Matching my Historic Windows!

If you read my last post about restoring the side elevation of my house, you probably picked up on the fact that I’m in need of a few new windows to properly execute my plan of removing non-original additions and restoring the original architecture. The actual framing and installation of a new window is all pretty simple, even on an old house, but actually finding the right windows at a price point I could afford was a much bigger challenge.

“Why not just replace your original windows? Aren’t they drafty and outmoded and horrible anyway?” is what you might be thinking. This is not a conversation you want to start with me because you will never get out of it. Here is kind of my pitch for old windows, though, because I can’t not.

anatomy

Almost every single window on my house is original to the time it was built, and I could not be more grateful for that fact. They’re beautifully crafted out of old-growth lumber that—decently maintained—lasts literal hundreds of years. Old windows are normally fairly easily restored and repaired, and when combined with a storm window, comparably energy-efficient to a new window in good working order…the difference being that a new window’s life-expectancy is only about 15-20 years.

In climates with harsh winters especially (like where I live!), people very often replace their original windows with new, thinking that they’ll be increasing their energy efficiency. And while that’s moderately true (again, depending on the quality and condition of the replacement!), windows are EXPENSIVE motherfuckers and so the cost of buying new windows (not to mention having them installed) typically ends up costing far more money than you’re saving on utility bills throughout the life of those windows…a cost you then have to incur AGAIN in a couple decades when those new windows inevitably fail. New windows are difficult or often impossible to repair yourself, too. If a neighborhood kid hits a baseball through one of my window panes, all I have to do is spend about $10 on a new piece of glass and a couple hours removing the broken pane and installing the new one. When a new window breaks, you’re usually looking at a completely new sash, which has to be ordered, and then installed by a service tech, and if the company has stopped making that model, you might need a new window altogether. Just because of some broken glass! The window industry has been very effective with marketing new windows to consumers, but when compared to an original wood sash, I don’t think the replacement argument holds up to any kind of scrutiny. And EVEN if we accept that the energy-efficiency argument is true, think about the amount of waste generated by the production of the new windows, the disposal of the old windows, and then the continued disposal of the new windows every couple of decades in perpetuity. That’s a lot of shit in the landfill!

All of this is to say nothing of the actual preservation of a historic structure, which new windows have a funny way of destroying. The first way this happens is when consumers change the style: as a very general rule, the older the house, the more divided the lite pattern is on the window. I primarily have six-over-six windows, which means there are six window panes on the top sash and six on the bottom, divided by wood muntins. That pattern is typical of this style of architecture and is how the house was intended to look, but matching that lite pattern on a decent quality new window significantly drives up costs. So very often consumers switch to one-over-one windows with no lite pattern to keep costs down, and then the house looks totally different and almost always much worse. The second way this happens is because replacement windows generally come with their own jambs to fit within the existing window frame (not all—there are things called “sash kits” that allow your to reuse your existing jamb, assuming it’s very square), so even at a custom size, you’re losing an inch or two of the sash opening because you have to accommodate the new jamb. Which leads me to the third way windows get messed up—custom sizes. Almost all window retailers do offer the option for replacements to be fabricated at custom sizes, but it costs more than a standardized stock size…which often doesn’t jive with the dimensions of an old window. As a result, consumers decrease the size of their windows to accommodate a stock size, and then their house looks all wrong because chances are that the original size is scaled appropriately to the house.

The fourth issue is materials, which is both an issue from the inside and the outside. There are a lot of options out there, but in general you’re looking at:

  1. Cheapest: vinyl interior, vinyl exterior. Vinyl, as far as I’m concerned, is the work of the devil and will have the same place in history as plastic 70s paneling and asbestos siding. Vinyl expands and contracts with heat, dries out, becomes brittle, breaks, bends, warps…I really dislike vinyl, as you can probably deduce. It’s cheap and fast and bad.
  2. More expensive: Wood interior, vinyl-clad exterior. These can actually be pretty fine, especially if you’re trying to restore the original appearance of a structure where the original windows were already removed. Most companies offer a few color options, too, and somehow black vinyl looks LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than white vinyl and is very often appropriate for an old house (and handsome on a new house!). I wish more people considered black sashes.
  3. Most expensive, I think?: Wood interior, aluminum-clad exterior. These are spendy but far more durable than their vinyl/vinyl counterparts, and typically look the best.

The major thing in common with nearly all new windows is that the glass is insulated—meaning that there are actually two panes of glass separated by about a 1/4″, which essentially serves the same function as a storm window would on an old window. Windows, of course, will always allow for more heat loss and transfer than a solid insulated wall, but insulated windows do serve a benefit. Of course, they come with their own problems…if one of the panes is faulty or broken, you sometimes see condensation building up between the two panes, and again, the repair is much more difficult and costly than an old wood sash.

The means by which windows are insulated—and the divided lite pattern is executed—also has a big range of options and prices. These are things you’ve all probably seen out in the wild. I think I have this right:

Cheapest: No division at all, one-over-one sashes.

snap-ongrilles

More expensive: snap-on grilles, which is exactly what it sounds like. The grilles are either wood or vinyl, and snap on the interior, exterior, or sometimes both. The appearance is usually very flat and kinda sad, especially if the grilles are only on the interior (ugly from outside) or the exterior (ugly from inside).

btnglassgrilles

More expensive: integrated grilles. This is when there’s a (usually plastic) grille between the two panes of glass. I really don’t understand the appeal because they look bad and fake from both the interior and exterior. I guess the benefit is that they’re a little easier to clean.

SDL

Most expensive: Simulated Divided Light. There ARE some really nice options here, again, especially if you’re trying to restore windows that are already gone. One of my favorite makeovers of all time—Steve’s house at An Urban Cottage—used Marvin’s Ultimate Double-Hung windows which are wood interior, aluminum-clad exterior, with simulated divided light, and I think we can all agree that they look great. This is done by putting a grill on the interior and the exterior, with slim bars between the insulated glass, too, aligned with the grilles. They’re a nice way to approximate an original appearance. They’re still one big piece of glass separated slightly from another big piece of glass, and the divided lite pattern is purely aesthetic, but they can look very nice. Of course, they’re costly! The photo above is, I think, is cheaper Jeld-Wen window, but you get the idea. That’s the interior you’re looking at, and you’ll see below that the muntin profile is kind of a bummer compared to my original windows.

Before I shut up: if you’re considering replacing your original windows because the restoration seems daunting (since we’ve already debunked the financial and environmental benefit) or too time-consuming, quote out hiring out the reglazing! It may be less expensive than new windows, particularly if you’re paying to have them installed. And better for your house!

And! If you might want to give the restoration a try on your own, there are some great resources online! A small sampling:

Here and There
Old House Online
This Old House
Probably my favorite, Alex of Old Town Home’s Window Restoration Series

SO! With all these different products out there, you might think finding a suitable match for my old windows wouldn’t be too difficult! But it was! Of course it was. If I’m doing it, it’s a pain in the ass. That’s the rule.

First I thought to myself, “self, buy yourself some of those nice Marvin Ultimate Double-Hungs and call it a day!” but then two things happened: I saw one up close, and I got a quote. It IS a very nice window, but remember that I’m installing my new windows adjacent to original windows, and they look different enough that I thought it the new ones would stick out like sore thumbs. Then the price came in at around $1,500 for ONE window, and I need/want several, and that’s a lotta money. That led me to looking at similar simulated divided lite new windows that were also quite nice but cheaper brands. Windsor seemed to have the nicest product but all the aesthetic issue with the Marvin also applied to the Windsor windows. I think the price came in at about $650 per window, which was better but still a ton of money for something that isn’t even really what I want.

I looked into having windows custom-made, which would have been TOTALLY BALLER because I could have specified the muntin profile, the sill dimensions, the stops, the width of the stiles and rails…but that looked like about a $1,500/window endeavor, too, and again…just too much money for me. I also tried to just source old sashes, figuring I could probably figure out how to make the jambs and everything myself. If I’d needed one window that might have been possible, but I need several and the sizes have to be VERY specific, so that seemed like a total long shot and incredibly impractical.

