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How To Restore Old Windows

how to restore old windowsEveryone who owns an old house needs to know how to restore old windows. There are lots of them and they usually need a lot of work, but with the tutorials, tools, and supplies on this page, you can learn how to restore old windows like a pro, from a pro.

Your home’s old wood windows are some of the most valuable, yet misunderstood elements of a historic house. Most people find them painted shut with sash cords cut, and with missing bits and pieces of hardware. That’s the time they usually opt to start over with replacement windows.

But replacing historic windows is a big mistake and I don’t want you fall into it!

Reasons people choose to replace old windows:

  • Inoperable windows
  • Leaky and energy-inefficient windows
  • Lead paint concerns
  • Aggressive marketing from window companies

All these problems can be easily solved and you can make your historic windows just as efficient as a new window, but much longer lasting!

The Facts About Historic Windows

1. Repairable – Historic wood windows are designed to be easy to repair. Unlike replacement windows where the whole window unit must often be replaced or factory repaired if an issue arises, historic windows can be repaired piecemeal. Each individual piece can be repaired, restored, or replaced quite simply by the homeowner or local tradesman.

2. Upgradable – Your old windows may be drafty but they can very easily be weatherstripped and have storm windows (interior or exterior) added to dramatically increase their efficiency beyond even what new replacement windows can offer.

3. Simple to Maintain – Keep your old windows painted. That’s it! With some paint every decade or so, you can keep them protected and safe for decades longer than a replacement window will last.

4. Resilient – Being made from old-growth lumber, these windows (when properly maintained) can last for several centuries unlike replacement windows today which are obsolete within just a few years.

Now that you know the facts, you’ll want to know the how and what of repairing these old windows. So below I have included links to posts that detail exactly how to restore and care for these windows. I’ve also included links to where you can find the proper tools and products to use in the restoration process.

old-windows-made-easy-3D-coverOld Windows Made Easy

First things first: if you want a comprehensive guide for the restoration of your wood windows you need to get a copy of my book Old Windows Made Easy. This book is the absolute simplest way to restore your wood windows. In this guide, I walk you through the entire restoration process step-by-step so as to leave no stone unturned.

This book will save you hours and hours of working time and thousands of dollars in restoration costs. You can learn more about the book here  or  order your copy now!

Not ready for the book? Then check out the information below for free and you’ll learn how to restore old windows at the pace you want.

The Techniques

Old Window Tools & Supplies

Sarco Multi-Glaze GallonSarco MultiGlaze Putty

My favorite putty for wood sash. Fast skinning and ready for paint within 1 week. This linseed oil based glazing putty is for in shop glazing only.

Sarco Dual Glaze GallonSarco DualGlaze Putty

A slow curing (2-3 weeks) glazing putty ideal for on-site repairs and steel or wood sash. Immense flexibility and long life is the name of the game for this linseed oil-based glazing putty.

Abatron Wood EpoxAbatron Wood Epoxy

My favorite and still undefeated champion of epoxies in my honest opinion. This easy to use wood epoxy is great for making almost any kind of repair to wood windows. From minor filling of rot, to complete reconstruction of profiles, this combination of epoxy filler and consolidant does it all with style.

samson spot cordSamson Sash Rope

Sampson #8 Spot Cord is the ideal sash rope for wood windows. Able to support up to 150 lbs it will support any size window, and that’s why it has been the industry standard for over 100 years.

Window ZipperWindow Zipper

An easy to use tool great for cutting sashes free from years of built up paint and caulk to get them working again. Its serrated edges provide a great cutting edge that helps keep other surfaces free of damage.

glazier's toolGlazier’s Tool

With 2 sides this glazier’s tool can be useful for those learning to glaze. I use only the beveled edge after years, which I find has the perfect bevel for glazing my windows.

SpeedheaterOriginal Speedheater

For paint stripping infrared heat is a great way to get the paint off without damaging the surface beneath. Lose decades of old paint easily in minutes with this tool and keep yourself safe from lead paint by eliminating dust.

Cobra SpeedheaterCobra Speedheater

Faster and smaller than the Original Speedheater, this new addition to the line up is great for the small parts on windows like muntins. Softens paint in only 2-3 seconds and overall makes your life easier.

Triangle glazing pointsTriangle Glazing Points

Simple to use and provides great hold for glass in wood sash. This style works great with the Fletcher glazing point setting tool below. For simple hand setting of points, this is the best choice.

Fletcher Glazing Point ToolGlazing Point Setting Tool

Point driving guns can be expensive, but with this easy hand tool, you can set multiple styles of glazing points with one affordable tool. Sure, it might take a little longer than a gun, but it gets the job done all the same.

