I’ve watched too many old windows get ripped out of houses and thrown to the curb over the years. It’s a wasteful tragedy that seems to only grow. Every year there are fewer and fewer of theses original windows in our historic buildings.
It’s a disturbing trend that has made myself and other preservationists feel absolutely powerless in our aims to save America’s windows.
My restoration company, like many others, works tirelessly restoring hundreds of old windows every year, but there is only so much I can do. There is a limit to how many windows my shop and others can restore in a year and it feels like a loosing battle sometimes when I see another house get its original windows replaced with vinyl.
One more piece of history in the landfill.
I’ve finally come to the point where I can’t stand on the sidelines and watch it anymore. We American’s have been lied to. We have been sold a bill of goods by the replacement window industry, by the energy-star council and to some extent by the very preservation organizations that seek to save these old buildings.
- Preserving America’s windows is…a worthy goal.
- Preserving America’s windows is…energy-efficient.
- Preserving America’s windows is…NOT the government’s job.
- Preserving America’s windows is…our responsibility.
- Preserving America’s windows is…something YOU can do.
I’m taking back preservation. Taking it out of the hands of government organizations and preservation professionals because truthfully the work we contribute is a drop in the ocean.
[Tweet “While we congratulate ourselves on saving one piece of history, 10 more are quietly torn down.”]
We have been ineffective at saving America’s history, and so, I’m taking it back and giving it to you. You can save our history. You can save our windows. And you can empower your community.
Here’s the difference: When I restore a house full of old windows and put my yard sign up, the neighbors usually take note and think, “That company did a very nice job restoring those old windows.” (At least that’s what I hope they are thinking!) Then, they go along with their day thinking nothing much of it. Maybe they call for an estimate and maybe we’ll do their windows too, but maybe not.
But when you do it, when you take matters into your own hands and your neighbors see it, your friends hear your tales about restoring your old windows, your coworkers hear about your weekend exploits with these old windows and it raises a level of awareness that a preservation organization like mine can’t match.
Beating the Preservation Bias
Any preservation company is seen as biased in favor of saving old windows. Just like you wouldn’t ask the CEO of Ford if he thinks Ford or Chevy makes a better truck, you probably personally don’t want to ask a preservationist if old windows are “truly” worth saving.
You know what the answer would be and even though he could back it up with all kinds of stats and test results, you would take it with a grain of salt because he obviously has an agenda, right? He wants to sell more Ford trucks.
The same goes for preservation. When I talk about saving old windows, people may listen, they may even be interested enough to buy my book or hire my company, but they usually see me as biased in favor of old windows therefore my advice is taken in stride for what it is.
But when average homeowners start talking about why they are choosing to restore their old windows, that’s when the community listens. Your circle of friends and neighbors will want to know why and how. Why did you choose to restore instead of replace? How did you learn to do it yourself? Is it even possible to do yourself?
When you answer, they will listen and this thing called preservation will spread like wildfire throughout the country. The idea will spread at dinners, BBQ’s, children’s parties, nail salons, gyms, grocery stores, anywhere you go and talk to someone about it it will plant the idea that we can do it ourselves- that we have all the knowledge and skills we need.
If I were to restore all the old windows in my city, it would take me several lifetimes. I’ve got a great crew working with me, but even with 10 people on staff, we still couldn’t get through the workload in this lifetime.
You Can Change the World
What would happen if everyone decided to save their own windows? Well, first, I’d be out of a job because in one month’s time, every old window would be restored. But that would be okay with me because my job is really to save our history, and if by writing this blog I can put myself and other preservation tradesmen and women out of business, then most of us would celebrate it all the way to the unemployment office.
Ultimately, preservation is in your hands if you want it. By reading this blog, you’ve taken the first step in taking back the power to change your community and save America’s history.
My purpose is not just to help you restore your old house, but to empower you to make a difference. Share it with neighbors and friends. Be the start of a revitalization in your town whether you’re out in the country or in the big city. You can do it. All I can do is point the way.
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.