Restore your double-hung windows

Restore your double-hung windows

Double-hung wooden windows are known for their classic, unique look, but they’re also known for being loud and drafty. Instead of installing vinyl replacements, many window specialists offer restoration services that preserve an old window’s aesthetics while improving its functionality.

Written and produced by Jeremy Stacy

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Comments

Fran Rahl

Subject:

Most replacement wooden windows offer an approximate look. I have some high grade Pella's on the back of my 1857 townhouse that perform well> But they do not have the broader vertical mullions of the originals. My dilemma at the moment is the front windows facing the historic district. The 150 year old windows are not in terrible condition and are clearly of a higher quality than any new windows I've seen. But they are on the west wall and are both drafty and infrared sinks. I will most likely cover them with storm windows and begin renovating them one at a time.

John Porterfield

Subject:

National Park Service publication covers two years research exploring energy saving potential of window replacement and numerous alternatives. Search "Testing the Energy Performance of Wood Windows." There are hundreds of studies like this with independent information to guide homeowners through the process of reducing energy use.

John Leeke

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(I'm not sure if this is against the posting rules, if so it will probably be erased, but I'll risk it because so many have asked for window specialists who will save their windows, and not try to sell them replacement windows.)

The new book, Save America's Windows, lists Ryan Pirro and 120+ other window specials across the country. More here:
http://www.historichomeworks.com/hhw/reports/reports.htm#Windows

John Leeke

Don E. Sikorski

Subject:

I've been restoring a window that had 80 years of paint on it, now it's back to the original wood. The windows were installed in 1938, and included window spring balances, I had to repalce one, got it from a company in Hagerstown, Md. Now all I have to do is put the completed window back in the opening.

Ellen Donabedian

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I was so very glad to see John Leeke's comment and link to 'HIS' book. Let's just say "He wrote the book on RESTORING historical/old windows". To the two women in Ma, Karen and Heather and to the other 020xxresident I'm a 52 yo disabled 4'11" women and guess what I've been doing the last couple of Fall Seasons. And while I'm there with the window out I scrape out and re-glaze the glass. Actually some of the windows I truly do not know how they didn't fall out there was no glaze on the window it had completely chipped off in chunks and was in the bottom of the window. OK, takes me a little longer because of the height thing but YOU CAN do it yourself. Don't need a contractor (maybe a good handyman or husband...forget the latter thus the reason I'M doing this. Last weekend I 'fell' across a great article in the at OLD HOME JOURNAL.com all about weather stripping and storms and several other articles as well. I am starting to re-do windows I've already finished because I learned things like the 'sash stops' can be made to be adjustable thus less air infiltration etc. There is more info in that one place than I've researched in the 3 years we have owned our 105 yr old home in Cranston RI (historical Pawtuxet/Edgewood area). And here is the real surprise, one of the article's was written by a gentleman who has been restoring windows in historical buildings for over 25 years. He is none other than John Leeks, the above poster. Thank you John. and to the other posters for you info...it's my treasure of knowledge and confidence as well as comfirming that I've made the RIGHT decision.

Bob Severn

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In a modern (post 1950) house, upgrading to new wood windows would make sense, as would using proper windows in new construction - it's worth doing it right the first time.

Bob Severn

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A price of $2500 per window is insane. I have been rebuilding the windows on my 1885 Queen Anne using kits from advancedrepair.com
This costs less than $100 per window (and about 4 hours of labor). Air infiltration is no worse than many plastic replacement windows. (Most energy is lost through air leaks, not radiation). If I add storm windows, I will be much better off energy-wise, and I won't have to replace ugly, crappy, plastic windows in 20 years.

Luke

Subject:

There is a great book (out of print, try your library) called "Working Windows". I have minimal skill, with this book I tore out, repaired, weather stripped, replaced glass, and re-glazed my windows. My first couple of windows were rough, but I got the hang of it fast. It is a serious time investment and some types of windows are easier to work on than others (see book). My old windows (100 years old), with 10+ year old storms, have been looked at by energy auditors from the power company with infrared cameras and they say they are fine. They said if I paid to have new windows reinstalled, with minimal savings in energy, it would likely take me over 30 years to make up for the cost of the window. I doubt the new window would even last that long. I have read studies done by the U of Minnesota and other schools that say the same thing, even in the north!

David

Subject:

I can agree that historical windows in historical homes, in historical districts, should be preserved when possible... no question.

But we had a home built in 1983, with builder-grade (in other words, not particularly good) wooden double-hung windows, with separate aluminum-track storm windows. Each of these double-hung windows required two to three hours of labor from me every two to three years, scraping them, sanding them, painting them, and recaulking around the frames. And despite this intensive labor, we still had several windows and frames where wood rot was a serious issue. And they rattled in the wind.

