3 Ways Storm Windows Can Save Your House

By Scott Sidler • December 30, 2013

Storm Windows
Image Credit: smithrestorationsash.com

Historic windows can be a real conundrum for some people. Sure, they are a gorgeous part of every old house, but they can be a real energy waste if they haven’t been properly maintained and weatherstripped. But just because they aren’t energy-efficient now doesn’t mean they can never be efficient.

If you have the means to restore your old wood windows you should definitely do it. You’ll regain their functionality and beauty in addition to really upping their efficiency. But sometimes you can’t afford a full restoration of your windows. While restoration is usually cheaper than replacement, it’s still expensive. Your best option is likely adding exterior storm windows.

With that in mind, here are three ways that historic storm windows can save your old house:

1. Big Energy-Efficiency Gains

Most replacement windows today are double-paned glass units, and window manufacturers are quick to tell you to throw out your old single-paned windows and buy replacements. But you can get the same performance by adding historic storm windows to your original windows for a fraction of the cost.

At around $150-300 per storm window, they’re well below the cost of a replacement window, and you get the energy performance of a new double-paned window.

Here are the facts: The addition of exterior storm windows alone can cut air infiltration by 64.3% bringing it below 2009 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) standards, which most of the US currently uses. Source: //windowstandards.org. 63% is a HUGE leap in efficiency that’s not often accomplished in remodeling.

2. Protects Your Historic Windows

If you’re reading this, I hope you are planning to eventually restore your historic wood windows. These windows are fantastic and there are so many reasons to save them. So, whether you have already restored your windows or it is somewhere in your future plans, adding exterior storm windows does wonders to protect your old windows.

Storm windows can dramatically extend the life of your existing windows. By keeping them protected from the elements, you minimize the regular maintenance that is required as well. Paint, putty and wood all will last longer and require less work when storms are installed.

3. Maintains Historic Character

Historic storm windows are extremely simple to add to your house. They don’t require any modifications to your existing windows. Historic storm windows fit in the same frame as your original screens and utilize the same hardware already in place.

While aluminum storm windows can be nearly as effective, they certainly don’t fit the look of an old house. Historic wood storm windows fit right into the exterior elements already in place on your house.

And let’s be honest, if adding storm windows keeps you from tearing out your drafty old windows and replacing them with vinyl, they have done wonders to save the historic character of your house.

Whether you want to protect and enhance the efficiency of your restored historic windows or you need an affordable alternative to window replacement, storm windows are the way to go.

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54 thoughts on “3 Ways Storm Windows Can Save Your House”

  1. Hi Scott,
    I love your blog!
    I have an arts and crafts 1908 house on Cape Cod – waterfront property. It has been in the family since 1952 and trying to keep it so we do most of the work ourselves. We make the mistake of getting new windows a few years ago on some of the windows. They are not the divided light window, which were way above our budget. I’ve been saving up to replace the windows facing the water. After reading you blog, I’m debating that now. The original window are beautiful but wind goes right through them on a stormy day. I’d hate to do all of the work you are saying only to find that there is no difference in the weatherproofing. I am looking into getting the interior window inserts.
    Given that I live in a cold, windy climate, do you think this would be a case of going with new divided light windows eventually would be better for the efficiency of my home despite them being historically inaccurate?

    Thank you very much

    1. Hello Treather,

      Oh my goodness thank you for sharing. We absolutely do think there is an excellent solution that involves keeping your original windows. One of our friends in our window rescuing network works out of MA and I think you should absolutely get ahold of her and have her come look in person and save you money and save your windows!

      Best of luck to you!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  2. I have a Craftsman that was built in 1929, and unfortunately, every window has been replaced with vinyl, most of which are failing. The front of the house however, has huge 4′ x 7′ double pane picture windows with no frame. I can’t imagine that the house originally had picture windows, and I’d like to replace them with something that is correct for the period. What are some resources I can look at?

  3. You got my attention when you said that you can make sure that your windows are going to last longer and will require less maintenance if you will invest in storm protection windows. My husband and I are planning to renovate our house. This is going to be one of our biggest investment this year, so we want to make sure that our money is going to be worthy. It will be ideal for us to install storm protection windows that will guarantee us that we won’t have to replace them after a few months.