THEN SOMETHING GREAT HAPPENED. There’s this store about half an hour from my house called The Door Jamb, and they are THE BEST. It’s a family-owned small business and they know everything about windows and doors. They have an enormous stock of windows and doors that are overstock and stuff (but all brand new), so if you can be a little flexible on sizes, they’re a great company to do business with. They can ALSO order new windows and doors (and shutters and storms!) from several retailers, which you’d think would price out more expensive than the big-box stores but I’ve always found them to be far less expensive which makes me love them even more.

So I’m in the store and I see what looks like an old window sash, but is clearly new. It’s single-glaze, with a muntin profile that looks mighty familiar, and even the glass is held in with glazing putty on the exterior…just like my old windows! So naturally I freaked out and got really excited and had to know what this thing was that I’ve been looking for all my life…or at least for the last year or so.

“They call it a barn sash.”

“Why?”

“It’s single-glaze, so nobody would put that on a house.”

“I would. All my windows are already single-glaze. Do they make it in a double-hung?”

“I think so.”

“Can they do custom sizes?”

“Yes.”

“GIMME.”

Brosco

The windows are by Brosco, which seems like a really great company from what I can deduce online, which admittedly is not a lot. But here is what I can report!

  1. One way they measure the windows is by the sash opening—that is, the size of the actual opening of the window rather than the size of the opening you need in your surrounding framing to fit the window into the wall. This made ordering VASTLY easier since trying to work backwards to a sash opening (which is really what I need to match—the rough opening will be new framing so it doesn’t matter so much) from a rough-opening dimension would have been tricky without the actual window in hand.
  2. After quoting out so many different options, I was DELIGHTED to find out that my windows would come in at about $350 per window…roughly half what the other options were going to cost! And VASTLY closer to what I was really looking for all along.
  3. All my sizes were stock with Brosco! This was somewhat unbelievable to me. I might be off by a fraction of an inch, but they’re pretty damn close and I can live with that! It seems like custom sizes roughly doubles the cost, so this was a hugely lucky break.

Let’s compare, shall we?!

stilesoldwindow

Here is the stile, rail, stops, and sash cord of one of my original windows. Old double-hung windows are typically weighted—there is a metal weight concealed behind the casing on either side of the sash, so when you open the window, the weights counterbalance the weight of the sash and allow the window to remain open. Those Marvin Ultimate Double-Hungs seem to be the only window on the market where you can actually get something very close to this, although they use metal chain rather than rope and I’m unclear on whether it does anything other than look good.

stilesinterioroldwindow

This is the same(ish) angle of one of the new Brosco windows! So the pullies and weights have been eliminated for a modern balance system, but otherwise? It’s SO super similar. I’m looking at the proportions of rails and stiles and the profile of the way the wood is routed around the glass and it’s almost identical. I think I can fairly easily tack on a couple of “stops” that will make it look almost identical. The modern balance system is kind of a bummer, but once everything is painted, you’d have to be looking REALLY close to deduce original from not.

glazingexteriororiginal

Outside, here’s an old gunked-up muntin for your viewing pleasure.

glazingexteriorbrosco

And on the Brosco! It looks different but it’s actually very much the same—this just doesn’t have 150 years of paint and old glazing putty on it. The glazing job is so clean on these!

muntinsoldwindow

This is the interior muntin profile of an original window, which I thought I’d never match without going completely custom.

muntinsnewwindow

Brosco, baby, you get me. I don’t even think it’s close, I think it’s…identical?? How gorgeous is THAT? This is the kind of stuff that is like make-you-weep-amazing when you’re trying to restore an old house. I’m sure 99% of everyone has stopped reading at this point, haha.

SO ANYWAY. I bought a few for all of the locations we talked about last week, and Edwin and I have been hard at work installing them! It’s, like, the most exciting.

framing

That’s where that closet door use to be in my dining room bay window! We’ve demolished a lot of the old solarium, but are leaving the main structure intact as long as we can to keep the house from being exposed longer than it needs to be. I can insulate and put up a lot of siding and stuff before we have to totally rip it off, so that’s the plan!

We framed the rough opening a little bigger than necessary to give me some wiggle room to make things as aligned as possible with the originals.

bayinstalled

LOOOOOOOOK! Isn’t that really really good?? I’m so thrilled, and I think with a couple minor tweaks I can make the new windows match even closer. Even right now, though, I’m just SO THRILLED I can’t even express! Replicating my millwork on the interior is sure to be another big challenge, but it’s not as though that needs to get finished with the same pressure that putting the exterior back together does. It’s going to be crazy how much light the dining room will have now!

Now I have to think about storm windows! Part of the thing with getting single-glaze windows that doesn’t bother me at all is that they’ll match the originals, so whether that means sticking an aluminum storm on the outside, or getting interior storms, or maybe trying to make my own wood storms (yikes!), at least everything will be uniform and the new windows won’t scream that they’re new work from either the inside or the outside.

Does anyone have interior storm windows? How do you like them? I love the idea but admittedly hesitate because I feel like my crappy aluminum triple-tracks, while unattractive, do protect the original windows from the elements. I’d remove and spray-paint the frames black which does DRASTICALLY improve their appearance, but they’re never going to be particularly attractive. I have a few months to think about it before it starts getting cold, so I’d love to hear thoughts on the topic!


134 Comments

  1. Damn, Daniel! (sorry.) This is encyclopedic. Are you writing a book? If not, you should! This is great detail.
    Also, you really, really need to visit (Carcassonne–south of France!). We replaced NINE gigantic windows (3.5 meters tall), all with the top-of-the-line double-pane simulated divided light technology. They went from single-pane, god knows how many hundreds of years old (probably since glass was invented; the place dates to the early 1600s) windows that were admittedly beautiful with their weepy glass but when the windows are shut and the curtains blow a foot out because of all the leakage, you have a big problem. They were seriously rotten. They cost a bundle (about €2K apiece. ouch). All wood, hand made locally. We had few/no options–i.e, vinyl isn’t allowed, nor any of the other bad-looking choices. Our place is historically classified and every last thing we do must be approved by the historical authorities. We are happy to oblige in principle, but the budget really hurts sometimes.
    On the upside, we stayed at our renovation on Bastille Day, and despite a huge open-air concert a block away and many people hooting in the street below, blissfully unaware of what happened in Nice, we didn’t hear anything with the windows shut.

    • I need to come visit this project! It sounds amazing!

      And I hear ya! Sometimes windows really are just too far gone, and you have to do what you have to do. Sounds like you found a great solution, though! Glad to hear you’re safe and OK. <3 <3

    • “vinyl is not allowed” – music to my ears! Thank god for historically listed buildings! One of the reasons I don’t want to replace my hundreds year old, badly-in-need-of-repairs, draughty windows is that I don’t want to lose that “weepy” glass; I noticed you have that on your old windows too, Daniel. Taste of France, can I ask, did your man make the windows with the old ‘crémones’ or did you have to have the new type, integrated closing system? I’d love to see some pics of your house on your blog…

  2. Whoa, I learned SOOO much about windows from this post that I never knew! For real, thank you. Love watching your renovation – especially the fact that it takes time (years!) and addresses the complexities and challenges encountered. Really appreciate that realism. Love your dedication to restoring your house and the way you write about it. :)

  3. The new windows are really nice.

    Daniel, you make some good points on keeping old windows, and I completely agree they are prettier, but you have completely ignored the biggest issue with old windows: lead paint. Looking at your photos, I’d be shocked if there wasn’t lead under there – I can see some of the characteristic alligator skin cracking. Old windows and doors are the most common sources of lead paint; it was expensive but lasted longer so people used it on high-impact locations. Lead paint on old window frames is a major source of lead poisoning – it doesn’t matter if it’s painted over, the rubbing of the sash creates dust that can cause enough elevated lead levels to harm a child. Real lead remediation to get a window back to safety can only be done by professionals for $$$$$$; from my research I’m not convinced it’s even possible to really fully get the lead out of the wood.
    I know you don’t have kids but it should be a very serious consideration for anyone who thinks they may some day possibly have kids or may sell their house to someone with kids. I think it’s irresponsible not to at least mention this concern.

