Clients have been asking me lately why they should restore their old windows. So, I’m half writing this for you, my readers, and half so I can have a handy printout to give to clients who are looking at their window options.
So, here is my list of reasons to keep your old windows. I’m sure it can be added to, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
While you’re at it, check of my new resource page How To: Restore Old Windows that has all the details of historic window restoration.
1. Authenticity – A large part of a historic home’s character is held in its windows. Original historic windows were custom built to fit their frames and complement the design of the house in a way that no replacement can.
2. Quality – Not just of materials like old-growth wood, which is more rot and insect resistant than today’s options, but also the quality of the workmanship. Historic windows traditionally have pegged mortise and tenon joints which are the strongest and most stable joints made by Master Carpenters.
3. Repairable – Historic windows are simple to repair. Their parts (cords, pulleys, locks, etc.) along with individual glass panes and glazing putty are designed to be easily replaced or repaired when they reach the end of their useable life. They can be restored many times and their lives extended into centuries of use! This provides a more economical and less intrusive repair process that is more maintenance and less full scale replacement.
4. Resale – Buyers of historic properties will pay a premium for homes with their original features still intact. The most important features looked for by buyers are original floors and windows.
5. Efficiency – Windows account for only 10-20% of energy loss in a typical home (much less than attics and doors), but when tuned and weatherstripped properly, historic windows can be efficient windows. And with the addition of historic storm windows or interior storms, a single-paned historic window can match a replacement window’s efficiency. And the historic storm window will lengthen the life of the window it protects.
6. Operability – The pulley and weight counter balance system used in most double-hung historic windows has never been improved upon. It provides the greatest ease of use through decades of time with minimal maintenance. And historic windows are designed to operate smoothly with greater tolerances to building movement and other issues that inevitably arise. Spring tensioned replacement windows become harder and harder to operate after years of use and require much more maintenance.
7. Lead Safety – By restoring your windows once, you can assuage all your lead paint concerns. Once they have been stripped and fully restored the fears of lead paint are no longer an issue for your historic windows.
8. Sustainability – The greenest window is the one that is already installed. Every year tens of thousands of old windows are brought to the landfill. Most replacement windows have a lifespan of 20-25 years and when a historic window could have lasted 100+ years installing a replacement results in almost 5 times more future window replacements over the next century.
9. Return On Investment (ROI) – 24.5 years. That is the average amount of time it will take you to recover the financial investment of a new window. And since the typical life span of a replacement window is only 10-20 years, that makes replacement windows a very bad investment.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.