  4. I have wood storm windows that I’m adding to the windward/weather side of the house (for starters). In strong wind-driven rain, water drips down from the top, splattering, and leaving puddles where I wish they weren’t. On the first set, I had room to slip sheet metal between the stop and the storm, which isn’t ideal, but it worked (plus it makes taking storms off and on more problematic). On the next one, the fit is too tight for anything to slide in. Is this just part of life, or has someone come up with a great solution?
    thanks for this blog

  5. My daughter bought an old victorian (100 years +) in Alameda, C A. She is seeking advice on reframing/restoration
    people in the area [zip code 94501] If one uses the indow insert, does the exterior of the frame without a storm suffer and deteriorate more rapidly? Can you recommend restoration/reframing people in the area. How much should she expect to pay for reframing and keeping the old glass as it is the real old wavy glass? For restoration of a frame? Don’t believe any storms were left in the house when she purchased.

    1. Elizabeth, check the directory on my site for a local restorer at https://thecraftsmanblog.com/directory. Hopefully you can find someone local. If you can’t feel free to contact us at Austin Historical as we restorer window sash across the country that our clients ship to us.
      As far as storm windows an exterior storm will definitely protect the window better than an interior storm like Indow which is mainly for energy efficiency.

  6. We have a newer home (built in 2000) with double pane, tilt in windows. I hate the way that the window sill gets so dirty, especially when it’s windy or rainy. Also, I’m pretty sure all of the water will eventually cause some type of damage. Are there any options for storm windows here?

  7. I restored two large (36×78″) double hung windows in our 1929 house last year and replaced the triple-track aluminum storms and screens with wooden double-track storms and screens made by a local millwork company. This was my first window project and it turned out great, with one exception. When we have a heavy rain, water sometimes drips in between the storm and sash from the top of the storm. I noticed that on the outside of the wooden frame of the storm window is about 1/8″ “proud” of the exterior casing, and I am assuming this catches the rains as it drips down the top exterior casing and hits the top rail of the storm frame. Some of this is due to paint buildup, I’m sure. I am considering two options for making the exterior face of the storm window flush with the exterior casing: 1) routing a shallow (1/8″) rabbet around the perimeter of the storm window frame so the thickness matches the depth of the opening, or 2) routing the opening to make it deeper. #1 seems easier but #2 might be more “correct.” Any advice?

      1. Hi there..Just starting a wood storm window restoration project near Toronto. Will involve stripping old paint, cracked glazing compound and some wood repair. Would you recommend trying to install a rubber seal (one that tucks into a kerf) to improve the efficiency? They have been just pressure fit up until now….prob 80 yrs I’m guessing

        1. That can certainly help. Just make sure the storm can still breathe a bit and drain any any moisture that gets trapped behind it. Weep holes in the weatherstripping can help with that.

  8. My 1890 home was just updated (reno/remo) and the original sashes were repaired. I loved it (including the accent color on the window casings) until we put up the triple track storm windows. They ruin the look of the house. Insult to injury is that they don’t even appear to be mounted properly. I see gaps and feel air around the perimeter (not just bottom for weep holes). Won’t this defeat the purpose and possibly cause more issues like moisture and allow bugs in?

    1. Jess, if they aren’t mounted properly it can cause problems so I would have your installer look into it. While I like the efficiency that triple tracks bring you’re right that they are not nearly as attractive as traditional wood storms.

  9. We just bought a house that was built sometime in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s (I still have to research to find the exact date). It has beautiful stained glass windows that my sister is wanting to put storm windows over to protect and preserve. But she is talking about going to Home Depot to buy the windows. How can I find out more about historic storm windows and where to find them and then convince her to use them instead???

    1. For exterior storm windows check out Mon-Ray Storm windows and for interior storms look into Indow Windows. Both are great options for storms that look and perform much better than any of the junk on the shelves at Home Depot.

  10. I think it is smart to have strong windows and doors in your house so it can be well protected. I like the idea of having storm windows just in case a bad storm goes through your town. It could help with selling your house if you decide to move.

  11. We are preserving an 1860 brick farmhouse with 34 beautiful windows. We plan to add weatherstripping, and once the original shutters are restored to use them during storms or high wind. But for now we have found that heavy interlined drapes do an excellent job of keeping out the cold and the drafts! In the 19th century both drapes and shutters were very functional, not just decorative!

  12. quick question… We live in a 1911 home in the midwest… and are having trouble finding someone to repair our original double hung windows affordable (estimates given were $900 a window /soonest they could get to us would be fall of 2016). .reviewing your information you share about historic storm windows… what are the best types? are they made of wood? Vinyl?.. thank you…

    1. Robin, depending on the condition of the windows restoring original windows can be expensive up front, but in the long run it is always more economical to restore rather than replace. That being said, storm windows are a good way to add some major energy efficiency to your windows and protect them. My favorite kind of storms are traditional wood storms, followed closely by aluminum storms. They both work very similarly and provide an excellent seal against the weather.