    Once you have a kid with lead poisoning, aesthetics and historical considerations count for sh*t.

    • I totally understand what you’re saying, and I apologize for negating the issue of lead paint in this particular post. I understand the risks and dangers associated with lead-based paint, which is why I’m encouraging restoring old windows—which would typically involve the safe removal of that paint, reglazing, and repainting those windows with modern products. You may be correct that vestiges of lead will remain in the wood, but encapsulating it with new paint *is* an acceptable and encouraged method of making these materials safe for modern use…a process which is generally legally allowed for homeowners to undertake themselves, and therefore actually very inexpensive.

      Anyway, you’re correct—I don’t have kids. But I do care about them! But the fact is, old houses are nearly always FULL of lead paint…windows, doors, moldings, walls…but in stable or encapsulated condition, it isn’t considered a hazard. And if I did have kids, I’d like to instill in them the values of both safety and sustainability, and I think retaining old windows in properly restored condition is a good example of both!

  4. I had wood storms and wood screens for the summer on one old house I had and twice a year you changed them out. I actually thought that the wood storms worked good and they were original to the house. Wood is a better insulator than aluminum.

    • Good to know! I get so jealous of houses with pretty old wood storms. I really should try to make them! I feel like it wouldn’t be too hard!

  5. What a magical find! This is going to look SO GREAT! I own a condo in a 100+ year old converted printing house that has landmark status. The “perk” of being a landmark is we cannot change the appearance of the wiindows. They’re 7 feet tall, 3 feet wide, double hung, solid wood with that rope and weight system you described. The developer converted the single pane to double for insulation, but the wood is original so they’re still drafty. To replace the wood we would need to use the same grade of wood from 100+ years ago to the tune of $3000 a window (and the whole building has to do it). Outside storms aren’t allowed (thank you landmark status) so we looked into internal. Ultimately we decided against those too because of the difficulty with cleaning between the window and the storm. If your windows let dirt/dust in, I’d caution you against interior storms.

    • The wood itself should be allowing drafts but sometimes the casing around the window can be drafty or you might need to add weatherstripping. You might be able to remove the interior trim and use some low-expanding foam in the gaps between the wall and the window (as long as it doesn’t interfere with the weights) and caulking the trim and casing where it meets the wall will help reduce drafts.

      Also look into spring bronze weatherstripping. It’s historic and appropriate for old windows.

      • Thanks, Ryan! I’ll look into that :)

      • The draftiest point is where the top of the lower window meets the bottom of the upper (where the window locks go). Would weather stripping work there?

    • Interesting! I never thought about the dirt/dust thing…and never really paid attention to it! Renovating for three years = everything is dusty, all the time. Ha! Hmmmmm.

    • Ditto to Ryan’s recommendation of weatherstripping! We got a guy in to quote on replacing the glass in our sash windows with double-pane, for noise reasons, and he recommended weatherstripping as a first step, both for sound and weather insulation.

      (There is an amazing guy in our city who will take existing sashes and (1) add weatherstripping; (2) add weatherstripping and like, heavier glass than old sash windows have for sound/ weather insulation reasons; or (3) remove your window, and *make a complete replica except that it will be modified by about a quarter of an inch in thickness near where the glass fits in so he can then put in double-glazing* (the actual original sashes in our area are too, like, narrow, to fit two panes of glass + airspace). Isn’t that amazing? Well, I thought it was. Apparently he had an real old guy who was retired, but would make these replica window-frames on commission for a bit of extra cash.

      • There’s an ‘old retired huy’ who lives near us and helps restore old furniture; this man is a magician! He works wood like he breathes and turns out beautifully crafted pieces. Such a shame craftsmanship such as this is dying out…

  6. I’m crying, this is so beautiful and such a perfect solution. Our house had zero original windows or openings (only when we removed exterior vinyl could we see where some original openings/sizing was), so we’ve had a LOT of compromises made. But this? This doesn’t happen! Your new windows are almost a perfect match and it couldn’t be more thrilling!

    • But good for removing the vinyl! It’s such a scary endeavor, but so interesting! I’m glad you appreciate these windows! I still can’t believe it. :)

  7. I love that you put so much care into this — I too have an old house (not as old as yours, though) and every decision takes so much time and energy. Kudos to you! I love seeing the progress on this little beauty :)
    PS: I live in Savannah now, but I lived in Rhinebeck for a while and *love* Kingston. Great call!

    • It’s crazy the time it takes to figure stuff out, right?? I love the challenge, but sometimes I hate it. ha!

      That’s so nice to hear about Kingston! I feel like I don’t hear it so much around these parts, but it really is a great place to be. And Rhinebeck is gorgeous, and so close by!

  8. We have all original windows on our house. There are aluminium storm windows on most of the downstairs windows. They do the job, though they are old and funky and we get some drafty-ness in the winter. We have interior storms on two windows that don’t open and they look kind of funky from the inside. My parents have original wood storms on several windows on their house and they are beautiful, but it doesn’t have a screen that they can use in the summer, so those windows just don’t open. (Plus they have been painted shut.)
    Thanks for sharing, I love reading your updates, can’t wait to see the side of the house reveal!

  9. Wow Daniel! This is exciting!
    I have long loved old double hung windows and lamented the fact that they are no longer available, or so I thought…. So happy you found a close match and can retain the inegrety of your house. Nothing is worse then when a homeowner downsizes the windows with tiny replacements making the entire home look bazaar and oddly proportioned.

    We have modern aluminum windows in our 1910 apartment and I hate them, they are ugly, and at about 20 years of age, they don’t work well at all, and our co-op is going to have no choice but replace them at a great expense to all of us. I find myself envious of other buildings which retain their original windows.

    • Ugh, old aluminum windows! Almost all of the windows on my old apartment in Brooklyn were like that, and they were so drafty (which was fine for us…fifth floor, all the heat from the building rose to our apartment so it was always comfortable with all of our own heat off, and we didn’t have to pay for it…), difficult to open, tilt-in mechanisms broken and seemingly unfixable…by contrast, of course, the one original window remaining was easily restored an so much prettier and air-tight, even without a storm! Hope you guys find a good solution!!

  10. OMG, you weren’t kidding about what a great find those new windows are! Seal clapping over here! That is so freakin’ cool!

  11. I love how much I learn reading this blog (and the comments!).

  12. You’re preaching to the choir about window replacements. We replaced the old, non- original sash in our 1870’s Victorian with the Marvins you mentioned. It was a good choice at the time especially since the windows were not original. We have seen many benefits to replacing them, the big bonus being noise reduction. . However, I sit on our local HARB board and we encourage our applicants to do all they can to save and restore their original sash if at all possible with the best window they can afford. Everyone’s situation is different, but we still encourage. Be aware of interior storms though. We had a window restoration specialist do a workshop for our board and he said plain and simple whatever window is on the exterior, the moisture is transferred to it with temperature fluctuations. So putting your storm on the outside will have the moisture transferred to it and away from your nice pretty windows you don’t want to have to paint any sooner than necessary. Keep up the beautiful work!

    • Thank you for the work you do, Kelly! The amount of misinformation about old windows (and new ones) is sort of astonishing. We need more people like you!

      That’s very interesting about the interior storms—I’ve never heard that one! Hmmmmmmm.

  13. What an unbelievable great find. It’s like the God of old windows is smiling upon you. The brosco windows are also old wood and what type of glass are in them? Love the wavy glass in your original windows!

    • Unfortunately just regular glass, but that’s part of the trade-off for saving like $1,200 per window over having them custom made! If I had all the time and energy in the world I’d replace it with salvaged old glass, but that’s definitely too much lunacy for me. I love the wavy glass, too! There’s really nothing like it.

