Edited by Leon Louw

In two parts, Timber iQ will look at different types of wooden doors, window frames blinds and shutters, focusing on the design, latest trends and maintenance requirements.

Shutters typically consist of a frame of vertical stiles and horizontal rails. Image credit: Taylor Blinds & Shutters

Shutters typically consist of a frame of vertical stiles and horizontal rails. Image credit: Taylor Blinds & Shutters

Timber doors, windows and blinds each play different roles in a building, and complete the overall look of a building. It is most unlikely to find a building without a single window or door. It is also unusual to find an entire building with completely bare windows that don’t have blinds or shutters.

Latest market trends

Market trends are always changing; something that is in demand today, might not be in demand in a few months or weeks. Window shutters are ideal for various reasons including the provision of privacy, controlling sunlight that enters a room and to enhance the looks of a building. Shutters typically consist of a frame of vertical stiles and horizontal rails. Anthony Mederer, managing director at Taylor Blinds & Shutters, explains that current trends are leaning more towards lighter colours. “White painted timber is still the most popular finish, however there is an increasing trend to light wood finishes such as oak and grey washed effects,” he explains.
According to Swartland’s in-house architect, Arno Britz, market research over the years has indicated that people choose wooden windows and doors because of their beauty. With that comes various trends divided into various categories explained by Britz as follows:

  1. Transitional living
    A major drive in architectural design today is merging the indoor and outdoor spaces.This trend is redefining home design, and many homeowners are looking to fenestration solutions to incorporate transitional living into their homes. Here, the general rule of thumb is that the bigger, the better, and in this regard, aluminium windows and doors provide the perfect frame. Arguably, one of the main benefits of aluminium windows and doors, from an aesthetic point of view, is that they boast really slim sightlines. This means that the glazing surface is increased.
  2. Turning windows into doors
    Replacing a pair of boring double pane windows with sliding doors, or a pair of French or fold-a-side doors for example, will add vitality to any indoor space by letting in a lot more natural light and opening up the space. South Africa has lovely weather and most homes have access to beautiful outdoor spaces – by replacing a window with a door, one can take advantage of these aspects by creating a seamless flow between a home’s indoor and outdoor spaces. If there is no space for a door, then one can consider replacing old-fashioned windows with large format sliding windows instead.
  3. A wall of glazing
    This trend has been making waves for a while now, and there seems no sign of it abating anytime soon. In keeping with the move towards transitional living spaces, a major trend is to replace entire walls with a curtain of windows, large window panels, fold-a-side or sliding doors. While this can be a costly renovation, it can completely transform a home from a dated design, into an updated trend. A wall of glass adds height and light to any indoor space – enhancing the outdoor views. However, this not only looks good, but the high-end look and feel will also add great resale value to your home.
  4. Going green
    As the cost of electricity rises and the hopes for a cleaner environment gains momentum, so are more and more consumers looking to replace older inefficient windows with high-efficiency designs. However, this is not just a nice-to-have, it is a legal requirement. In South Africa, the SANS 10400 National Building Regulations have been amended in the form of the XA appendices, in order to further enforce and regulate energy efficient practices in the built environment, with the long-term benefit of reducing overall energy consumption and CO2 emissions. By law, windows must comply to SANS 10400-XA. All new buildings, as well as renovations must comply to SANS 10400-XA. Your architect or professional technologist/draughtsperson will advise you, to be compliant.
  5. Custom is key
    Almost everyone is familiar with standard windows; however, it is a good idea to create a unique feature by adding an accent window in an otherwise unexciting space. There are lots of places in the home environment that make for great feature installations such as this. Picture windows are a great addition to any landing or double volume space. Bay windows are also very popular – they not only let in lots of added light, but they also create a sense of cosiness, making an otherwise uninteresting space very inviting.

Important considerations for timber windows

Although doors, windows and shutters are commonly associated with residential buildings, they are also suitable for commercial buildings as well. Mederer explains that shutters and blinds are extensively used in the commercial and hospitality environments. “In the commercial sector, the unique beauty of shutters and blinds adds a sense of style and sophistication to a space. The hospitality industry benefits greatly from the use of shutters and blinds, as they are low maintenance and unlike curtains, they do not need to go through continuous laundry processes,” he says. As a result, the hospitality industry is able to save on long term maintenance costs. Lodges, environmental buildings and offices are other non-residential buildings where wooden windows, doors and shutters can be found.

Although one might be impressed by a particular window or door design, there are some important considerations that need to be made before making a decision. “The most important factor is to look for a locally produced shutter or blind,” says Mederer. The reason is that imported shutters in particular specifically are not produced for the harsh African environment, whereas locally produced shutters are custom built to withstand it. “As an added bonus, locally produced shutters and blinds will always offer longer warranties and shorter lead times and in most cases are even more cost-effective,” Mederer adds.

In Britz’s view, research is important to help one choose the correct windows that will best suit the design of the building, budget and lifestyle of the building’s occupants. As such, it is important to pay attention to the window styles. According to Britz, there are six major styles to choose from as follows:

  1. Top hung windows
    Also known as awning windows, top hung windows are hinged at the top of the frame, while the bottom of the window opens by swinging outwards. When open, the glass pane slopes downwards and can be left open when it rains, which is great for ventilation.
  2. The sliding sash window
    Sliding sash windows feature two movable panels, or sashes, which slide vertically to open and close the window, but they remain inside the frame so they don’t protrude out to the exterior or interior of the house. When positioning the two sliding sashes in the centre of the frame, one creates equal openings at the top and bottom giving the best crossflow ventilation of any window.
  3. The mock sliding sash window
    Mock Sash Windows open in the same way as normal top-hung awning windows, but when closed, they offer the same visual appeal as traditional sliding sash windows, but they come in at a much lower price point.
  4. Side hung window
    Side hung windows offer minimal obstruction to any outdoor views. They come in a variety of configurations, from single- to double-, and triple-pane formats, but all of them boast large panes, with slender frames. These windows are hinged on the side.
  5. Horizontal gliding windows
    These windows boast large panes or sashes, which slide open horizontally for maximum ventilation and minimal obstruction of any views.
  6. Small pane windows
    Also known as cottage pane windows, small pane windows boast a multi-pane window format where each sash is usually divided into two columns and five rows of glazing. For the most part, these windows are side-hung, and come in single, double, three and four sash formats. However, they can be easily made up to fit any space required.

Energy-efficient windows

Energy efficiency is commonly associated with electrical appliances; however, it also applies in the context of wooden windows as well. “Windows are a narrow barrier between the interior and exterior of your home. Therefore, it is so important to choose energy-efficient windows,” Britz explains.

There is a lot of jargon involved in fenestration and energy efficiency, however, there are two terms that are commonly used which will help people make an informed decision. These are R-values and U-values. The R-value measures a window’s resistance to heat flow – as such, the higher the R-value, the better. The U-value on the other hand measures how well the window prevents heat from escaping a building. The lower the U-value the more efficient the window.

The material from which the windows are made is another aspect that needs careful consideration. “Timber windows offer the best insulative value and the highest cradle-to-grave environmentally-friendly credentials out of all the materials that windows can be made from,” Britz says. With regards to blinds and shutters, Mederer explains that stability is the most important factor for blinds. “Shutters and blinds are essentially a home barrier from the sun and are constantly absorbing UV. For timber shutters we use Obeche internally and African Mahogany externally. For our timber blind range, we only utilise basswood,” he says. Mederer says that the reason for using such timbers is because they are extremely stable in both moist and dry conditions and are also lightweight – which puts minimal strain on a home’s masonry.