious mahogany, wooden windows add a touch of sophistication to any property. They’re versatile, unique and look great – what more do you need in a window?

When you search for and compile quotes, it’s best to have a solid idea of what you’re looking for so you’re not guessing. There are numerous things to consider, from different varieties of wood to maintenance and average window prices

This complete guide to wooden windows provides you with everything you need to start searching for timber frames.  

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What are wooden windows made from?

Wooden window frames are built from several different types of wood, ranging from classic hardwoods like oak to softwoods like fir and layered or engineered wood.  

Each type of wood has unique characteristics, influencing its appearance, durability and cost. 

Let’s delve deeper into the most common woods for window frame construction.

Cost of double glazing three-bed house row of terraced houses
Wooden frames are often more suitable for period buildings than uPVC (Adobe)

Pine

Pine is an affordable softwood with a light hue and distinctive grain. It’s bright and natural, perfect for contemporary homes. 

Pine is softer than hardwoods like oak, so it’s often viewed as less durable. However, thanks to modern manufacturing, treatments and finishes, pine windows last much longer than they once did, bringing their longevity on par with hardwoods. Moreover, pine is highly workable, making it suitable for custom designs. 

Pine windows are often constructed from several sheets of pine glued together, and Redwood is the most common form of pine used for window construction in the UK. 

Fir

Fir shares many characteristics with pine. It’s a fast-growing coniferous tree that produces softwood suited for construction. Douglas fir is the most common variety of fir used in window construction. 

Despite looking similar to pine, fir exhibits a somewhat straighter and more consistent grain.

Fir is considered slightly longer lasting than pine, offering a good balance of affordability and durability. Fir windows are sometimes built using multiple sheets or layers. 

Oak

Oak is a classic choice for wooden windows due to its renowned durability, strength and beautiful grain patterns. Oak’s rich, warm colour provides a traditional aesthetic that suits many properties. 

As a hardwood, oak is denser and harder than softwood. As such, it’s renowned for its impressive lifespan, and good-quality oak windows should last a lifetime with proper maintenance. 

In fact, there are examples of oak windows from centuries ago that are still in good condition today. 

Oak windows are typically made from solid oak – they’re not formed from multiple layers like pine, fir and other softwoods. 

Mahogany

Mahogany is a high-end hardwood option typically reserved for premium window construction. 

It’s known for its deep, reddish-brown colour and fine, smooth grain. Mahogany is very durable and resistant to rot and decay, but its use is often limited to specialist manufacturers due to higher costs.

Engineered or multi-layered wood

Also known as composite wood, engineered or multi-layered wood consists of several layers of wood bonded together under high pressure. The result is a material with almost no flaws, offering superior durability compared to traditional wood. 

This layered structure also improves stability, reducing the likelihood of warping or twisting over time. Engineered wood looks great and can be painted or stained in any colour. 

Are wooden windows worth it?

Wood is one of the three primary window building materials, alongside uPVC and aluminium

It’s a timeless material that has been used for thousands of years. Few window materials offer the same authenticity as wood. 

Here’s why you should consider wooden windows for your home improvement or building project. 

Classic aesthetics

When it comes to visual appeal, wooden windows are tough to beat. Wood offers a unique allure among other window frame materials. 

Wooden windows are highly customisable, as they can be stained and painted in virtually any colour. 

Whether it’s a quaint country cottage, a Victorian terrace or a sleek contemporary building, wooden windows complement most architectural styles. 

Clean, contemporary new build? Bright softwoods look superb. Classic country cottage? Oak is tough to beat. 

Superior functionality and specifications

uPVC windows suppliers bay window
uPVC windows are a popular choice, but wooden windows offer more options, including the option to paint (Adobe)

In terms of technical specifications, wooden windows are more than a match for synthetic materials. Despite being a natural material, wood offers great thermal and sound insulation. 

Moreover, the durability and lifespan of wooden windows are impressive. While it’s true that they might require more maintenance than their synthetic counterparts, a well-cared-for wooden window can last a lifetime. 

The ability to repair, re-stain and repaint wooden windows further extends their longevity. You can address issues such as rot and cracking without replacing the entire window. 

While the initial investment might be higher for wooden windows, they look superb and may be the cheapest option in the long run.

Wooden windows and planning law

In some situations, you may be required to fit wooden windows – for example, if you’re renovating a listed building or a property in a conservation zone. 

The planning authorities may state you need to fit windows that match the original building or remain in keeping with other properties in the local area. 

Here are two scenarios to bear in mind:

  1. Listed buildings: Modifications to buildings designated “listed” by heritage organisations are restricted. There are different organisations for compiling listed buildings in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you live in a listed building, you’ll likely be required to maintain the original style and materials. 
  2. Conservation areas: Similarly, if your building is located in a conservation area, you may need to match windows to others in the area. This is to maintain the historical character of the area. This may include both the material of the window and the style. 

