Turn Unwanted Windows into Flush Fittings

Maybe you live in an old house where rooms have side windows which, because they are overlooked by a neighbour or face his dustbin, have to be curtained day and night. They are a source of draughts and heat loss and involve the expense of curtaining; so why not take them out and build flush fitted furniture into the recesses?

The fittings already completed take up no functional space and considerably enrich the rooms. Although they have been up for over twenty years they show no signs of damp penetration. Granted, they are protected to some extent by the outbuildings of neighbours’ houses, but in any case you would hardly be tempted to remove windows that face front or back; as a rule, it is only side windows that are unnecessary. Matching up side walls will not show, whereas a patched-up front or back would be an eyesore unless you propose to render the wall.

Two points to watch: first, make sure that your remaining windows provide sufficient light for the room. Glass area should be at least one-tenth of the floor area. One-sixth is better, particularly with a room facing away from the sun. Second, you will have to acquaint your local town hall of your proposals because the work will come under the heading of structural alterations.

Turn Unwanted Windows into Flush Fittings

If your house is sixty or more years old the walls will doubtlessly be solid brick (not cavity). Taking into account the inside plasterwork they will have a total thickness of about 250 mm (10 in) or so.

The window will probably be of the sliding sash variety.

Cut the sash cords and prise off staff beads with a broad blunt chisel. Remove the lower sash. Prise off parting beads and remove the upper sash. Prise off the pocket pieces and remove the four weights concealed in the boxes behind. The weights serving the upper sash will be behind a loose dividing lath. Replace the pocket pieces and take off the pulleys.

Don’t bother to remove an outside stone or concrete sill if it only juts out about 50 mm (2 in). This would be a major operation and, being at the side of the house, it will not be noticed by passers-by, particularly if you paint it in the same colour as the brickwork.

Cut a sheet of 3.2 mm (1/8 in) tempered hardboard and a piece of heavy bituminous felt to the size and shape of the window opening. Spread mastic compound over the outside of the fixed outer beads and press the hardboard over, calendered (smooth) side facing the room.

Spread more mastic for 25 mm (1 in) or so around the outside edges of the hardboard and press on the bituminous felt. Nail through felt and hardboard into the fixed outer bead, using large-headed galvanized clout nails, and spread a little more mastic over the nail heads.

Now lay half-brick courses outside to fill the opening and come flush with the surrounding brickwork, matching it as nearly as possible. Secondhand bricks would no doubt give a better matching colour than new ones. Or you can deepen the tone of new bricks after they have been laid by brushing over lightly with creosote diluted with a little naphtha or paraffin.

Cements may be bought in different colours to match the existing pointing. Add a little soot, if necessary, to deepen the tone. For mortar use one part of cement and three of sand mix; or you can use Marleymix,which has a little plasticizer incorporated to simplify ‘buttering’ and trowelling.

If your window has been set in the traditional way, the inside face of these bricks will butt on to the bituminous felt lining.

The window may be of the casement variety (opening on hinges) and in that case it will be even easier to remove. Prise off the stops on to which the sash closes and nail stripwood, 18 mm (I in) square section in the position that would normally be occupied by the fixed outer bead of a sliding sash window.

Assuming the walls are 250 mm (10 in) thick, the window frame will protrude into the room by at least 25 mm (1 in), probably more. Allowing for 100 or 110 mm (4+ in) brick filling, plus the thickness of the bituminous felt and hardboard and the amount in which the frame protrudes, you will be left with a recess of some 130 to 150 mm (5 or 6 in), and we will now see how this valuable space can be put to best advantage.

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