  13. We have a farmhouse that was built in 1771 and added to over the successive 244 years. The windows are all original, and we have aluminum framed triple thread storms that were put on in the 1990’s. I would love to remove them and have just shutters and sash, but we live on top of a hill, and 30 mph winds aren’t uncommon. The storms cut down on the drafts, yes, but the house looks horrendous. Any thoughts?

    1. Paul, look into Indow Windows. These interior storms are the best thing in the market for draft blocking and they are nearly invisible. No modifications to your original windows or frames are usually needed either!

  14. If you have old windows in your home, replacing them with new, energy-efficient windows will most likely return your investment in improved property value and ease of use. However, unless the existing windows are missing glass or otherwise severely leaking, seeing significant annual savings in your space conditioning cost and energy use is unlikely. If you’re on a tight budget, a less expensive option is to use storm windows, which will produce similar savings at a far lower initial cost. Some types of storm windows are also a good option for those living in apartments.

    Even though storm windows add little to the insulating performance of single-glazed windows (that are in good condition), field studies have found that they can help reduce air movement into and out of existing windows. Therefore, they help reduce heating and cooling costs.

    the storm window frame must be hung square with the primary window and sealed to the opening. You should also consider the fact that they should be easy to move to allow for cleaning and ventilation.

    Exterior-mounted storm windows must have “weep holes” at the bottom of the frame to allow any moisture that collects between the primary window and the storm window to drain out. Even though these drainage holes subtract from energy savings, not having them will eventually cause the primary window frame to rot, and could make them impossible to operate.

    1. Just found your blog this morning while hunting for storm windows to add to my 1775 home in CT….and it’s great! My windows are all original and are single hung (top sash fixed). I did look into interior storms but decided not to use them for 2 reasons: first, they will not protect the exterior of my windows and, second, often condensation occurs that prevents you from seeing through the windows. I’m looking at some of the low profile storms that have double tracks for a fixed upper sash and a removable lower sash to replace with a screen in the summer. It’s hard to find the right manufacturer and a place to see them locally. The hunt continues…

  15. I posted this question on a different blog chain but then found this one, which is more closely related to my question. Would you ever consider using a plastic glazing such as Lexan or Plexiglass in a historic wood window? I’d also appreciate any other bloggers thoughts. The Indow windows are plastic so it seems some consider that OK.

  16. This is interesting especially based on the cost of new windows alone. I have a question on getting rid of the metal storms that were put over the original windows. What do I replace them with, that would have both screens and storm, understanding I need to changed them out seasonally. I saw the Indow product but they don’t have screens for summer. Also I have stained glass, that I don’t open, but would prefer unobtrusive storms on the outside so they would be more protected from breaking. I don’t have the original wood storms anywhere, can they be bought, is there such a thing as historical screens?

    1. Paul, historic wood storms and screens are built almost exactly the same except for the frame being covered with screening or glass. They were both traditionally a mortise and tenon wood frame that sits into the exterior trim flush with the blind stop. There are several companies around the country (including mine) that will build historic screens and storms.

  17. I maintain a114-year-old home that I converted to offices 28 years ago. It is quite beautiful and has many of its original features both inside and out.
    28 years ago I made the decision to leave the original Windows (double hung, some with diamond patterns, some with stained-glass and some quite simple). Most of the windows had storms on them that have been installed in the 1950s and at the time we’re in good condition. At this point they are approximately 60 years old and I am considering replacing them with new storms that have low E glass. 1. 1. Have storm windows changed enough in the past 60 years for it to be advantageous in changing them?
    2. Is there a high likelihood that warping are shifting has taken place so that the storms no longer fit as well as they did?
    3. Will the low E glass make a significant difference in both heat retention in winter and solar expulsion summer?
    I’ve been hoping to convince the four owners that this would be One of three smart choice’s towards making the building more comfortable.
    The other is the obvious… more insulation in the attic floor and around the exposed ductwork up there.

    1. Cherie, it’s hard to know what condition your storms are in without seeing them, but there are a few things you can do. First, unless you live in a hot southern climate where the windows get a lot of direct sunlight the Low-E coating won’t make much difference. In fact in cold climates it can even cause higher heating bills from lack of solar gain in the winter. Second, you could keep the existing storms and add interior storms like Indow Windows to greatly increase your efficiency for less than the cost of new storms. After 60 years I’m sure that a new storm window would be more efficient but the real question is whether it will pay for itself in a reasonable time.

