Everyone 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.
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.
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.
- How To: Reglaze Old Windows
- Which Glazing Putty is Right For You?
- How to: Glaze Wood Windows
- How To: Open Stuck Windows in 4 Easy Steps
- How To: Remove Window Sash
- How To: Restring Old Windows
- How To: Remove Paint From Old Hardware
- How To: Replace Broken Window Glass
- How To: Weatherstrip Wood Windows
- A Window Glazing Tip & Trick
- How To: Work With Spiral Balances
Old Window Tools & Supplies
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.