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231 thoughts on “How To Restore Old Windows

  1. My dad has been having a lot of problems with his windows because they are really old and he would really like to get it fixed so that he can open them. Getting it fixed by a professional could be really useful and allow him to have it done for him so that he won’t have a hard time. I liked what you said about how there are a lot of individual pieces can be repaired, restored, and replaced instead of replacing the entire windows.

  2. What about lead paint removal? DIY, Professional? That is what is holding me back from the restoration of a 1935 home with close to 20 windows all in the same situation. Coated and coated with lead paint.

    1. I am a lead certified window installer in oregon. What they teach you in a lead certification course is containment. On a house it’s pastic 10′ on either side of the window inside and outside 30′ back on a 2 story caution tape (during social distancing really freaks them out)signage and so on and so on. Another method is tenting or walling plastic around the work. Zip poles are pretty slick for that. Use a hepavac for cleanup and for sucking up dust from saws while you’re cutting. Reciprocating saws stir up less dust than a circular saw. When done the plastic is rolled up folding inward to contain the lead then bagged and goosenecked with tape. Severe penalties for non compliance. It can be done just make sure that every paint chip from the work is removed. Oh ya wear a respirator.

    2. We are facing the same problem. We have a 1920s Colonial style house. We love the windows and the leaded glass windows which bring an ambience to the house but I worry about the lead paint too. My husband want to relain and glaze them but the stripping which may expose lead is of concern. We also have paint chips and dust in the window sills and not sure how to properly clean them before attempting to restore them as we have no experience and this is our first home.

  3. We are about to start a paint job on our 1915 Victorian Duplex and were going to take the opportunity to repair / improve / replace the windows. Our problem is mostly noise transmission. We live adjacent to railroad tracks and the train horn is loud. Adding storm windows is not an option for a couple reasons: too high up on the second floor and not able to block noise in summer when screens would be nice.

    A while back I replaced a wood door with a single pane window on another building of mine with an insulated door with a double pane window. The street noise reduction was remarkable. I’d like to find a way to do the same with this Victorian’s windows. Replace the single pane with double pane glass. Have you ever done something like this?

    Thanks in advance for any insights

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  5. Finally I found someone that is able to explain what sort of window I have and why there is no visible form of counterweight system. I have a 1860s farm house — definitely single hung windows. No counterweight pulley systems. Great condition except many panes are cracked. They’ll be really easy to repair but before I do I really want some sort of a solution to the fact that the only way to keep the window open is with a stick. I was thinking of installing a track system — isn’t there some sort of a strip you can screw into the side and rout out the sash to glide up and down on it? I haven’t found anything on that online but recall having that done in an old house I used to live in. Is there simpler option for keeping the windows open? Do sash stays (stops) work?

    1. You’re probably done by now but there are several possibilities:

      One, a window this new (!) almost certainly has a pin in the upper and lower sides, against the glass. They’re only wrapped in with thin lead, so they are prone to getting pulled out and lost, but this is the most common, cheap appearance. If you know what they are and exist you can get them at a hardware store, but try to get one that matches the period. Take the window out of the frame and tap it in. If it really doesn’t have one, there are no receiving holes in the slide, and you’re not too precious you can drill a hole and put one in, mark it, and drill correct-depth receiving holes in the side.

      2. As a farmhouse, it’s possible they didn’t pay even for pins and DID use a stick. Not to fear, it looked like this: https://i1.wp.com/sawsonskates.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/window-wont-stay-up-9.jpg?w=700&ssl=1 A little stick ladder.

      3. As it won’t affect the window, doesn’t remove wood, etc, there are several nail-on devices acting like a soft spring on the sides. https://www.amazon.com/Slide-Co-171826-Window-Spring-Chrome/dp/B001003MG8 Or possibly better, a very thin folded brass strip that is weatherstripping the sides, but also has some spring resistance.

      4. Don’t give up on old windows. Vinyl won’t last 15 years and even the best of us need a slight re-fitting and paint job every 100 years.

  6. We have old windows with weights. We are reglazing all the windows 32 sashes) and then replacing the weights after we add new rope and knots. We have two windows without weights – they are sitting with in the window frame – is there something we can purchase that we can set in the window frame so that the sahes will go up and down?

    TY Kim

  7. We recently purchased and began restoring a colonial revival 1954 ranch. If I am to be honest with you, I sometimes wish my home was older, so people could just understand why we are working so hard, and pouring so mush time and research into our home. Poor little 1950’s homes, they are always the first to be gutted and flipped. I had to save it!
    One of the best things about my home is it’s very large floor to ceiling wood windows. My neighbors think I’m crazy for keeping them, having all replaced there own with crappy plastic windows. yuck! I love my wavy glass, double-hung beauties! I wish they only knew what they were missing. It has been refreshing to read your blog and find someone who loves old homes (almost ) as much as I do 😉
    The first window we used an entire bottle of CitrStrip (no kidding) and plastic scrapper to get off years of globby chipped paint.
    It took forever…
    Here’s my question: is there an easier/faster way? (I’m still fairly new to your blog). We are wanting to get the Cobra Speedheater to hurry up the process, but will I need to pop out my windows to do so?
    Thanks!