      1. Scott I’m sorry I should have mentioned… the house is in New Jersey they are triple track storms and this is more for comfort rather than recouping cost. There is no way that we can install interior storms… The owners would not tolerate that choice.
        The passive solar gain to this house is minimal to this particular house compared to the solar infringement in the summer (angle off the sun, location of the bulk of the windows, size of the windows etc.)
        I have read that the low e glass (in this case hard not soft surface) would reflect the buildings heat back into the house. So I guess the real questions are.
        1. Are newer triple track storms more efficient these days than they were 60 years ago? Does it warrant changing… Will it increase improve th comfort level with in the room?
        2. Will the hard surface low E glass still function as heat reflective in a storm?
        Thank you for the time and attention,

        1. Cherie, with those circumstances I think that new exterior storms would add some efficiency and Comfort, but it would be very minimal. If you haven’t looked into Indo inserts I would really encourage you to. There are no modifications to the interior windows, no hardware, nothing to do other then set the interior storm in place. Indows would give you the biggest increase in comfort for the least work and cost.

  18. I love your website and have used it as a resource as I restore my old New Orleans shotgun house and all of it’s windows. This may be a silly question but here it is: I’m originally from CT so storm windows are normal and common there, but I haven’t seen any in New Orleans. Do you typically install storm windows in hot humid climates?

    1. Bridget, I’m in Florida so I’m well acquainted with hot humid climates and you are right that there are rarely historic storm windows here. In fact I have yet to see one in Central Florida. That being said I think we could definitely benefit from storms, not so much in the winters, but to keep the AC in during the long summers.

  19. If an 1865, 3’x5′ window is properly restored and weatherstripped, does it need a storm window to meet that of a replacement window? Or is the claim that historic windows can meet replacement window efficiently based mainly on the installation of storm windows plus weatherstripping?

    1. Meeting the efficiency of a double-paned window is a moving target depending on which double-paned window you are comparing your single-paned windows to. Usually it will take proper weatherstripping and the addition of either an exterior or interior storm window to meet a double-paned window’s efficiency. Both of those can be accomplished at a lower cost than window replacement with the bonus that you save the home’s original windows.

  20. Where do you find the indoor storms. Just bought an 1876 colonial with 32 windows! With fuel oil running $1000 per tank and a tank a month during the coldest months, this is going to be a big ouch in my budget.

  21. Scott – do you guys typically use any type of gasketing at the perimeters of your storm frames, or just friction fit them into the openings? I’m thinking of routing a groove in the back of the frames to receive a barbed weather strip that would compress against the stop (except at the bottom). Not sure if it’s really worth it though.

    1. It depends on the climate. Here in Florida we typically just friction fit the storms, but in colder climates it makes sense to add a silicone bulb on the outside to get a good seal. Weeps holes at the bottom are by far the most important element to prevent the storm from trapping moisture and rotting though.

  22. Our ~1895 Queen Anne has many windows where there are tracks made of copper on the vertical sides on the outside. I’m thinking they are guides where some sort of storm or screen was once placed. Any ideas just what they were used for and how? Was it an older and “original” feature, or some fad that came and went?
    Thank you.

    1. Mike, more than likely what you’re describing is spring bronze weatherstripping in the jambs. If it is then it’s probably original and a great way to make your windows energy efficient.

      1. I don’t think so; let me give a better description.
        The “things” are more like a U-shaped track and are quite sturdy. It looks more like what something would slide into, with the flat part of the “U” nailed to the wood and the two arms of the “U” facing outward. And they are placed exterior (with a gap) to the double hung windows. They would interfere with a traditional storm window suspended from above. The windows that have these do not have the “hooks” for a traditional storm window. There are 3 windows on one side of the house that do have the hooks for traditional storms (and matching storms found in the basement), and these do not have the “tracks”. But then again, there are also windows that have had “new” aluminum storms put on, so there is a real mish-mash of things that have been done to the house (as I assume is common with old houses with multiple owners and cash flow issues over the years).

  23. The war on historic windows now has a chance to be won. The science proves old and historic windows can be made as or more energy efficient than a disposable replacement window. Storms, as you say, are key. As co-editor, co-writer and founding member of the National Window Preservation Collaborative, I want to say thank you for this great blog and, as you did, encourage folks to arm themselves with the best practices and scientific data buy buying a copy of our not-for-profit book, “Window Preservation Standards”.

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