Narrowboat Windows! Which to Buy and How to Fit?

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Welcome back to Canal Boat UK, today I am going to talk about everything window and narrowboat related! By the time you finish reading this post, you won’t want to step foot near a window for several days!! 🙂

Windows may not cross many people’s minds as narrowboat owners, but they can actually have a massive impact on the look and feel of your pride and joy!

Window Styles

Bus Style

The bus style windows are lovingly named that way because they….err….look like they were taken from a bus 🙂 The benefits of these bus style windows is that they are bigger and let in more light. This will hopefully help give your small narrowboat a lighter and airier feel to it.

The downside is that they are bigger and could potentially be less secure than porthole windows. I mean, you know that no-one is fitting through a porthole window.

Although it is incredibly rare that an unwanted person would attempt to enter your boat through a window, a door is always the most likely place for this. I talk about this more in a separate article on narrowboat security.

Porthole Style

The porthole windows are what we are traditionally used to seeing on boats, in fact whenever we see such small and round windows we often think of boats!

Porthole windows have the advantage of giving you more privacy, as there is less opportunity for people to look in whilst you are getting dressed in the morning. Therefore, many people opt for portholes in the bedroom and bathrooms of their narrowboats, whilst opting for the brighter and airier bus style windows in living and kitchen spaces.

I do feel that the porthole window is evolving on narrowboats though. These days you can buy examples that are bigger than traditional portholes and can come with some striking metal materials for the frame. I have seen some narrowboats recently that have gone for these type of portholes all over them and the end result has looked very striking and original, whilst also letting in more light than traditional portholes.

As stated above, portholes do offer more security, but in most cases thieves wouldn’t opt to use a window to enter (unless you have made it ridiculously easy for them to do so!).

Window Types

uPVC

We are all used to seeing these gleaming white plastic windows on our houses in the UK, and the exact same uPVC look can be had on a narrowboat or canal boat too!

Personally, I am not a big fan. To me, these white windows are a bit gaudy and take away from the traditional look of a narrowboat. Having said all of that, it depends on the boat you own and the look you are going for. Although, as you can see from the examples I found below on Ebay, you can buy uPVC windows with a wood effect print on them. This certainly helps!

Click the image to go and view these windows over at Ebay yourself. You will find out another big benefit of uPVC windows, the price. They are often considerably cheaper than some of the other windows on offer for narrowboaters.

Metal Windows

If you don’t fancy the uPVC route, your other option when it comes to bus style windows would be metal framed windows. The problem is, they can be expensive. This set of 5 double glazed metal narrowboat windows on Ebay (click the image to see for yourself) are a prime example of this.

Yes, they are double the price! But, to me anyway, they look way nicer than the uPVC equivalent. Like with most things in life, you get what you pay for!

Double Glazed

Yes, you may think you are saving money by buying that secondhand single glazed window for 15 quid, but you will be loosing much more than that heating your boat over winter (if you are a liveaboard!). I would always recommend going for double glazed windows for both security and insulation reasons! Not to mention reduced noise in the cabin and almost complete lack of condensation (something that can be a real pain with narrowboat windows).

How to Fit a Narrowboat Window

DIY Approach

Like with anything narrowboat, you have the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is to get someone to fit windows for you, but this will cost you of course. Or if you are feeling adventurous, you can fit the windows yourself and save yourself some money.

Although, I would say that if you are not confident in DIY maybe pay the money to get someone else to do this for you. Nothing worse than leaking and poorly fitted windows 🙂

If you are feeling brave, there are some videos out there on youtube that should help! The one below is an example from NarrowboatWill, one of the narrowboat Youtubers I like to watch.

Although, be sure to read the comments of any video you watch. In the video above, someone very kindly pointed out that he used the wrong sealant (or one that is not quite as good for the job!).

Callout Approach

If you are (like me) not very confident to fit windows yourself, you can get in contact with a company that will do it for you. Usually, they will ask you for a mooring spot you can both rendezvous at and they will get the job done for you.

If you are at least confident enough to measure your own window requirements, this may save you some money. As most fitting companies charge for the measuring as part of a package that also includes supply and fitting of the windows.

Anything Else to Consider?

Efficiency

I am pretty sure that most people these days would buy double-glazed windows by default, as these help a lot for giving your boat better insulation. There is nothing worse than having to constantly heat your boat in winter due to your windows leaking out most of the heat.

Window size also plays into this too, with smaller windows giving less chance for the heat to escape in winter and the sun to blast your boat with heat in the Summer!

Of course, this has to be a balance between efficiency and your wellbeing (with the amount of light coming into your living area). This is why most narrowboaters will install a combination of window styles on their boats.

Curtains

Portholes are much harder to make curtains or blinds for, as you can imagine. The bigger they are, the more viable this may be. Although you can buy porthole bungs these days that are made to measure and can act as a replacement for curtains. Although these are a bit more severe than regular curtains!! You can click the image below to go view an example of a porthole bung over at Amazon.

Seals

No, I am not talking about those cute animals that live in the Antarctic! I am talking about the importance of checking the seals of your narrowboat or canal boat regularly. These are the seals around your windows.

When living on a narrowboat, the last thing you want is water inside your cabin. It can cause parts of your boat’s interior to literally rot away, as well as causing a musty smell that won’t help your happiness factor on board!

Therefore, make sure to check your window seals for leaks on a regular basis.

Window Liners

There are some really nice wooden narrowboat window liners out there, look at these beauties I found over on Ebay! As always, click the image to view them yourself. Although I can’t guaruntee they are still available when you are reading this!

They even have some for portholes too…..

Happy Window Shopping

Hopefully, this article has given you at least some insight into the exciting world of narrowboats and windows 🙂 If you have your own experiences or opinions about narrowboat windows, please let me know in the comments section below!

Happy boating!!

2 thoughts on “Narrowboat Windows! Which to Buy and How to Fit?”

  1. Some good tips, especially about checking the seals. In the spring our seals were attacked by magpies, to line their nests I guess. Amazing how loud their pecking is at 5am!

    We chose double glazed windows for our custom-built widebeam, to retain heat, avoid condensation and insulate against outside noise. A great idea in theory.

    However, the metal frames still get heavy condensation and there aren’t any channels to catch the drips. When it’s cold we have to wipe the frames regularly and place towel strips along the sills at night. Despite our best efforts, the beautiful ash frames are starting to show signs of water damage.

    I advise new buyers to make sure the window frames provide a thermal break (so easy to be wise after the event!) or consider non-metal frames. The double glazing provides welcome heat and sound insulation, but the condensation is a big disappointment. We do have moisture traps dotted around but temperature differences will always invite condensation.

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