      • Ah… maybe 10 years down the road when you are done with all the major renovations and have the luxury of time and energy to make that upgrade. Your instagram posts are so exciting, can’t wait to read the next episode of this transformation :)

  14. Honestly, I didn’t totally follow this whole thing, but I have to say thank you for your incredible dedication to weird and obscure home renovation topics! You and Door Sixteen are my favorite reno blogs–I love your aesthetic and I love your writing style. Never stop being your weird and wonderful self. <3 <3

  15. Fantastic update. We are having some issues with some of our old windows. Our house is 113 years old, and we can’t do re-glazing with a contractor because of lead remediation. We’ve worked with a fantastic window guy who has worked on windows for decades, and our home’s windows for 15 years (even before we moved in!) – this guy loves old windows, and even HE recommends getting new windows. We called out our preferred contractor to quote the re-glazing and he quoted us at $750-850/window just to re-glaze because of the remediation. Even HE recommends we get new windows. If we had done this two years ago, there were no rules. Sad thing is that all of the lead paint they scrape gets dumped into the landfill, so the remediation is more on not breathing it in (of course, good), but it still goes into the landfill.

    Our neighbors across the street have a home that’s about 115-years-old – one of the originals on the block, and they are preservationists to the nth degree (and even owned my home for a while), and even THEY are getting new Pella windows installed this week.

    All this to mostly complain among like-minded people that those of us with old homes, living in severe climates (hello, Wisconsin!), are out of options with lead remediation fees. With 20+ original windows, it would take me eons to do my own re-glazing + I have a young child. Ugh. So what’s a gal to do? At some point it will be new windows.

    • Bummer! And ya know, sometimes replacement really is the best option, which is part of why I tried to include some detail on what the options are in that arena because there’s such a broad range of better and worse ways to go about it. Have you looked into sash kits? I’ve had them price out at about half the cost of replacement windows, and they seem potentially easier to install and look better because you retain the full size of your jamb. Something to consider! Many companies make them but don’t seem to advertise them nearly as well as the replacement and new-construction lines, for whatever reason!

  16. QUICK! Top five makeovers of all time!

    • Oh god, oh god, I don’t know! I can’t do it!

      • 1. Bedroom bookshelf in Daniel’s old city apartment
        2. Back of Daniel’s house
        3. Current kitchen in Daniel’s house
        4. Current narrow “hallway” pantry in Daniel’s house
        5. That upstairs ‘little room’ in Daniel’s current house – the one that became a sort of office (sorry, I’d have to go back and look at what he called that room, but you said to be quick!)
        6. Daniel’s front yard
        7. Apryl & Alex’s back yard
        Oops, that’s seven. That’s OK! Hard to stop at just 5 when you have to quickly think of Daniel’s 5 best makeovers.

      • Oh, and I forgot the KIngston house garage facade, that has to be on this list!

      • And once we get the big reveal, I’m sure that Olivebridge Cottage will be at the top of this list.

      • Nice list, Suzy from CA, but you forgot the laundry room with all those incredible replicated moldings! I swear my mouth was hanging open when I saw that one. Can’t wait to see what you do for that bay window molding, Daniel!

  17. Hi Daniel; Picture PLEASE! Your instagram -at this point is more exciting than the news that Anna has a new house in New Mexico. The side of your house looked like burglars can just walk straight in. I am glad you are treating your house to some TLC. I really appreciate you dedication to old windows. When visiting old cities there is such a difference in feeling and expression to windows with old “wobbly” glass and new glass, especially in old buildings (to name just one aspect). Does you having time for your own house mean that Olivebridge cottage is finished?
    Kind regards as always.

    • WOW Simone, way to get Mom’s attention. DANIEL, is your safely closed up at night or do you need extra security going on? Seriously. Don’t ignore me. I mean it. Thanks Simone.

      • Hi Mom, Very sorry I scared you. It’s an upstairs wall on the side of the room above the kitchen (I think). It just looked that way I could be wrong. My impression is that that room can be locked off from the rest of the house on the inside. But my goodness it is a bit crazy (in a good way) to be so meticulous at taking apart a house you are already living in.

      • Ha! My poor mother!! Everything should be buttoned up enough to keep stranger danger away, don’t worry!

        (Olivebridge is almostttttt finished…kinda settled down as some remaining stuff gets wrapped up. I’m still working over there but not as much, so naturally I decided to tear my whole house apart while I wait for the plumber to come install a few faucets! Ha!)

      • Er… doesn’t Daniel have a pitbull? That’s security right there! :) Only kidding I know she’s a sweet munchkin (but do the burglars know that? heh heh)

  18. THANK you for beautiful and inexpensive replacement windows. WOOD STORMS – I bought combo storm windows/screens for my 1850 greek revival years ago. Big problem – no one figured out bow to install them and it was impossible to find old or reproduction hangers. After a lot of back and forth with the window installer, I developed a hanger solution with hook and eye catch at the bottom for access. They look great and paint up beautifully. They replaced crappy aluminum storms (tried to include a pic, but don’t seem to be able to). Too many windows in the Victorian I live in today, unfortunately, so we live with slightly less crappy aluminum…

    • Argh, finding hardware like that can be so hard! Glad you found a solution. I didn’t even think about that, but I’m actually kind of shocked that it was such a challenge! House of Antique Hardware has a couple of options…they’ve been good to me in the past with weird stuff like that!

  19. P.S. This post took me on a goddamn emotional journey.

  20. Hi Daniel,

    I’ve been following your blog – well lurking, I guess – for years now and have enjoyed every post! I’m always so impressed with your vision, taste and appetite for a new project.

    The timing of this post is great as my husband and I are currently wrestling with the windows in our home. Our money pit was built in 1949 and has 19 double hung wood windows. Eight windows on the south side of the house were replaced in the most lazy and haphazard way. While the replacement sashes are wood, the previous owners didn’t match the 2 over 2 divided light patterns and ‘repaired’ rotted sill noses with incorrectly sized replacements. There is now a large, leaky and uncaulkable gap beneath the storm window, defeating the purpose of a storm window, and the sills are rotting again. “Pride of ownership!” said the realtor.

    We have received quotes on replacing our wood windows with a fiberglass insert with a wood interior. They actually look pretty good. Still, it’s an obscene amount of money. I’m really struggling with this one. On the one hand, having all of the windows replaced at once so they match sounds nice. On the other, we have wood windows original to the home, albeit mismatched, and I know full well that replacement windows are basically a scam.

    There’s got to be some sort of identified and diagnosed condition for people who know they are bing scammed by replacement windows but are contemplating replacement windows anyway?

    I can’t wait to see how your project unfolds. Your house is truly magnificent. Cheers!

    • Thank you for the kind words, Mike! I understand your pain!! I wish I knew the answer. I guess it comes down to whether you think the remaining originals are worth restoring/maintaining. Replacement windows really can be very nice and pretty long-lasting, and good options when you need to replace replacements. Could you keep the remaining originals and just replace the poor replacements with the right size and style to match?

  21. I have original windows that all need some serious restoration but I haven’t gotten around to it yet… I have the crappy triple track aluminum storms but really want to replace them with the awesome wood storms that I’ve seen that have interior removable panels for the glass and screen. This way you can stand in the comfort of your house instead of on a sketch ladder each spring to swap to screens. We also have full casement windows so this way I can put a screen on the top and bottom (which you’d maybe want for double hung windows too) and get the best air flow. No one near me makes these windows that I know of but i might be able to have a window shop make the panels and a woodworker make the frames.

    I love that you found a new wood single pane window for your bay and upstairs? too. I know the double latch is probably tighter but you’re going to swap the latch hardware to one in the center to match right?

    I had the most condescending window salesman try to convince me to swap my original casement for vinyl single hung windows when we had an energy audit done on the house. Despite the fact that, for all the reasons you outlined above, we’d never recoup the money spent on them before having to replace the windows. My parents have an early 1980s house and their double paned aluminum windows failed a while ago. They just recently replaced the windows with some crazy new composite frame option and my dad loves them. The funny thing is even the replacements look a little out of place architecturally since the house was designed to have the thin aluminum frame.

