If you were to look at the industry right now, there is a strong argument that the sector has come full circle. What do I mean by “full circle”. Well, in the past 10+ years fenestration has rapidly diversified its product portfolio in order to not only appeal more to home owners to to revolutionise itself. More often than not, this has manifested in modern fenestration materials such as PVCu and aluminium being made to look much more like their traditional timber counterparts.

This has proved to be a highly successful evolution for the window and door industry, with many parts of the sector having introduced much more of a traditional feel to their product portfolios, be it in ironmongery and hardware, flush sash casement windows or composite doors based on traditional timber doors.

For me though, one of the biggest markers on the industry coming full circle is the resurgence of the vertical sliding sash window.

Ultimate timber-alternative

The term “timber-alternative” has been given to casement windows that have been designed on traditional timber windows. Deeper profiles, flush casements or shallow casements, rustic window and door hardware etc. They look amazing when done correctly. But I would argue that the true timber-alternative windows would be the vertical sliding sash window.

They have been around long before the emergence of dedicated timber-alternative companies such as Evolution and Residence Collection. Masterframe for example have been around for 35 years. Modern vertical sliding sash windows are still based on original designs and constructions. There are of course varying qualities between sash window manufacturers. There is the “value” end and the premium end. You get what you pay for as with most things in life, and the more you invest in quality sash windows then they better they will look and operate.

All the options available for timber sash windows are available with modern PVCu sash windows. You have an endless choice of colour, hardware, astragal bar designs, wood grain finishes etc. Of course you don’t have the same maintenance issues as timber sash windows do, and energy efficiency is better with PVCu.

If you pick the right manufacturer and the right specification, you really can replicate the look of timber. To the point now where some manufacturers using certain specifications are being allowed to be fitted in listed buildings and conservation areas. This is a signal as to how far the PVCu industry has come. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of PVCu being allowed in listed buildings. Now, so long as a certain specification is made, they are being accepted.

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More installers fitting sash windows

According to the 2017 Insight Data industry report, between the 2011 and 2017 an extra 1500 installers started to offer PVCu vertical sliding sash windows. By any measure this is a huge increase and one of the strongest areas of growth within fenestration.

The reasons for installers to take up vertical sliding sash windows are obvious. Its another string to the bow where competitors of installers might be ignoring. One extra option to help mop up any extra business and help increase market share. Sash windows are also a product which can help command a better profit margin. Being the product that it is, installers should be able to sell sash windows at a higher margin. Providing they have been sold correctly of course! Its also a chance for installers to win work on more prestigious properties.

Terraced homes a century ago would have been installed with timber vertical sliding sash windows. But more elaborate, grand homes would also have been installed with the same type of window. For an installer to win work on grander homes allows them to take photos of the finished installation and help inspire potential new customers and win them over. I have been lucky to sell sash windows into a number of stunning homes over the past few years and they really are a gem to work on when you do get them. Its just that little bit more exciting.

Moving forwards over the next few years I do not see the energy behing vertical sliding sash windows easing off. Economic headwinds are gathering, times are uncertain, and sash windows are the most expensive window on the market. Bearing all that in mind, the wider trend is for traditional looking windows and doors to continue to grow in popularity. That should ensure manufacturers of sash windows continue to operate proftable and for installers to make the most of a market that shows no signs of slowing down.

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