  8. Hello Scott – What about cutting old glass – say glass from 150 years ago. Can I cut that the same way as in your video?

  9. Hello Scott!

    My question is how to deal with painting a window frame (jamb?) the area where the window slides open and shut should not be painted inside and outside, is my understanding
    I have a 101yr old Craftsman/Victorian Transitional .. in Berkeley Ca, with all original and restored windows in the double hung single pane, they all open and I want to keep it that way!

  10. We claim a 1954 (all around built) block farm with 72 windows, for the most part extensive picture windows with overhang windows on the base. We as of late supplanted huge numbers of the all-wood windows all through the home since painting the outside windows like clockwork was getting to be troublesome. Despite everything we have the first picture windows and base shade windows in the living/lounge area and the family room underneath. We are endeavoring to choose on the off chance that we ought to have those supplanted at a heavy cost, or attempt to sand down the canopy windows on the sides and base so they close and afterward have them painted. We think the wood on the overhang windows has most likely swelled with age. Is sanding them down a smart thought and after that having them painted outwardly, or will that reason different issues?

    thanks to you!

  11. Hi,
    Lots of good information here! I have just started restoring my single-hung wood windows. They have never been painted shut but I thought the numerous coats of paint over the years may have been the cause of them sticking. I completely stripped the paint off the lower sashes, sanded and repainted the first two. However, they still seem quite tight and are difficult to move up and down. Do you have any suggestions before I go any further?
    Thanks!

  12. Hey Scott,

    I’m using your e-book to restore my sashes. I bedded the glass and install points but when I instead of top points, I realized that you can see them from the inside. When I looked at another window that I haven’t touched yet, it seems that the top of the bottom sash isn’t glazed at all. There is actually a slit to insert the glass into. I’m assuming then that glazing points are not needed?

    Thanks!

    Jeremy walker

  13. Hello Scott. I’m in the processs of refurbishing my 1927 stucco missin style home . Some of the original wintare beyond repair. Do you know of any resources where I can purchase replacements sashes that are also original double hung windows. I do not want to put in new modern window instead. Many thanks

    1. Hello Dixie! Thanks so much for reading and commenting on the blog. So thankful to hear you don’t want to replace the windows with modern vinyl. Yuck! Our best recommendation would be to use our directory to find a certified restorer in your area and they can advise upon seeing in person, most likely. https://thecraftsmanblog.com/directory/
      Best of luck to you!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  14. Hey Scott-
    Are there any windows that were not intended to be bedded in putty on the inside? I can’t tell if my windows had putty there originally or not. It really doesn’t look like it but I would like to take them out, restore the sashes, putty them inside, etc. They are wooden casement windows and I was wondering if there would be any reason to NOT do this with them.

  15. Scott, I own a 1932 American four square with 42 windows, and will be taking on the task of saving the old windows which are in need of various levels of repair, question being the lower sash of these windows have glazing compound on three sides and a kerf joint on the top that the glass slides into, this causes a rattle in the window pain should the kerf joint be caulked, left alone or some other means of restoration? Thanks for the Blog without it I would not have the ambition to take on time deserving task.

  16. Hi Scott, My husband and I are reno an old house (1920) to rent out. We are getting rid of the old windows with the long weights on them. I can’t talk my husband into keeping them. Is there a market to sell the windows and/or the weights? Thanks for the advice.

  17. Nice article keep sharing these type of article with us i found it very useful ..thank you so much for sharing this article ..

  18. Hi, I just bought a 100year old house. There are portions that have been added on over the years and they have newer style aluminum type windows that are ridiculously ugly and in sad shape. I want to replace them with real old wooden windows like the rest of the house has. I’ve seen some sashes for sale on Craigslist from people that have removed them to put in the ugly vinyl replacements. So my question is, how do I do the opposite- how do I remove a newer style window and replace it with an old one? All I’ve found so far for sale are the sashes, (and I want to save them all, haha!) but no frames. Should I keep looking for ones with the frame? If I can’t find one with the frame included, how hard is it to build a new one? Thanks!

  19. Hi Scott, So far the information here has been fantastic. I have one set of windows in my house that are no longer square due to settling (the house was built in 1904). How would I go about making the frames square again? Are there sections in your book on this issue?

    Thank you

    1. I don’t get into squaring up frames, but it can be done. Often the most common practice is to leave the frame (jamb) as it is and add on or trim the sash so that it matches the out of square of the frame. It can be challenging to get a square frame when the whole wall has settled.

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