    • I hear ya! My problem with wood storms is that REALISTICALLY, do I REALLY want to be up on a ladder a few times a year changing them out? Because honestly…no, I do not. That’s why I’m looking into interior storms, but the cost is kind of intense. Windows! It’s not easy!

      • Loved reading this saga! What you’re doing to that house is just AMAZING! One thing, though…above, you say you don’t want to be up on a ladder 2x a year changing out wooden storms….but I think Ryan was talking about the same kind of wooden storms we had custom made for our 8-9′ (some curved and arched) 1879 house windows. They are wood and mounted to the outside of the house; they only have to be taken down if/when we ever want/need to repaint them. 4 – 4 1/2′ (top) is just solid glass mounted in the wood frame. The lower 4 – 4 1/2′ is open and comes with two inserts (glass and screen) which can be changed out very easily from inside the house. We had them custom made by a local guy here in St. Louis who specializes in old windows and then did the linseed oil/priming/painting ourselves. Anyway, I love these because not only do I get 4 feet of wide open screen when the weather is nice, I don’t have to look at the screening in the winter…plus, being mounted on the outside, I feel like they afford a little more protection to the old, wavy glass of the original windows that they sit in front of. So, another vote for custom wood storms with interchangeable screens/glass! Email if you’d like some photos! :)

  22. God, Daniel, I love you. I could fight the fight against unnecessary replacement windows all day long. I often think about how if I were independently wealthy I would quit my job and open a free window restoration service to encourage people to keep beautiful original windows out of landfills and those vinyl monstrosities off historic houses. When house hunting there was a house that I cried over because the seller was boasting that they had replaced the original 9 over 9s with vinyl double hungs – completely ruined the feel of the house, and they had done it just months before to make it more “sellable.” We have sincere found an 1848 Greek Revival with all the original windows and doors intact and I couldn’t be more in love with it.

    We also have 6 over 6s (with 9 over 6s in the living room) and black sashes. The previous owner installed black aluminum storms and they are totally not objectionable – unless I’m thinking about them I generally don’t see them. However I do have fantasies of building exterior wood storms and screens someday, so if you want to try it out and post about it for us, I wouldn’t be mad :)

    • I’d join that business with you! Let’s be independently wealthy!! I feel like I dodged a HUGE bullet because the previous owner of my house had actually bought vinyl replacements for my GORGEOUS 6-over-9 windows in my living room, but I guess never got around to having them installed. They came with the house, and I promptly donated them to Habitat for Humanity. Ha!

      Black REALLY improves the look of aluminum storms, right?? My friend has a 1700s stone house with aluminum storms, and a little black spray paint made them nearly disappear. Definitely something I’m considering!

  23. Another reason never to buy Marvin Windows. Back in the early 1990s the MN Pollution Control Agency brought suit against Marvin, headquartered in Warroad, MN (just south of Canada along MN’s western border) for massive pollution of some kind. I don’t remember the specifics of that suit — it WAS 25 years ago — but I do remember Marvin’s response: Drop it or we will leave the state. Period. (Since they are still there, I assume some agreement was reached, but still. That arrogance and disregard for the environment. Bleah.)

    When we replaced the windows on our house in Minneapolis I refused even to consider Marvin; ditto when we remodeled our next house in rural n.w. Wisconsin. Vote with your dollars.

    btw, I am happy you found what you really wanted at a price you could afford. That doesn’t happen very often!

    • I’d never heard that about Marvin! Sigh. They really do make a nice window, but so do their competitors. Good to know!

  24. Original windows FTW! So happy to hear you found a local shop that helped solve your problem. I recently found a local window company that could replicate some original 1927 steel windows for a decent price (comparable to vinyl, about half as much as the high-end national brands offered in wood and vinyl options). Thanks for letting people know about the whole window replacement sales pitch, for a lot of houses it’s not a good idea.

    • Oh that’s so exciting! Steel windows seem like a wholllleeeeeee other ball game in terms of finding a suitable replacement—congrats for figuring it out instead of taking the easy way!

  25. Super find on the windows and 300 bones!!
    Ok, I am stupid and I need a Daniel’s guide for dummies…but what are parts are coming off of the house?
    I reread your previous post and looking at the bay window deal…I’m confused. I am so thrilled you have new posts on your house!! You are inspiring! Cheers!!

    • OK, so…on the second floor, the bay window/bump-out will be removed and replaced by a single window, flush with the original exterior wall of the house. On the first floor, the old solarium addition is getting removed and the bay window will get a third side put back, so it will have a window on each side and one in the middle. That’s it! I know it’s super confusing (even when I try to explain it to people who are looking right at the house!) but I promise it’ll all become clear—bear with me!

  26. A neighbor of mine used these in their historic home and was happy with the results!
    http://www.indowwindows.com/

    • I love the old windows in my home and intend to preserve them. We have Indow Window interior storms throughout our 1927 English storybook house. They are wonderful. They are virtually invisible once installed–the white (they have other colors too) rubber gasket that holds them in place just blends into the frame. We leave some on all year, and for windows that we like to open in summer, they are easily removed and stored. I live in Portland where the company is based–a local historic hotel renovation kept all its old windows and used them in all the rooms.

      • Thank you, Beks and Sarah! I’ve had Indow Windows bookmarked for years (probably since before I bought the house!) and they seem awesome. Definitely an option I’m looking into!

  27. I just checked out Brosco and found out they still make the classic storm/screen doors like the one I have on the front of the house! I need a replacement for the back and have been looking for something reasonably priced for years.

    Then I clicked on “find a dealer” and see that they’re really only an east coast company. Noooooooooooo
    What about us on the west coast!

    • Not sure exactly what you need, Ryan, but I ordered cedar screen doors custom made for my 4 exterior doors in CRAZY custom sizes from this place last year: http://www.vintagewoodworks.com/
      The price was half what I was going to pay to get them made custom locally, and I was able to pick exactly the profile I wanted. I planned to get them painted so ordered the paint-grade but then actually did have them stained and they’re really nice! They shipped in a crazy crate and arrived perfectly intact; my handyman just shaved them here and there to account for wonky door frames and we are extremely pleased.

      • Thank you, Kate! I have no idea what’s available on the west coast, unfortunately, but it might be worth calling Brosco to see if there’s anything they can do or recommend. It’s never easy, is it?!

  28. I noticed your new windows have double sash locks. Do you plan on swapping those out for a single sash lock so that the new windows match your old windows? I think a single lock looks so much better than double locks. My two cents. Of course I have no idea how easy that would be…but you’re handy!

    • It does look much better! I’ll definitely try one and see if it affects the functionality at all. If not, yes, single lock! I guess double locks are modern code in some places, so companies have switched to that.

  29. What a great find! I recently had several windows restored — 1872 house with CURVED window frames. Got new glass in some panes, all the sashes and sills repaired (rotting), re-weighted, fixed all-around and repainted (I went with black everything). $400 per window (two over twos — 36 wide by 60+ tall). I went with Harvey triple track storms (in black powder coated) to replace my decrepit 60+ year old storms (aluminum) because they’re on the okay list from my local historical commission. They are unobtrustive, look great, and I can open the windows and get a breeze now. Very good investment and would never consider replacement windows, even if allowed by hist comm. Windows are the soul of an old house!

    • Erica, GOLD STAR! Every time (literally, every single time) I see a gorgeous curved window with curved glass, I get SO SAD thinking about how it will likely be replaced with a regular window that will never ever ever look half as good. $400 sounds like a total bargain to keep something that special intact. Thank you also for the storm window rec—I’ve been looking into aluminum triple-tracks and haven’t found black as a color I can get from a manufacturer! WHY aluminum, white, brown, and a few others are options but not classic black is beyond me!

