We're often asked why we have focused on using oak in our window design, when uPVC has become the nation's preferred material for window frame design. So we thought we would give you a little break down of the differences in order to understand why we love and champion oak so strongly.
- A sustainable, green material
- Extremely resistant to insect and fungal attack
- Excellent strength and hardness
- Intricate and stunning aesthetic appeal from naturally grown wood, available in a wealth of designs.
- Easy to work with
- Easily recyclable
- Easy to mass produce
- Weather proof, and resistant to damp
- Very durable and unlikely to corrode or need replacing
- More expensive due to the initial costs, but over the longer lifespan of the oak windows it is cheaper.
- More labour intensive to produce finished products
- Can require maintenance
- Its production causes a great deal of toxic bi-products
- uPVC is created using unsustainable resources
- Will discolour overtime
- Difficult to un-install and recycle
- Poor aesthetic appeal and limited designs available
Whilst you will find many resources claiming that the problems with using oak are manifold and include the wood warping, or movement across the grain (swelling) and cracking, these issues rarely occur in modern window design. Through the use of multilayered hardwood and extended-life finishes, those concerns can be allayed.
Fundamentally the difference comes down to price – with oak windows you are paying for a highly tailored, beautiful product that will not only safeguard against weather and reduce costs in heating, but do it in style. With uPVC you are paying less for window frames that will work, but also for a product that is harmful to the environment, unsustainable and quite frankly unappealing.
image by Daveybot
You might not think it, but the sash window has taken a long and winding road to become one of the most common window frame fixings that we have. Even its origins are littered with contentious points with many people disagreeing on where they even came from.
It was originally believed that they were invented in Holland in the later half of the 1600's, however research from a certain Dr. Hinte Louw has suggested that they may even have originated in England much earlier in the same century. With the name a derivative of the French word for frame (chassis), there are also suggestions that they originated in France, though it seems as if we'll never be quite sure.
Whatever the case, they came to be associated with royalty and high design when they were installed in Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace amongst others, and as such became symbols of wealth and prosperity.
Sash windows became the go-to for architects who had bored with the older casement windows and even meant that crown glass manufacturers started going to painstaking lengths to blow far longer sheets, which would give the building a stunning reflection when the light struck the pane.
Even at this point the frames to these sash windows were made of oak, as the abundance of great British wood meant that manufacturers could afford to use the best materials.
It was not long after the introduction of these frames that the window tax was introduced in 1696 under King William III. A system which levied higher taxation on wealthier citizens (deeming those who were rich to have larger houses and therefore more windows), further catapulted the sash window design into stardom.
Then came the Building Act of the 1700's which required sash windows to be recessed behind the brickwork in order to avoid becoming a fire hazard. However, most people ignored this legislation, and you can still see a great deal of properties between the 18th and 19th century who still contain traditional frames.
As the centuries progressed, the designs became more intricate, with slimmer and more delicate fretwork and mullions employed, demonstrating the superb quality of the oak used in their construction.
Then as we came into the late 19th century we saw a deluge of patents issued for elaborate redesigns which sought to improve upon the classic weight and pulley system, though really none of them took off as the traditional design's simplicity and efficacy rang true.
It was in the early twentieth century that we saw the sash window in decline as cheap and mass produced steel casement frames became the norm.
Thankfully this is a downswing we are finally starting to see turn around as the conservation movement gains momentum and we find people looking to re-utilise the traditional aesthetic of the sash design.
A large part of our company's ethos is to use materials sourced only from the best and most trustworthy suppliers. We're keen to make sure that we are sourcing wood which has come from sustainable industry, and endeavour to support groups that work towards preserving our woodlands. One of our favourite organisations that works towards this aim is The Woodland Trust.
A non-profit company set up in Devon in 1972, it was originally masterminded by the retired farmer Kenneth Watkins, though it's grown far more than he could ever have imagined. By 1977 The Woodland Trust owned twenty two woods in six counties and has grown exponentially since then.
Today the charity owns over 80 woods in Scotland alone, with a mind blowing 850 in England which covers a total of 25,000 acres. This includes a total of around 350 ancient woodlands, which are areas that have been 'under tree cover' since before 1600.
In fact, they don't just preserve already established sites, but have also taken a major step towards creating areas, having established over 32 square kilometres of new woodland across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Even more impressively, they are also looking to restore ancient woodlands, by carefully and gradually reintroducing plantations to strengthen flagging forests.
The Woodland Trust runs on donations from its many members as well as various corporate sponsorships. They also draw funding from a variety of charitable trusts like National Lottery Funding, as well as seeing a return from the Landfill Tax, which is a a tax applied to companies with a great deal of waste disposal. Looking to encourage organisations to reduce the amount of waste they produce it's fantastic to see the money going into preservation.
Whilst The Trust may be overlooked as a charity on the whole, we feel that their cause needs to be championed, not only because of the fact that they are conserving beautiful recreational areas, but also because the benefits of the country's thriving forestry is manifold and affects everyone.
Large wooded areas greatly enhance air quality, absorbing a lot of pollution and giving back much needed oxygen to the local environment. They also go a long way to reducing the threat of flooding by absorbing excess water and lowering the water table. Of course that's to overlook the fact that they are part of our cultural heritage and, as the centuries have passed, these woods have blossomed and bloomed, setting the stage for the many intricate pieces of our collective history.
A very worthwhile cause, we urge all who are interested to make a donation to The Woodland Trust as a little thank you for all the work they put into keeping our countryside so unique.
We support the Woodland Trust and the work they do to protect the woodlands, as part of our support we plant a tree for every order we receive in order to do our part to help woodlands from being destroyed.
photo by Dan Scape