If you’re unsure whether these situations apply to you, you should seek professional advice from a surveyor. 

Performing work on a listed building without the correct permissions is a criminal offence, and you may be required to undo the work. 

Similarly, extending or renovating a home without planning permission or a lawful development certificate is highly risky, and you may face fines or legal action from the council. It will also make it difficult to sell your home. 

What styles do wooden windows come in?

Wooden windows are available in all typical shapes and formats. 

Sash windows are timeless (Adobe)

Casement windows

Casement windows are hinged at the sides and swing outwards like a door. They’re among the most common window types in the UK. 

Casement window locks are securely embedded within the frame, making them one of the most secure windows available. 

Tilt-and-turn windows

Tilt-and-turn windows have versatile dual-action functionality. They can tilt inwards at the top to ventilate, which is useful for ground floors when opening the main window poses a security risk. They also swing outwards like casement windows.

Sash windows

Sash windows are a defining feature of Georgian and Victorian properties and are still very popular today. 

They slide upwards, providing efficient ventilation without swinging outwards. Sash windows are also secure, with multi-point locking systems.

Bay windows

Bay or bow windows are larger multi-section windows that extend outward from the home’s exterior wall, forming a bowed or semi-circular bay in the room. 

They’re constructed from three or more window sections and are more common in period properties and cottages. 

Cottage windows

Cottage windows, often made of wood, are typically smaller with multiple windowpanes, often referred to as “lights,” within each sash.

Some older properties may have custom window apertures that suit compact cottage windows. 

Softwood vs hardwood windows

If you’re considering natural wooden windows made from a solid wood such as fir or oak, you’ll need to weigh up the differences between softwood and hardwood. 

It’s fair to say that the quality of modern wooden windows is not always dictated by the type of wood they’re made from, as high-quality weather-resistant treatments have brought softwood windows on par with hardwood in terms of longevity. 

With that said, a high-quality oak window should last hundreds of years with proper care and maintenance. 

Here are the main characteristics of softwood and hardwood windows. 

Cottage living room in traditional English style, home decor and interior design. Generative AI.
Softwood windows are generally cheaper than hardwood but require more maintenance on the long run (Adobe)

Softwood windows

Softwoods come from coniferous trees that grow quickly, such as pine, fir or spruce. 

These trees produce light-coloured, lightweight wood that is easily cut and shaped. 

The main advantage of softwood is that it’s more readily available and, consequently, more affordable. Pine windows are the cheapest wooden windows, but affordability doesn’t necessarily translate to lower quality, as modern pine windows from quality manufacturers are built to last.

In terms of aesthetics, many softwood species have a fine grain, which suits contemporary properties, though it can be painted or stained in practically any colour.  

Over the course of 10 to 25 years, softwood windows may require more maintenance than hardwood windows to keep them in good condition. Softwood is more porous and, therefore, more susceptible to moisture damage than hardwood. 

While solid fir windows are common, many pine windows consist of multiple layers glued together. 

Hardwood windows

Hardwoods are derived from slower-growing deciduous trees, such as oak or mahogany. These species produce denser and heavier wood than softwood, with excellent strength and durability. 

Oak is by far the most common hardwood for windows. Hardwood windows are known for their exceptional longevity. With proper care, they can easily last a lifetime.

In terms of aesthetics, hardwoods are prized for their rich colour and distinct grain patterns. 

Although hardwood windows are more expensive than many other window types, they should be considered long-term investments. Oak and mahogany windows are typically crafted from solid wood – they’re not layered like some softwood windows. 

Engineered wooden windows

Many modern wooden windows are made from multiple layers of engineered wood, also known as composite wood. Layered or engineered wood minimises warping, twisting and shrinking. 

Additionally, engineered wood can be more sustainable, as manufacturers use every part of the tree, including offcuts from other species. 

Often, engineered wooden windows are called timber windows and are offered by large installers such as Everest. They offer wooden aesthetics with added durability and rot resistance. 

While engineered timber windows aren’t quite as authentic as genuine hardwood or softwood, they still offer attractive natural grains.

Wooden window glass options

Pairing your window with the right glazing is essential. 

Double-glazed windows are now the norm, but triple-glazed and low-emissivity (low-e) glass are well worth considering. 

Here’s an overview of glazing options. 

Double glazing

A double-glazed window comprises two panes of glass with a space in between, often filled with an inert gas such as argon. 

Double-glazed windows are the gold standard in the UK. Double glazing reduces bills and energy consumption since 18 per cent of a home’s heat is lost through the window. 

Moreover, double glazing provides sound insulation, dampening noise from the outside. Regarding energy efficiency, double glazing generally has a rating from A to C on the UK’s British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC) scale, with A being the most efficient. Wooden double-glazed windows are incredibly popular, blending insulation performance and affordability.