  30. I didn’t get a chance to post a comment after your last post. But I didn’t want to let this post go by without saying. You are so my hero. I almost always jump on the new bandwagon but lately I have been disappointed with some of the replacement products I have received (e.g., hinges that are the same general style but that are less detaied and not the same finish color as the the originals, etc.). So I have started restoring some items (including windows).

    What you are going through really inspires me and when I feel things are getting a little too hard, I just think about your latest blog post and then my project seems much more doable. I look forward to watching you when you get your own HGTV/DIY channel.

  31. Thank goodness for the sanity!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE old, wood windows. I grew up with them on a 1920 Connecticut house and have them on my own 1973 townhouse. I have outside storms and screens for the change of season ritual. Some people ask when I am replacing my windows and I look aghast, “WHY would I replace perfect wood windows?” I admit, in many from my youth and some now, the weight upkeep is not as it should be — so I keep one 6″ and one 12″ piece of lumber in the sill to prop them open at the height needed. I think it is lovely character and memory for me. Can’t wait to see this project on your house and thanks so much for the lesson!

    • Good on you!! I ask the same question when people ask me when I’ll get around to replacing the windows. I’ll get around to replacing broken sash cords and panes and bad glazing, but the windows will stay on this house as long as I live in it, no debate!

  32. You do excellent work, and with your skills wood storm windows (and perhaps storm screens) are totally within your wheelhouse! For Gay Gardens (my 1904 Queen Anne) I’m building storms/screens for 19 windows based on an old plan in a 1961 Popular Science home handyman encyclopedia. You can use a router, or even just a table saw to make them. I’d be happy to scan you the plans!

    • HA! I call MY house Gay Gardens! I even tried to buy the domain name, but some asshole beat me to it. :)

      If you have the time and energy, I’d love to see the plans!! I have the router and the table saw! My email is daniel@manhattan-nest.com!

  33. Daniel, I LOVED reading all of this! I’m such a bored mom that I actually studied up on glazing old windows this winter simply because I bought two old windows that I wanted to use for decoration in my too new house. I cleaned those bad boys up and reglazed them both. Boy was that a bitch! I thought I’d be so much neater than I was! Anyway, I sprayed the back of the glass on both windows with Looking Glass paint to give a mirrored effect and hung one on my shed and one at the top of my stairs. They’re cute as hell! I want them to last (especially the one on the shed) which is why I went to the trouble of removing the old paint, repainting them and then reglazing them. It’s fun to read about you being so big and using windows for an actual window hole!

    • The glazing definitely takes a certain turn of the wrist, I know! It gets easier each time, though. Thank you for the reuse—I see old window sashes going to a landfill almost every time I’m at the dump and it breaks my heart!

  34. I know this post wasn’t really about the original glass, but omg WAVY GLASS! I literally weep when I see a view from an ancient wavy glass, painted-shut wooden window in an old house. You live in my soul, Daniel.

    • And you live mine, Liz! :)

      The wavy glass is really the only thing missing from these new windows, but if I know myself at all…someday, when the rest of the house isn’t so totally insane, I’ll probably be removing the new glass and replacing it with salvaged glass from old sashes I pull out of a dumpster somewhere!

  35. Daniel, this is amazing work. I have to admit you lost me slightly in the middle on the technical bits but at least I have a new word – muntin! I will be applying this as often as I can in window related talk. I also hadn’t heard of storm windows – they’re not something we have over here in the UK, but I can totally see the benefits particularly for listed houses in the winter. Cannot wait to see the next stage in all of this – can we have some exterior shots too please?

    • That’s so interesting, Kate!

      I’ll work on more exterior shots! While the additions are still standing, though, there’s not that much to see!

  36. Hey Daniel,
    I thought you’d like this little tidbit of info: in parts of London, the council will actually give you money to replace your windows with wood and sash windows to preserve the history and architecture of the area.
    Lots of people over the years have put in cheap double glazed windows with pvc framing for practical reasons, and in doing so really ruined the look of some beautiful Victorian terraced houses. Now they’re trying to reverse that by giving people grants to fix it.
    Looking forward to seeing more!

    • Interesting – in the U.S., in neighborhoods in cities that have landmarked or historical status, they require you to have changes approved, and the required materials that look historic cost homeowners a lot more to use than the cheap stuff. The upside, in big cities at least (though maybe not in Daniel’s small city) is that the desirability of landmarked neighborhoods goes up substantially, and so does the value of the homes there.

      • Katie—that’s awesome! I wish more programs like that existed here. The proliferation of vinyl on vinyl replacement windows is really, really sad especially in, what NestFan points out, places like my small city, where programs like that don’t exist and landlords and homeowners alike tend to sway toward the cheap and easy options…probably at the expense of their own and their neighbor’s property values as these houses keep getting butchered with these kinds of “upgrades.”

  37. My stepdad swears by his interior storm windows on his rambling old Victorian. I think his argument is that they are easier to put in/take out? I’ve toyed with the idea of getting one for our massive front window because you can’t sit in front of it in the winter without many layers of clothing. However, I’m worried that it would somehow mess up the woodwork around the window. I need to do more research, especially now that I know the thing about the moisture with the interior storm windows!

    • Good to know, Christie! The interior storms really seem like a great option, and very user-friendly and low-maintenance. A couple commenters above have linked to Indow Windows, which I’m also looking into. They seem SUPER subtle and nice for a situation like yours!

  38. Super good-looking window, it is incredible that you found these. It will look super. But you are way to leniant on the whole “destroying your house by ripping out the eyes and replacing it with goggles”- thing. So much missed rant-potential.

    Being a swede I had to google “storm windows”. That was the ugliest windows I have seen in my life. Even worse than vinyl ones. Wood, inside and out, linseed paint and linseed putty, it is the only way to have decent looking windows. The glass is what is supposed to be shiny, not the rest of the frame. Aluminium on the outside looks like a container boat crashed into a house, and not in a good way. Vinyl in any shape or form can only fool anyone standing far away, and they would have to have early onset of cataract. They have some high quality stuff here that they put on old buildings, too straight, too shiny, does not weather nicely, cannot be painted in correct colors (not shiny black or white, sorry, windows were never this white or black) and just plain dead.

    Say not to ugliness. Even if it is practical, it really is such a small portion of the buildings insulation value. Get the wood healthy again with linseed oil, fix the drafts, spruce up the putty easily with a mix of putty and oil, new coat of paint and they will last another 100 years.

    • Louise, I actually just learned about linseed paint yesterday after going down the rabbit hole thinking about restoring my windows. I already knew about using linseed oil to prep old wood before paining but found that there is still real linseed putty and linseed paint and linseed varnish! Now to see if I can find a house painter around here that will use linseed paint on the exterior of my house. If nothing else I can use it on the windows myself.

      • Haha! Louise, I love you. I think the whole world should just do whatever the Swedes do, for everything, because you guys have it figured out. I will try to live up to the Swedish standard!!!

  39. We ended up going with Marvin Integrity (fiberglass exterior, wood interior, Simulated Divided Lights) for our new house that’s meant to look like a Greek Revival cape. Window shopping was so frustrating – basically, nobody (other than the big box stores) will advertise the price of a window – and the selection available at the big box stores is so so so limited, compared to what’s actually available out there. Instead, you have to have to send all your sizes and particulars to each lumber yard/window dealer, and have them price everything out. Then you have to double check that they got everything right, to make sure you’re comparing the same thing in all of your quote. Plus, no one will tell you what the mark-ups are for each add-on (Simulated Divided Lites, ORB hardware, triple glazed glass, various low-e coatings, etc.) – so you have to ask them to quote out each different variation so you can decide if that option is actually worth the cost to you. It’s an insane amount of work – but it is worth it – we ended up saving several thousand dollars on our 23 windows after getting quotes for identical windows from several different dealers. Also, I did have Home Depot quote some similar Andersons, and they ended up being more expensive – so this is definitly not an area where the big box stores are always cheaper.