At year 20, we replaced them all with E-glass mid-grade Pellas, that were wooden double-hungs with aluminum on the outside. The energy savings were oversold (in other words, we saved *less* than the 10-15% of heating units that was marketed), but the look and feel of the new windows was a big improvement, they require no real labor, and they're much easier to clean (as they tilt in, and have only half as many surfaces to clean, with no extra storm windows).

If I had it to do over again, I'd have replaced them all the day we moved in, just for the improvements we did note.

Tom

Subject:

We have sold/installed many thousands of secondary [storm] windows in the DC metro area and they are almost always the best overall solution for old wood windows. Even some homeowners with newer [1970s and up] homes like the charter of their wood windows but need energy efficiency or noise reduction. We sell mostly Mon-Ray storms as they are high performance, offer many glazing options including low-e and laminated glass and have a flat profile with very narrow frames. "They hide in plain site." They can also be installed on the interior if needed. The Mon-Ray storm has a great air infiltration rate by itself. We had a customer that put Mon-Rays on some windows without restoring them and replaced some with high-end wood replacement windows and they were much happier with the Mon-Rays. From a noise stand point NO insulated glass window can come close to the STC [sound blocking] value of a combination storm with 1/4 inch laminated on a single pane window. Total STC's will range from a 39 to 43. The best you're going to get from an insulated unit is 34 to 35 STC. Typically each STC number is about a 10% reduction in sound. Most standard double pane windows are rated in the mid to upper 20s. We have worked with many acoustical engineers including a hotel project with STC 52 windows. There are other brands of "flat looking" storms on the market. Burch and West on the East coast but Mon-Ray is the only one we have found with the performance numbers and the real narrow site lines. They use a new billet T6 aluminum that is much stronger then the T5 which most use.

Tim

Subject:

Here's a different but related question. We just moved into a 20 year old house and the windows are so drafty you can feel a breeze coming through. Would you advise replacement, restoration, or is it just a matter of hiring a handyman to caulk them (I have no handyman skills or knowledge). Thanks!

Heather

Subject:

Our half-historic house in MA (one half is 1840s and the other is 1998) badly needs window upgrades or improvements: we live on a busy, noisy historic route, and the winters here are brutal on our heating budget, too. Any advice on specific contractors to use in zip 02476 for upgrading/rehabbing old windows? And are interior storms really the answer for our newer windows of the 1990s era? We need noise reduction and insulation from cold and heat. I appreciate the help, if you can offer it.

Ted

Subject:

My 1880 windows, partially restored and under restoration, are made of oak and southern yellow pine. They are rock solid after at least 60 years of neglect. We replaced 15 ropes and have reglazed about 10. The ones we have reglazed and refit carefully with new parting beads and providence stops, as well as some insulation in the voids are draft free. With storms I suspect that they would have lower heat loss than replacements. In addition, the old glass in them is just fantastic to look through and to look at from the outside.

Brett

Subject:

I wish this gave us info on how to find a company that does window restoration in my area 22027.

Leslie D

Subject:

This is interesting information, but too much too late for me. I too, have a home that is approximately l00+ years old. We have had all but 2 windows replaced in a 30 window two-flat. Ah, but for my next home.

AEG

Subject:

I am right now in the process of exploring window and door restoration on our 100 year old apartment building (condo). Because bringing wooden windows and doors to an energy efficient level is very labor intensive, it is also quite costly - especially if the number of windows/door one has to restore is relatively small. We have a dilemma - should we restore two windows and an entryway at a cost of approximately $2500 per window and much more for the entry way, or should we simply replace them at a cost of about $1000 per window and about $2000 for the entryway? I think the association will choose to make us more energy efficient with new windows/doors because it's cheaper. We would prefer to keep the beautiful old (solid) windows/door but can't rationalize the cost! (As an association, we can't collect a tax credit, either.)

Al

Subject:

Restoration of windows on a historic house can be useful, and probably will prevent a certain amount of energy loss. However, you will probably still have a problem with the jambs not being insulated and get a lot of air infiltration into the home that way.

dave mortenson

Subject:

I can only add, have the people freaking out about "energy efficiency" and restored double-hung sash windows ever heard of storm windows? Storm windows, people! Of course there is an energy savings with a double-pane window--for the consumer! The manufacturing process, which consumes energy and resources that the restoration of an existing window does not, must be calculated into the equation. And the fact that you have to repeatedly replace new windows because they're made out of junk needs to be considered, because they don't last long enough to even repay the energy used in making them. In other words, it's more "green" or "ecological" to leave your windows in place, even though they leak out more heat than a double-pane window. And it is always more energy efficient to repair an object that already contains the "embodied energy" of its manufacture, than to expend energy on manufacturing, shipping and installing something new. Storm windows, people! Storm windows!

