Preserving Your Historic Windows

IMG_1827We see ourselves as extremely fortunate to own a home over 100 years old that contains nearly all of its original windows, some of which are intricate stained glass. They have, however, turned into one of the major projects on our restoration list. Little to no maintenance has been done on them over the years resulting in faulty pulley systems, cracks, scratches and broken hinges.

If you have  double hung windows with pulley rope you’re looking at anywhere from $100 to $200 per window in order to fix it. Guess what.. we have 40 windows in all!  The alternative would be to replace all of the windows with new windows, which would cost about the same, but I’m too attached to the beauty of the originals and there are some major advantages to keeping older windows. If you are making a similar decision, here are some great arguments for maintaining  rather than replacing:

1. The design of your windows should fit your home: An architect or designer took great care when your home was built to choose the right windows for your home. Don’t take a chance on throwing off its proportions with new windows. 2. Craftsmanship: The construction of old windows (often done by hand) is extremely durable, and as it ages it is easy to repair.

3. Materials: Old windows were generally made from old growth woods which are no longer available. Newer wood windows are made from fast growing and harvested woods that are more susceptible to invasions and rot.

4. Glass: Historic hand blown glass has a wavy texture that is very expensive to duplicate. The old leaded glass is strong and very clear.

5. Windows should last a long time: The warranty on most new windows is 20 to 30 years, and then they must be replaced. Historic windows can last at least 50 years between repairs.

6. PVC is bad for you: New windows are sometimes made of vinyl, which is PVC based, and other windows, such as aluminum or even wood have PVC parts. PVC is an environmental hazard as its produced, and as a product that off gasses in your home. It releases deadly toxins if it catches fire.

7. Sunlight!: New windows have to be fit into the existing frame, and the newer frames are often thicker, so you can lose up to 10% of the glass area, losing sunlight and views.

8. Old fashioned technology: Historic windows use solid brass hardware which operates smoothly and is averse to rusting. Historic single and double hung windows use pulleys and counter weights, which are far superior to friction alone.

9. The environment: By keeping your historic windows you can keep them out of landfills, and by not buying new ones you’re cutting down on manufacturing, wasted materials, and shipping costs.

10. Your fellow man: By restoring old windows you might be taking away low paying manufacturing jobs, but instead you are employing higher paid craftspeople who specialize in a field.