    Also, FYI, Brosco is the parent company that makes Jeld-Wen – but if you’re interested in their products, go to the Brosco website instead of the Jeld-Wen website – the Brosco site is aimed at contractors, so of course it has all the useful information that you actually need (including price books that at least give you an idea about what the mark-up will be for each of your add-ons). The Jeld-Wen site is aimed at home-owners and has none of the good info. By the way, we ended up going with the Brosco/Jeld-Wen smoothpro fiberglass doors – with the direct glaze window option, they can look exactly like an old wood door after you paint them, and they were much more affordable than the various faux wood options (about $500/door instead of $2000/door). Again, your local lumber yard is likely to be cheaper than a big-box store for this and will offer more options.

    • Isn’t window shopping INSANE??! I used to think that mattresses were the most ridiculous home-related thing to buy, but I think windows win. And yes, the local stores DO tend to be cheaper and easier to navigate than the big-boxes! I wish that was true across the board, but at least for windows they have a huge one-up.

  40. Windows! I have so many thoughts about windows. We are huge believers in original windows for all the reasons you named. B, who isn’t handy at all, has even become extremely competent at installing new sash cord–a quick fix that solves one of the big problems people don’t realize can be fixed so easily, windows slamming down or being very hard to open.

    I highly encourage people to ask a good painting company (at least here in New England, where there are a lot of companies that do restoration work) about restoring windows if you have the budget but not the skills or time. Flaimview has 52 windows. (FIFTY TWO! Fifty two.) (52.) We had every single one scraped down and reglazed, and dozens of cracked panes replaced (luckily we had enough random old stuff around that they were able to use old glass for the replacement panes), and it cost $250/window. Yes, that is an insane amount of money to do FIFTY TWO windows. But now almost every window opens and closes easily, and since we had nearly all our original wood screens and storms in storage or in place on the windows, we have remarkably efficient windows and they are what belong on the house, wavy lovely old glass and all.

    (A note about the storms: I should send you photos. They are all numbered, as were all the shutters we found in the garage (with the hardware in coffee cans), and they store on the windows. So the upper part is cut to allow the bottom storm (in summer) or screen (in winter) to be stored against the upper storm, which stays in place. Little brass circles screw in place to hold the storm or screen in. It’s a bit of a pain to swap them out, but B has gotten quick and they aren’t stuck in place, so he does a handful each weekend for a few weeks.)

    Finally, our landlords in the city replaced the original windows in our unit right before we moved in. They are v. cheap, and installed vinyl w the faux-lights between the panes of glass and the windows are SUCH crap. Half of them won’t even latch closed all the way and they’re less than 5 years old.

    • Yes! That’s much the same around here—good housepainters generally know how to restore and re-glaze an old window, and it’s SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than a replacement. Imagine what you would have spent on a replacement window at, call it, $700 (on the low end!) a pop!

      Don’t even get me started on vinyl/vinyl windows…I’m in the process of trying to get BRAND NEW ONES to work properly and it’s a mess. Cheap up front, horrible long term!

  41. I love these deep dives into research, it really underscores that well-done renovation is a thought process, not just a smash up job. Yay for thinking. You make an exceptionally good point about the landfill waste that window replacements generate. Unfortunately our modern disposable economy is geared to increase that waste stream rather than reduce it. Those replacements look awesome, it’s great that you found something so close to the original.

    • That’s really what it comes down to, right? The waste generated just in the PRODUCTION of the new windows is enough, let alone the continued disposal of them indefinitely for the remaining life of the structure. It’s such a sad cycle!

  42. So, I opened this page up right as the window guys were coming to do the final measurements for our new inserts!! What are the odds? We have a two storey, circa 1900 house, and live in a very cold climate (Vermont). We have lived here for 7 years and have slowly been renovating. All original, 1 over 1 double hung windows. I had definitely been hanging on to this idea of keeping the old windows no matter what and all in all they were in good shape –they all opened, they were never painted, just shellacked–but some of the rails were rotting. Single pane of course, and very drafty. The primary issue for us is the hassle and danger of installing and uninstalling the big wooden storm windows- critically important in our climate. Twice a year, my partner has to ask his friend to help him climb up a ladder and drill in these big ass windows. And there is several weeks of prep as he cleans and each one and adds new felt sealing. And they take up a lot of space in our basement. An ordeal and a major accident waiting to happen. And still really drafty. So we got a quote from a guy who would repair, insulate, and turn these windows into double pane, but it was pricey and was going to be a very long project. The final straw was when our historic preservationist friend (who’s specifically works on windows) suggested that that we replace instead of repair. So we are biting the bullet for the second floor for now- Marvin Ultimate, pine, aluminum exterior. We are switching to 2 over 1, with the real-looking divided light. Good god, it aint cheap, but I think they will improve our quality of life and still do right by the house…fingers crossed. I love your blog!

    • And ya know, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! And a high-quality replacement (especially if you’e enhancing the style! I don’t feel as sad about one-over-ones being replaced, in all honesty) really isn’t always a bad thing. I’m sure they’ll look great!!

      • Thanks, Daniel! I do think that 2-over-1s are going to add a nice period-appropriate touch. But boy, I’m gonna miss that wavy glass. #someregrets

  43. Thank you, Daniel, for all of the time you spend on these posts! I agree with you 100% re: original / old windows and I am stunned that you were able to source such a close match in the new windows where needed. Mostly, it’s great to to hear and see your excitement in the newest changes in your home…frankly, your passion and enthusiasm for this house is contagious. Maybe it’s true – these houses find us and not the reverse. I love reading every word!

  44. Anyone who can use “original muntin profile” in a sentence is my kind of guy!!! I loved this post. As a real estate agent, I have this conversation every day. And I am a major charm over function person (and owner of an 1888 Victorian with lots of airflow). Keep it up.

  45. Wow great article! I would have done the same thing with the single pane. Have you heard about Indows? The Craftsman Blog talks about them and they are made in portland and pop in and out INSIDE your house in a couple seconds and do blend in to the frame. If you don’t want storm windows on the outisde it’s something to consider. I have thought about it for my craftsman house. Luckily the only room I am missing the original windows of my 1913 craftsman is in the kitchen and breakfast nook. My neighbor was removing his double hung windows and threw them on the curb. He saw me taking them and asked if I wanted the weights. I was like “yes!” My husband thinks I’m crazy for getting rid of new “energy efficient” windows for old double hung windows, but c’mon we’re in Los Angeles. It is really cold for 3 weeks and really hot for 3 weeks. So I’ll just have to find someone to put in the old windows once we redo the kitchen which is a Home Depot honey oak disaster.

    I love that you are really wordy. I think because it reminds me of myself at parties in my historic neighborhood going on and on about houses. I can’t stop. I appreciate your love for it!

    • Yes, I’ve had Indow Windows bookmarked for years! Definitely something I’m looking into very seriously. They seem wonderful!

      HA! I have done the EXACT SAME THING when I see windows getting replaced! Give me the weights! Give me the sash! I have no idea what I’ll do with them but I want them anyway! I think I could probably build a pretty convincing new-old house with my hoard at this point.

  46. Daniel, we had Windows made by Maurer & Shepherd msjoyners.com and have interior wood storms. They get removed in the summer and do a fine job in the winter. Rick

  47. I see some others have mentioned Indow – they’re the real deal! They’re made out here in Portland and are used on historic houses to preserve the integrity of the windows without installing storms. Since each one is made to measure with a laser measurement they’re a boon for all our windows that aren’t perfectly shaped or have warped or sagged over the years.

  48. Daniel! I feel your window pane (ha!). My husband and I just bought an old 1.5 story house in Sweden that was built in 1925. We’re starting our own epic renovation come August and windows are just the one of the things that give me pause. The previous owners (since 1940) didn’t use any storm windows on their wood replacements from the 50’s which means we have to rip out every single window! Thank you for relaying all your wonderful information, it helps a lot!

  49. Such a great find! I love learning about all these details especially when you and fellow commenters are such a wealth of information!

