Wood choices for timber sash windows & doors

Wooden double glazed windows & doors are our specialism. We make the double glazing ourselves, which is always of the highest quality & built to last.

Sapele (1)
New Georgian Style Front Door Sulivan Road Fulham London

Are you wondering what type of timber to choose for your new wooden sash windows or traditional French doors? If you’re new to the world of wood, it can be difficult to know which wood to go for. For instance, what’s going to last the longest and need minimum maintenance? What’s the difference between hardwood and softwood?

Which wood should you choose?…

Softwood vs. hardwood

The first thing to know is that there are two different types of timber – softwood and hardwood.

Softwood is fast growing. For example, pine trees. They have their leaves all-year round and grow throughout the year.

Hardwood trees lose their leaves in the winter, so don’t have as much time to grow.

When you chop trees up into logs, you’ll see the rings on the inside of the truck. With softwood, the gaps are more spaced out, but with hardwood, the rings are closer together. This makes the wood more dense, which is a good thing!

Why does density matter?

Timber likes to retain water. The lower the density, the more water it can hold.

When we dry wood straight from logs, we kiln-dry it so that it contains around 8 to 12% moisture. This means that if the timber ever absorbs any water, there are more areas to fill.

Think of timber as being made up of lots of tiny straws. Each of these straws has little pockets, meaning there’s lots of room for water to be absorbed when timber sash windows or traditional French doors get wet, especially if they’ve been made from softwood.

The less dense the wood, the more ‘straws’ there are. They soak up all the water and then once the sun hits the wood, the water spreads out and moves around the window. This is best thing that can happen because water in wood isn’t a good thing and can cause irreparable damage over time.

Why choosing the right type of wood is so important

Your timber windows or doors may look great at first glance, but if any chips or cracks develop, water can get in and move through the entire window or door. And when it has no-where to escape to, the wood will start to rot; faster if it’s softwood and not hardwood too.

Softwood windows or doors may be cheaper, but they will end up costing you in the long-run because they simply don’t last and can be expensive to keep repairing. Around 20 to 30% of softwood windows have to be replaced during their first 10-year maintenance cycle.

It’s why we never recommend softwood for timber sash windows or traditional French doors.

Should you get UPVC windows and doors instead?

You could, but it has its downsides (and quite a few of them too).

First of all, it looks nothing like timber, so won’t be approved in conservation areas.

Secondly, it’s not an organic product. This means mould spores easily grow on it, which isn’t good for our health.

In comparison, timber windows last much longer because you can sand them down and repaint them if they’re starting to look tired and are in need of a refresh.

But you can’t do this with UPVC, which means the only option is to rip it out and throw it away, which is pretty wasteful. Makes you think, doesn’t it?….

Which wood should you choose?

We use engineered Sapele and Accoya wood.

Sapele is a north African hardwood that’s part of the mahogany family. It looks beautiful and has incredible rot resistance. It takes at least 10 years for any rot to set in, unlike softwood, which can start to rot in just 1 to 2 years.

The Sapele we work with is highly engineered. What we mean by this is that we use smaller pieces of it so that it’s less prone to bending, which can lead to unwanted movement. At the same time, we also remove any small knots and imperfections present in the wood.

Accoya, on the other hand, is a completely different thing. It’s actually a softwood that costs the same as most mature hardwoods.

All about Accoya….

There’s a bit of science to Accoya. The straws we mentioned up above, that hold water, are a bit more special in Accoya. This is because the wood is pressure-treated and coated with a concentrated vinegar solution, leaving no-where for water to go.

Because of this, Accoya doesn’t absorb water in the way that other wood does. It also means there’s no way it can rot due to the fact rot needs water to develop. Accoya isn’t affected by insect attacks either.

It’s available in 3 different grades. Grade 1 is the best grade and only grade we use, followed by grades 2 and 3.

If you can, always chose Accoya. It may be more expensive, but it will provide you with a return on your investment within 10 years. There’s no rot, on-going maintenance, such as painting, to worry about and it’s environmentally-friendly too!

But you know your home much better than we do, so if you would like some of your windows or doors in Accoya and the rest in Sapele, that’s perfectly fine. We can do both and are highly skilled at working with both of these options too.