Maintenance and repair the sustainable option for failing metal frames

Dealing with damaged or neglected old metal windows can be a genuinely daunting challenge for property owners or their maintenance teams, but replacement – especially using modern alternatives – is rarely the only answer as specialist contractor Associated Steel Window Services (ASWS) can attest.

In work across the South-East and further afield, the London-based company carries out a wide variety of contracts, addressing everything from heritage steel windows in listed buildings, to the maintenance of more modern W40 section and aluminium frame fenestration and curtain walling. Crucially, in almost all circumstances, timely intervention by ASWS can greatly extend the working life of windows; saving building owners from the cost and greater inconvenience of full replacement.

Aside from the financial and logistical advantages, there are wider environmental benefits to refurbishing older windows which are becoming more valued, as the properties where we live and work come under scrutiny for their contribution to climate change.

Straightforward routine maintenance will help ensure that opening lights close correctly and that weather-stripping is replaced when necessary; both cutting down on unwanted air and heat leakage.  It is also possible to replace damaged or corroded sections and straighten or ‘reset’ distorted frames; either on site or in the workshop.

Single glazing, which was standard in most steel windows until late last century, can be replaced with varying thicknesses of double-glazed unit, depending on the size of the rebate.  Conventional IG starts at a slender 3-4-3mm make up and can benefit from warm edge spacer bars and gas filling, but new generation vacuum glazing offers much better performance, though at considerable cost.

There is also a health and environmental benefit to removing all of the original lead paint still covering many older windows along with its responsible disposal.  So the question is what to do with windows which really are beyond economic repair?

While the price of scrap metal continues to fluctuate, the value of recycling has never been higher, with responsible contractors ensuring that they have separate skips for clean and dirty metal in order to maximise recovery.  ASWS, however, goes much further having operated its own salvage operation for decades. Wherever possible, the team saves everything from old ironmongery, beads and even ‘Whitworth’ screws for reuse at a later date.  In fact, the recent replacement of an old building at the front of the London premises has created even more room for this library of spare parts to be further expanded.

As Laura Mercer, Managing Director of ASWS, observes: “We have got handles and other ironmongery from 40 years ago which we can reuse for current jobs when new replacements simply aren’t available, as well as the skills to make a full range of repairs and improvements.  The best recycling you can do is re-using components to extend the useful life of windows and improving their performance at the same time.”

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