Windows for Free Part 1 - Recuperating glass windows and how we used them to glaze our entire house.

When we decided to renovate our house here in France we chose to recuperate as much material as possible. This because it would be in keeping with both our philosophy and the building; there was such a huge and freely available supply and we were working to a budget.  In particular, when looking at glazing we needed quite a volume for the provision of interior light, which was in low supply due to thick walls and few openings.

Recuperating glass to reglaze a home



Our house is over 300 years old and is a vernacular longère so it was never intended to have glass windows. Each of these Celtic long houses follow the same architectural pattern, in having adjacent, alternate human and livestock accommodation, so these openings were meant either to give light to the cooking area or air to the animals/birds. At night these were closed with wooden shutters and on cold Winter days with sacking. 

Rexcuperating glass and glazing our home

As someone had, many years before, lived in one of the human habitations, now our kitchen, we actually had one window, this dating from around the 1930s. So when we came to the question of windows and doors, we just decided to ask at the local joiner’s, where we had already observed the rows of discarded items, some thirty to forty of them, piling up in his car park.

Where to recuperate glass windows

On enquiring with the proprietor we discovered that the windows were waiting to be dumped or burnt. The majority of his business was in making and fitting double-glazed units  and those in the yard were the ones he had removed from the houses prior to installation. The proprietor was so happy that we wanted to take some away for our own use, his means of disposal being to take them to the tip (for which he would pay a fee) or he would have to take them into a nearby field  and burn them! So we loaded the car up with our chosen windows and over the course of  the next few months collected several dozen units, the majority of which were exotic wood and double-glazed. Additionally, I encouraged neighbours and friends with projects of house restoration and greenhouse construction to visit this company and furnish themselves with the valuable free resource, one completed project being the verandah-style greenhouse (read more)

Recuperating glass window and doors to glaze a house

One thing I should make clear with these windows, is that  most of them were in perfect condition, some of the French windows even having keys - apparently many people just wanted to change to UPVC! As expected, very few windows had any frames as these were broken in their removal. 

Some supplies of windows and doors we obtained as they were being removed, these, often from nearby towns were elegant old windows with hand-made glass and fine astragals. 
where and how to recuperate glass windowsrecuperated windows in our homeRecuperated glass - French doors

For people of our philosophy the opportunity of recuperating these windows and constructing a (softwood) frame to fit them was and is a perfect way of using ‘waste’. Furthermore once the proprietor of the company realised what we needed, he and his men not only tried to carefully retain the frames, handles and keys but also kept a look out for specific sizes and shapes of window and doors!

Greenhouse made from recuperated glass windows

As mentioned above, another way we got windows was to watch for old houses in the area being refurbished. This way we directly approached the building firms as they were loading the windows up to dump or burn. We were able to obtain some really elegant windows this way, many of which we used for our glass greenhouse (read more).

The one and only drawback of recuperated double glazed units

There is however, a problem with old double-glazed units, like the ones we used in our sitting room. Unfortunately, last year we noticed that one of the windows was beginning to get  ‘foggy’ and by the summer of this year it was apparent that it must be changed. By a stroke of good fortune I had recuperated this window with several others from the same contract and in our stable where we store the pallet wood planks I unearthed the twin of the now translucent window. 

Double glazed recuperated window and door

In the next blog post I will be sharing how to prepare and fit a recuperated window into an existing frame but in the meanwhile here is a film showing our recuperated windows in use in our house and garden.

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All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014


  1. It's pretty impressive that you were able to find these windows just laying around. I like how well you were able to make them fit in the current structure of your house and in the backyard. I might have to try something similar with my windows. They're definitely in need of replacement, but maybe I can recuperate them like you have. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Gerald, Thanks for your comment and sorry to be late in replying. There are so many windows that just end up in landfill and/or being burnt and purely because people are encouraged to keep replacing them. The guy who I recuperated these windows from was so happy we were reusing them, it's his business after all to make and sell new windows but he is still unhappy about the waste! Good Luck and hope you were able to recuperate some windows for your house, Andy

  2. I want to thank you for this informative read, I really appreciate sharing this great post.