The cost of double glazing tends to be lower than triple glazing, which is something you might want to consider if you’re on a tight budget. 

cross section of wood upvc triple glazed window
Prices for triple glazing windows have come down in recent years (Adobe)

Triple glazing

Triple-glazed windows incorporate an additional pane of glass, further improving the window’s insulative properties. Once considered a high-end and expensive choice, triple glazing is dropping in price. 

This extra pane of glass can significantly reduce heat loss, making it an ideal choice for homes in colder areas or for homeowners prioritising energy efficiency. The energy rating of a triple-glazed window tends to be higher, often achieving an A or A+ rating on the BFRC scale.

Low-e glass

Low-e glass has a thin coating that reflects heat back into the building, helping to regulate indoor temperatures and reduce energy costs. 

Any window can be treated with low-e technology, including double- or triple-glazed windows.

This type of glass is highly effective at minimising the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light that can pass through glass without compromising the amount of light that enters your home. That’s great for homes that get too hot from the sun. 

Low-e triple-glazed windows are among the most energy-efficient windows available. 

How much do wooden windows cost?

The cost of wooden windows varies widely depending on the window type and style, frame material choice, glazing and hardware. 

Here’s a brief cost breakdown for the five most popular window styles: casement, sash, tilt and turn, bay and cottage. 

  • Casement windows: Depending on the size and wood type, a typically sized single wooden casement window might cost between £800 and £1,200. 
  • Sash windows: Sash windows are more expensive, costing around £1,000 to £1,500 per single window.
  • Tilt and turn windows: Tilt and turn windows cost around £1,000 to £1,500 per single window. 
  • Bay and bow windows: Due to their size, bay and bow windows are among the most expensive wooden windows. Prices can start from £1,200 and go upwards of £3,500.
  • Cottage windows: Prices for cottage windows can vary greatly depending on the detailing involved. They typically cost around £800 to £1,500 per window, including installation.

These are rough estimates for basic windows with standard glazing and hardware. The overall cost is greatly affected by the complexity of the installation, materials chosen and other factors. 

Let’s explore how other factors affect the cost of wooden windows. 

Factors affecting the cost of wooden windows

Type of wood

Softwoods such as pine and fir are more affordable than hardwoods such as oak or mahogany. 

Engineered timber windows are also cheaper than hardwood. 

Choice of glass

Standard double glazing is usually included in quoted prices, but options like triple glazing and low-e glass increase costs. 

High-performance triple-glazed windows are vastly more expensive than basic double-glazed windows. 

Hardware 

Hardware options, such as handles, hinges and locks, also vary in price. 

Premium hardware can be costly, especially if you want something specific to suit your property. 

Installation costs

Installation costs fluctuate depending on the complexity of the installation, the location of your property and the double glazing company you choose. 

Installation costs in London and the South East are typically the highest. Complex or custom-made wooden windows are also much more expensive to install.

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Wooden window pros and cons

Pros of wooden windows

Aesthetics

Wood’s natural beauty and charm are undeniable. Wood suits all properties, especially as it’s easy to stain or paint in different colours. 

Additionally, each piece of wood has unique grains and patterns, which you won’t find with any other material.

Thermal and sound insulation

Wooden windows offer excellent thermal and acoustic insulation properties. 

Wood, being a natural insulator, is excellent at keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s also an effective sound insulator. 

Durability

Wooden windows are incredibly durable. While investing in wooden windows involves a larger outlay, they’ll last a lifetime if you maintain them every few years and stay on top of minor repairs. 

Modern wooden windows don’t require much maintenance, and wood is cheap and easy to repair. 

Sustainability

From an environmental perspective, wood is a renewable and recyclable resource. 

Wooden windows can be recycled or biodegraded, reducing landfill waste. Research conducted at Heriot-Watt University in collaboration with the British Woodworking Foundation found that timber is the most environmentally friendly window material when farmed sustainably. 

Window manufacturers are adopting transparent practices regarding their sourcing and supply chains, so you can opt for brands that take sustainability seriously. 

Businesses that belong to the Members of the Wood Window Alliance (WWA) are vetted for their sustainable sourcing and business practices. 

Cons of wooden windows

Maintenance

Despite their many advantages, there are a few drawbacks to wooden windows. One of the main considerations is the need for regular maintenance. 

Wooden windows require regular painting or staining to maintain their appearance and prevent damage. It’s generally recommended to repaint or re-stain wooden windows every five to eight years. 

Cost

Wooden windows tend to be more expensive than their uPVC or aluminium counterparts. 

The price reflects the quality of the material and the craftsmanship involved in making the window. Moreover, wood has proven longevity factored into the costs. 