  50. So glad you found such a great solution, Daniel!
    Great writing, as always – never gibberish.

  51. My husband and I bought an 1875 house about nine years ago and are still renovating. Except for the kitchen, all the windows are original, with wavy glass, and nearly all are pretty much floor-to ceiling. We love them and they are a big reason why we bought the house. The previous owners had painted shut and cut the sash ropes on Every. Single. Window. Most of the weights had disappeared, so we scored a bunch of appropriate sized weights and are restoring each window with the traditional red dotted sash cord (available from SRS Hardware; formerly known as Smith Restoration Sash). 100+ year old windows, if properly maintained, are as energy efficient as the ugly new vinyl windows. Love your blog, Daniel, and look forward to every post. You’re an inspiration!

  52. I once owned a house that was built in 1905, and it had the original windows with wood storms and screens that had to be changed out twice a year. I love them, they looked MUCH nicer than aluminum storms, and were more efficient. So, I vote for making wood storms & screens for your house, Daniel. You won’t regret it.

  53. Oh my gosh, I was away from the internet for a couple of weeks and missed two posts! I have had such a treat reading these today, so thank you, Daniel! Love your insistence on keeping old windows. It bothers me so much to see people replace old windows with vinyl replacements, not even bothering to match the number of lites. It looks so horrible and blank! This post was incredibly informative. I live in a relatively new house (20 years) though, so it doesn’t really apply to me since my crappy, leaking windows are already vinyl. But I love to see all the options out there.

  54. i loved this post. i love learning all the details.

    what a good reference those companies are. and yes i have the same kind of windows – single paned and divided panes double hung except for the small kitchen sink window and one window in the hall (which kills me).

    btw i have a GREAT reference for storm windows – i did hours of research last year to find a place to make storm windows after 10 years with no storm windows in the front where the wind comes from the river – the landlord said if i found a good source he would get them. so i did and let me tell you i could not believe it – the first year i did not have to bubblewrap the windows to keep the wind out. The prices are really reasonable. And i can personally attest to how well they work – and this is an old building (1890) so the windows are not exactly standard sizes. The turnaround was pretty fast – it think three weeks.

    Bonded Insulated Products
    Since 1944, Bonded has manufactured thousands of vinyl and aluminum windows and storm doors for home owners in New Jersey and the metro New York area. clients are contractors and dealers who rely on a supplier to provide higher quality window products, built locally, on time delivery and attractively priced. Bonded WeatherMaster products purchased through our dealer network will be pleased with the 314 styles, options and features offered. Quality is unsurpassed. Located in busy northern New Jersey, 15 miles from New York City, we have a delivery radius of 100 miles on all products. Most can be shipped nationwide or internationally. From Long Beach Island to Poughkeepsie,New York, from Philadelpia and Wilmington, Delaware to New Haven,Ct., from Montauk Point to Allentown, Pa., Bonded manufactures and delivers the products we sell. All products are made locally.
    http://www.bondedvinylwindows.com/index.html

    hope this helps!

  55. I found all of this very fascinating! Also, my Papa worked for Brosco for like 40 years and all of my work aprons are from there. And every time I see Anderson windows I get irrationally angry because they were his comptetion. anywayyyyyy though, I’m excited to see how lovely this all ends up looking. :)

  56. My parents have a 1890’s house with ~50 wooden single glazed windows that are in good shape but of course drafty. Because of historic district rules, they could not have exterior storms and went with IndoWindows for interior storms. Seems the company does a big sale in the winter every year, and they got them for a steal. They were custom measured, manufactured in USA, and had a decent turn around time. My folks seem very happy with them, I know little else, but might be worth looking into.

  57. Such an interesting and well-researched post! We’re trying to decide what to with the windows in our rundown 1940 home that we’re lovingly putting back together. Unfortunately, the previous owners replaced about half of the original windows with some truly crummy vinyl ones. I’d like to swap them back out for wood windows at some point, but alas, it’s not in the budget right now.

    Another issue we can’t seem to find a good solution for is the woodwork in our house. About 90% of the trim is in great shape and I hate to paint original woodwork that doesn’t need it. But! That other 10%? It’s mostly just missing — trim around doors that were taken out or demoed before we took ownership. It will be nearly impossible to match the color of stain, so I’m leaning toward painting it white. But that opens up another can of worms for the rooms that do still have the original dark wood windows. It seems like a terrible idea to slap paint on those! I just don’t know to do. Any ideas?

  58. To get WAY back to the best makeover list in this comments section, I have to add the opening up of your foyer. When that wall finally came down, a sense of graciousness returned to the whole house.

  59. Don’t know if you have seen this or not but I’ve been staring at those beautiful windows all day and thought of your windows. Love good restoration :)
    http://www.oldhouseonline.com/farmhouse-modern-twist/

  60. This post is a godsend. I’ve been renovating an 1803 house in West Shokan. All the windows are original, but someone added a one room addition that has three one-over-one windows that I give the side eye to every time I walk past. It’s great that there’s an affordable option because I had pretty much given up on ever replacing them.

    We ‘inherited’ wood storm windows with the house but I must say they are HEAVY. For the first floor they are fine but for the second floor, it takes three people and a lot of cursing. I’m not sure how old the storms are but modern wood storms might be lighter.

  61. Another thank you for this post! Thanks also to the commenter who mentioned Harvey Triple Track storm windows. I would definitely be interested to hear more what you do with your storm windows. When I first started considering keeping windows from our 60s house instead of replacing, I found this resource: http://www.oldhouseguy.com/window-sash/. In the middle of trying to figure it all out–thanks!

  62. I love Windows and they are so important. I would take older original wood and wavy glass every time! Somehow even when they stick, are drafty, or drop on your arm, it’s somehow charming. But new windows just piss me off — esp casement windows. We just bought a late 40s ranch in the Valley outside LA and am slowly working on repairing the horrifying work of the previous owner (vision 20′ beam supported by a toothpick). We have a bunch of windows and sliders in all different sizes that are 60s aluminum single-panes that are basically holding on for dear life with what appears to be gum (forget about being able to lock). I’m obsessed with black steal windows, but the price of the windows — don’t even think about installation — would be more than the house. After months of meetings with offensive window dealers (you know it’s bad when they focus on how “affordable” the windows are or how great the repair service is read: these products are absolute shite), and researching online (the complaint section is FRIGHTENING), I went with the entry level Fleetwood black interior exterior aluminum, and couldn’t be happier. My husband thinks I’m nuts but I have been giddy with excitement as I follow the installer around, asking the crew questions and watch as the crew puts the new windows in. Your house is amazing, and is going to rest easy now that the evil plastic is gone!

    • Those sound so nice, Melissa! Good job on sticking out until you found what you really wanted and suited the house. It’s so hard with so many products out there, and so many of them being so lousy!

  63. I totally sent this post to a neighbor, and they kept their windows!

    So, we’re up in the bronx with a lovely old 1890s brick townhouse that lost its original windows sometime in the 80s(?) and I’ve been fretting about replacements for a while. The current cheap aluminum things simply do not function (held closed with 3″ screws through the window frame! held closed with duck tape! held closed with electrical tape! not held closed and just open to the breezes!) and while we may go moderny and tilt-turn in the back for the view (assuming we win the lottery), we would love to get regular windows in the front.

    But that’s like 12 windows, and I’m an adjunct.

    These Brosco units sound fabu, wanted to see if you had any further thoughts now that the window has been in place for a while?

  64. I love this so much. My boss is the owner of a beautiful old house that has seen some unfortunate remodels over the years. And though it still has several of the original windows left, my boss *hates* them. Once he came into my office and for some reason we got talking about them. He started complaining about how much he hated them and how much he wanted to replace them… I said listen, you need to leave my office now or else settle in for a big long rant about why you should never do that.

    Sadly, finding houses in my area with original windows is a pretty difficult thing. But I shall stay optimistic that when my house hunting days come, my original windowed old house will appear. In my price range. In a great area.

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