Consider restoring your wooden windows

Double-hung wooden windows lend aesthetic appeal to an older home and can last for generations. But with age, they can begin to rattle, stick and become drafty.

Replacing them with newer vinyl windows may seem like an obvious choice, but it's not your only option. Many window specialists offer restoration services that can preserve an old window's classic look while improving its functionality and energy efficiency.

Not sure if restoration is right for your wooden windows? Consider this:

• Wooden windows built before World War II were typically custom-made for the house. Exchanging them with standard vinyl replacement windows can drastically affect the look of your home.

• Excess paint and broken pulley systems are the most common problems with wooden windows, but they are easily fixed. Stripping and refinishing the wood, as well as replacing the rope in the pulley system with a chain, can make your window work like new.

• Rotted wood doesn't necessarily mean window death. Restoration specialists can usually repair it using epoxy that can be sanded and painted to blend with the rest of the window.

• Properly maintained wooden windows and storm windows work together like the two pieces of glass in a double-paned window. By adding weather stripping to wood windows and storms, they can achieve similar energy ratings as double-paned replacement windows.


You can also go to the Homeowner section of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's website to find more advice and a "contractor locator" And don't forget you statewide non-profit historic preservation organization. They can be a great resource too. Scroll to the bottom to select a state at:

Contact your local state historic preservation office to find qualified professionals to restore/repair your historic wood sashes. GO to

You might contact Shaw Stewart Lumber in Minneapolis for a referral

Pella is one of several quality manufacturers that have the capability. No doubt they have recognized a performance improvement.

There are various considerations in working with historic buildings and window improvement. 1. Architectural accuracy 2. Energy improvement of the opening 3. Low maintenance exteriors 4. Budget Each of the above can accomplish part of or all of the owners requirements. A professional can suggest the best way to accomplish the task after a consultation. Every community can adopt or establish various guidelines to be followed. Therefore contact with the local historic preservation board is advised.

Wood, fiberglass, vinyl windows are three of the most poplar technologies. You should decide the of the follow priorties Performance, versatility and budget. That will assist a professional to find the best fit for your.

A year or so ago Preservation magazine had an article demonstrating how restoring the original windows in brick buildings under renovation (near Harvard or Yale?) was better than replacing them with modern, historic replicas. The refurbished buildings were then certifiable to the latest "green" benchmarks.

Any ideas of who to contact in Indianapolis??? The last guy we hired said he was an expert and we let him go when it took months for him to admit that he didn't know what he was doing.

My friend that replaced his windows in his historic home with new wood windows got Pella Architect Series. So far he loves them and has noticed an improvement in his power bills

ran into the same issues; try Kolbe and Kolbe (VERY expensive) or look at a regional window/door mfg; in Pgh, PA - we love Allied Millwork

I have been trying to find some who does this in Minneapolis and not sure how to search.

We own a 40 year old house with french wood window. Any recommendation in Huntington Beach, Orange County, Ca are?

My mother put temporary sheets of shaded plastic over the panes for the summer, too -like sunglasses for the windows!

A friend of mine just replaced the wood windows in his historic home with new wood windows. They are just as energy efficient as vinyl and are paintable and stainable to match his home's style. He looked at storm windows, but didn't like the idea of having to open two windows in the case of a fire and he also was told they can hurt your energy savings in the summer months because the space between the two windows starts to work like a greenhouse.

How can I find someone to perform this kind of restoration in San Louis Obispo, CA?

Thank you Angie's list. My fiance and I just bought our first home and it's almost 100 years old. It still has all the original wood windows and they're in great shape. A window sill probably needs to be replaced or repaired, all the paint needs to be stripped and some pulleys need replacing. Being new at the home-owning game we thought in order to get more efficient windows we'd have to get rid of our beautiful wood windows and replace them with vinyl. Refinishing all of the windows and making them more energy efficient is one our summer goals.

Vinyl windows cheapen any house, but especially historic homes. I'd like to see more about restoring windows.

To say that a storm window and a wooden window will acheive similar energy ratings is not entirely accurate. This combination doesn't offer Low-E glass with argon or krypton gas between the panes. Any reputable vinyl replacement window company will only offer a minimum of Low-E and argon with their windows. Rite Window offers vinyl replacement windows which are Green Seal Certified, carry a 50-year warranty and are made to exact opening sizes needed to replace the old windows.

If your wood windows are still solid, restore them. Don't let the new clad wood window sway you; it is an inferior wood that will fail fast if your cladding ever traps moisture. Pre-WWII windows are usually made with tight-grain, old growth lumber. That wood will outlive everyone reading this with basic maintenance; it is highly resistant to rot & much more dimensionally stable than wood found in products made today. Don't let the argon gas argument sway you to trash your original windows; it gives a very small r-value gain. Low-E does help a lot, but you can get storm windows with low-e coating to coincide with your original windows. Even if a sash has rot, they are made in such a manner that any single piece of the sash can be removed & replaced when damaged. New pulleys can easily be found online, and retying weights is very simple. We throw too much of our heritage away & replace things that would last many lifetimes just to have something new & shiny that wont last more than 20-30yrs.

Thank you Angie's List - great to see a national resource communicating options other than vinyl replacements (which are bad for the environment and fail within 10-20 years anyways)

Do you have a recommendation for this type of work in the St. Paul MN area. Thank you.

Beware the warranties on vinyl windows. That 50 year warranty is worth nothing if the company fails. Besides, original wood windows last 100 years or more and can be repaired. If a vinyl window fails, you have to throw it out and get a new one. Wasteful!

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