Wear and tear

Poorly maintained wooden windows can go downhill fast. Regular maintenance is mandatory to avoid small issues from developing into more serious faults. 

What to look for in a wooden window quote

Before you start searching for quotes, it’s worth having a fairly good idea of what you’re looking for.  

This includes the window type, glazing, special hardware options, such as locks and handles, and paint or stain finishes. This will help you collect accurate quotes. 

Here are a few things to remember when you start collecting quotes. 

Installation costs

The quote should clearly detail the installation costs and time frame. 

Installation costs can vary depending on the job’s complexity and the installing company’s rates. The company will likely want to conduct a measured survey on site. 

Guarantees and warranties

When a professional company installs your wooden windows, they should be accompanied by a comprehensive guarantee or warranty. 

Reputable window installation companies in England and Wales should be registered with the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme (FENSA). This government-authorised scheme monitors building regulation compliance for replacement windows and doors. Being registered with FENSA means they’re obligated to provide an insurance-backed guarantee for their work.

When gathering quotes, always inquire about the installer’s guarantee. Ask them to explain what it covers, its duration and any conditions that may apply. If the guarantee is insurance-backed, you’ll still be covered even if the company ceases trading.

Collect multiple quotes

It’s always a good idea to get several quotes from different installers. This gives you a range of prices to consider and allows you to assess the average cost for your specific requirements. Remember, the cheapest quote isn’t always the best. 

Quality materials and expert installation are worth the investment and can save you money in the long term through lower maintenance costs and higher energy efficiency. Grants for windows may be an option to save money on your windows costs but you have to check if you qualify for these based on your circumstances.

Maintaining wooden windows

Wooden windows can last for decades, but they’ll require regular maintenance to ensure they remain in top condition. Here’s a general overview of maintenance requirements: 

Regular cleaning

Dirt and grime accumulate on window frames and attract moss and algae, which you want to keep at bay to prevent rot. 

Use a soft cloth and a mixture of mild soap and warm water to gently clean window frames every few weeks. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the wood or its finish.

Damage inspections

At least twice a year, ideally during spring and autumn, conduct a thorough inspection of your wooden window frames. Look for signs of rotting, warping or cracking. Pay attention to areas where water might collect, as these are often where problems first appear. 

If you find minor damage, you might be able to fix it yourself with some wood filler and paint. 

Sealing

Wooden windows can develop gaps due to the natural contraction and expansion of wood with changing weather. Regularly check the seals around your window frames to ensure they remain intact. 

Repainting or revarnishing

Every five to eight years, you should apply a fresh coat of paint or varnish to protect your windows from the elements and keep them looking their best. 

This typically involves carefully sanding down the frames, applying a primer (if painting) and then applying the paint or varnish. 

Remember to choose a paint or varnish suitable for exterior use and designed for wood. If your windows are stained rather than painted, apply a fresh coat of wood stain and a sealant.

Regular lubrication

The hardware of your wooden windows – the hinges, locks and handles – needs regular care to function smoothly. Lubricate these parts once or twice a year using a suitable product.

Summary

Wooden windows are an excellent choice for homeowners who seek timeless, versatile aesthetics and robust performance. Their impressive thermal efficiency, versatility in design and compatibility with various architectural styles make them a desirable choice.

There are various types of wood, from the more affordable and widely used softwoods such as pine and fir, to super-durable engineered wood, to more luxurious and durable hardwoods such as oak and mahogany.

While wooden windows may require a higher initial investment and more intensive maintenance than their synthetic counterparts, their longevity often makes them a worthwhile investment. 

Remember that quality installation is key to achieving the full benefits of wooden windows, so choosing a reputable and experienced contractor is paramount.

Frequently asked questions

Wooden and timber windows are generally more expensive than uPVC or aluminium windows due to the cost of the material and the craftsmanship involved. 

However, many homeowners consider the investment worth it for timber’s aesthetics, durability and insulation properties. Engineered wooden windows have become considerably cheaper in recent years. 

Not necessarily. While timber is a generic term for all wood used in construction, it’s often used to describe engineered wooden windows.

Engineered wood is often called multi-layered or composite wood and is formed from a mixture of different woods. 

However, if a window is made from softwood or hardwood, it will be labelled as such. 

Ask the supplier or installer if you’re unsure of what the window is constructed from.

With proper care and maintenance, wooden windows can last for several decades.

In theory, a well-maintained wooden window could last many generations. Some high-quality wooden windows can even last over 100 years. 

Regular painting or staining, cleaning and immediate repair of any damage are key to extending the lifespan of wooden windows.

Sam Jeans

Writer

Sam is an experienced writer whose expertise lies in home improvements and renewables, as well as technology, where he is especially interested in the world of machine learning and AI. He has written for Vested, Age Times, and the Royal Mint.

For the Independent Advisor, Sam writes about windows and solar panels.

Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.