Think twice before replacing old windows

September 10, 2009
By

Well, it happened twice this week (first on Boynton, then on Pond Street), so I’ve got to say something before the cold weather gets here. What I’m talking about are those perfectly good wooden windows, the ones with that wonderful, old, wavy glass, being replaced and then tossed onto the side of the road. Don’t misunderstand me. I love finding those windows, as the glass is something I can recycle. But one only has to try to remove the panes from a few of the discarded windows to realize that in most every case, the sashes are as strong and stable as ever!

That said, please do all the research you can before tearing out your home’s original windows only to replace them with what is most often a far inferior window.

Consider the following:

1. Your home’s original windows “fit” your home. They’ve expanded; they’ve contracted. They belong there.

2. With their mortise-and-tenon construction, antique windows were built to last.

3. Antique windows are built from old growth timber, which is much denser and far more weather resistant than today’s farmed soft woods.

4.That amazing old glass. Even the really good replacement window companies won’t warranty their windows past 20 years.

6. Vinyl is crummy. My home in JP is a two-family built in 1895. While the bottom unit has all its original windows, the top unit had all vinyl replacements put in just before I bought the house. The vinyl windows have been in place fewer than 10 years, and they are literally coming apart.

7. More sunlight! Because replacement windows are set into the original window’s opening, the replacement sash must be smaller than the house’s original windows.

8. Weights and pulleys work great once restored, and they last.

9. What’s “greener,” sending your home’s original windows to a landfill or restoring what you’ve already got?

10. Energy savings. According to a Field Study of Energy Impacts of Window Rehab Choices conducted by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, the energy cost savings between a restored wooden window (complete with storm) and a replacement window amounted to a mere 60¢ in the first year.

To be clear, I’m not making a sales pitch, and I’m in no way trying to make a buck. I’m not in the business of restoring wooden windows; my business is limited to the repair, restoration and fabrication of leaded and stained glass windows. Still, it pains me the way the window replacement companies prey on homeowners. That said, I urge you to visit the New England Window Restoration Alliance at www.windowrestorationne.org.

Cathryn Blackwell
Jamaica Plain
The writer is the owner of Blackwell’s Stained & Leaded Glass, www.BlackwellsGlass.com.

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