When planning an extension or new build, it can be a good idea to utilise the space under the roof by fitting pitched roof windows, allowing light in and making the space seem airy and bright. Ensuring that you purchase the correct windows for the job will guarantee years of hassle-free good looks and avoid problems such as leaks and damp. Knowing what you're looking for can be a minefield with all the different options out there – so what are the essential things to bear in mind when shopping?
What room will the windows be in?
Kitchens and bathrooms generate a lot of moisture so choosing windows with uPVC frames can be a good choice. Windows for pitched roofs are often used in bathrooms because they avoid problems associated with the bathroom being overlooked. However, if the bathroom is lower than surrounding properties, it is entirely possible to have obscure glass fitted.
Living rooms with roof windows often have many large units to allow as much light as possible into the room during the day. Wooden frames are often in keeping with the rest of the décor and consideration should be taken of how easy the windows are to open if they are high up.
Bedrooms are often fitted with smaller windows as they are more often used at night. Blackout blinds can ensure a restful nights sleep, especially in urban areas. Some people like being able to lie in bed and gaze at the stars through their window so thinking about where it is positioned compared to the bed is a good idea. Also, consider whether or not the window needs to be big enough to act as an escape hatch in the event of a fire.
The pitch of your roof will dictate how big a window you can install. Most windows cannot be installed on a roof with a pitch of less than 15°, and flatter roofs will usually require larger windows, although better results may be obtained by adjusting the height the window is installed at and the number and position of the windows in the room.
There are two primary considerations to take into account when thinking about how the window opens – where the hinge is sited and what type of opening mechanism you fit.
Electric windows are great if the roof space is quite high. A cheaper alternative is to use a pole to operate the catch, but this can be tricky, and impossible for people with limited mobility. Electric windows can be operated using a remote control or wall switch. There is even the hi-tech option of solar-powered windows where a solar cell is hidden in the frame to generate the power needed to operate the opening motors.
Where a window is easy to access which method is used comes down to personal preference. Electric windows have the advantage of built-in rain sensors to close the window and the potential to be wired into a whole house ventilation system.
Where the window is hinged is also an important consideration. The classic skylight solution is the centre pivot. This allows the window to be flipped for easy cleaning, however as part of the window comes into the room it can be unsightly, and you may have to watch out for your head! A top-third window shifts the pivot up slightly, so less of the sash comes into the room.
A top-hung window is a good idea if you want unobstructed views or need the window to open fully for escape purposes. It also has the advantage of offering rain protection when open. A side-hung window also opens fully and may be an alternative for some applications where being able to open the window fully is desired, however, doesn't shield the opening from rain so requires care from the user.
Not just an aesthetic consideration as the finish applied to the frame can have implications for the longevity of the installation. Most frames have at least a 10-year guarantee, however.
Classic pine has long been used for windows and offers the potential to be painted to match interior furnishings. Supplied in a natural finish with clear lacquer for protection or pre-painted in a durable white finish.
Polyurethane or PU frames are plastic coated timber making them moisture resistant and ideal for use in bathrooms and kitchens where damp could be a problem. They are exceptionally durable and maintain their good looks well.
uPVC is a fully plastic window and is easier to clean than a PU or painted frame. It is also a very good insulator, and uPVC frames often have better insulation ratings than other variants.
The basic option for pitched roof windows is a laminated, double glazed pane. This uses a special safety glass on the internal side that remains bonded together if broken to avoid shards of glass falling into the room. It can be fitted as plain or obscure glass for privacy.
Triple glazed windows offer a greater degree of heat insulation. They often reduce noise transmission and condensation build-up as well.
Quadruple glazed windows are designed for houses being built to Passiv Haus standards and offer extremely high levels of insulation – almost as good as if the window wasn’t there.
In urban areas noise reducing glazing can be used. This incorporates thicker glass to reduce noise transmission through the window.
Roof windows, especially in single-storey extensions, can be a security risk in certain areas so enhanced security windows can be installed to give peace of mind. These incorporate extra strong hinges, locking mechanisms and are designed to prevent the glazing unit being removed from outside.
The external appearance of the window should also be taken into consideration. Conservation areas may have rules on the colour or material of roof windows. There are specialist ranges of conservation grade windows which aim to retain historical external features on period properties yet allow the installation of higher quality glazing and the convenience of modern technology.