Jean McCord

Subject:

I have all the old double-hung windows in my 99-year-old home, and still need to have a couple restored. However, I have interior magnetic acrylic storms on the inside of all my windows for energy conservation and noise reduction. They're fantastic! I used Magnetite, but there may be other brands out there. They don't change the look of the windows inside or outside, and you can get split storms for those windows you open.

Breeze

Subject:

I would love to restore my 80+ year old windows, but have been having a hard time locating someone in the Bay Area, Calif. This is a good video if you live in Mass. Humboldt County - do you know anyone down here? Thanks!!

Dopn Moeller

Subject:

Don't be misled by replacement window salesmen. As a window restoration specialist operating in Humboldt County, California, I can attest to the fact that vintage windows, those produced before 1950 are the finest ever produced. With proper servicing and repair they will be weather tight and quiet. Just think, a window lift system lowered by gravity instead of springs. Note that the old sash can be retrofit with insulated or sound buffering glass where appropriate. My 15 years experience supports the above article.

Abbie

Subject:

I am SO glad to see this FINALLY being promoted. Replacement windows are such a ripoff, it's not funny!!! The original windows in an old house A) were built specifically for that house, B) are proportionately correct & C) have been there for the life of the house & only in the past 40 years have not been maintained properly because people are just too lazy to go out & caulk them & take out the storms & install the screens for the summer & then reverse for the winter.

Karen

Subject:

I wish this gave us info on how to find a company that does window restoration outside of Massachusetts.

Jane

Subject:

I read the trascript and thought it was helpful. I have a rental property built in 1912 with beautiful old windows. All have been restored - many by me and the rest by my brother who is a contractor. It is labor intensive but not rocket science. Anyone willing to invest the time can remove, reglaze, and replace pulleys. This could help you keep the cost down. You'll need a contractor if you have rebuilding that needs to be done on some windows.

Bill

Subject:

I think that ISAAC is being disingenuous in offering to show an "xray model of your homes energy efficiency." I'd think that was intended to state perhaps an infrared model. If ISAAC doesn't know the difference, then he probably isn't the right person to purchase such services from.

He is partially correct in stating that restoration isn't the answer to improved performance in that it often times isn't the best answer. Many of today's high quality replacement products do offer superior performance to product offered as recently as just a decade ago. Many of these have been approved by historical societies across the nation as they've been designed with the desired historical aesthetics in mind, as well as performance.

Restoring can lead to years of continued use of beautiful existing products, much like restoring a beautiful old '57 Chevy to mint condition. However, neither is likely to provide the performance levels we as consumers need to demand moving forward.

ISAAC Jerome Cameron

Subject:

Restoring windows are not the solution to your problems of energy loss. The only recomended use for restoring windows, would be related to historical preservation purposes. There is a growing mandate to bring all Homes up to energy efficency compliance.The government is also giving rebates to those home owners who upgrade with Low E energy efficient windows. Restoring windows is throwing good money to bad and you are lossing energy credits.Let us perform a HERS test or Energy Audit to help you see the real xray model of your homes energy efficency. Once you see your results you will be amazed at what you are losing. We can also help you determine if yopur your performance warranty is doing what your window replacement company has offered in its performance guarantee.

Tammara

Subject:

Finally some common sense for windows!
Thank you!

Betty Luce

Subject:

So glad to see this post! As a realtor in a vintage neighborhood and member of Denver's Old House Society, I am part of a group that is promoting old window restoration as a viable option for improving the energy efficiency of a home. It's hard to counter the massive advertising budgets of the window replacement companies! They've done a good job of convincing the general public that replacement is the only option.

Garrett

Subject:

The Transcript link has lots of interesting information. Was this video/podcast supposed to play that interview instead?
Where do I find the interview the transcript was written from?

Garrett

Subject:

Is this a teaser? Where is the useful info?
This video/podcast has no information other than reading allowed the text that is printed above it and a quote from a specialist saying that windows can be restored ...

Susanna

Subject:

Thank you for providing this video on Angie's List. The solution to energy efficiency is not replacing your historic windows with replacement windows (which will need to be replaced in 10-15 years anyways). Old windows were specifically designed to custom fit your home, and its parts we designed to be repairable. It is difficult and expensive to repair replacement windows, while older windows need wood, putty and maybe some glass!

Homeowners should really look into the true cost savings replacement window companies claim to offer. Once restored or repaired, a then well maintained historic window, with an appropriate storm window, will last another 100 years.

Sherri

Subject:

I don't get it. What information? How do you hear the video/podcast? It is just a big black box with no start button.

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