Old Windows - replace or????

nursekathleenFebruary 2, 2009

Ok so I'm officially addicted to this forum ;)

Our house has nice old windows that I adore. The back windows overlooking the backyard, in the dining room, have the original 1920's latches and glass, and at some point had storm windows on the outside - we cannot find them (we've owned the house about 6 months).

Husband is a little more energy-conscious than I am...I am keen to preserve history, he likes new and not drafty lol. He would like to rip out this window and put in a garden door. While I think that would be fabulous - room is dark and that would let in a lot of light, as well as a passage through to back deck...I would mourn the loss of the window :( As well, we live in Southern Ontario, it's -10 right now plus wind chill. That window SUCKS heat right out of our house. We've covered it in plastic for the winter, but again, hubby wants it gone!

Here is a photo, showing the window at the back, plus a big pile of crap after we pulled up the horrid carpeting the PO had installed:

Also - most windows have been replaced with very generic but energy efficient ones, except for the main window in the front living room. Those use ropes and pulleys. And they are freaking cold. I LOVE them, think the ropes etc. are amazing, but hubby wants them gone. I must say, the draft from them this winter has been AWFUL. Even with the insulating plastic, the draft from those is ten times worse than the back window with the latches.


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Your front windows can almost certainly be brought up to excellent energy standards with some work to rehab them. You can still buy wooden storms, or have them made, or even make them yourselves. Your older windows are worth keeping because they can be fixed up now, and in the (far) future when they need to be tuned up again. That's one of the beauties of the older wooden windows.

The little casement window in your dining room is probably that size and in that postion to allow it to be over a sideboard. If you plan to have a sideboard in your dining room, I'd try it there and evaluate how it looks before considering changing the window.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 12:41PM
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I agree with having wooden storm windows made. And for the casement windows, get some spring bronze weather stripping for around the opening. You can get the spring bronze online at kilian hardware or at a "real" hardware store (or they can order it). The combination of those two things will be a huge help and should keep hubby happy.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 4:49PM
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Where on earth would I get wooden storms made? I'm in the process of convincing hubby. He is still of the opinion we should have them replaced with super-efficient (but ugly) vinyl. The upstairs and several other windows had already been replaced, POORLY, with bad vinyl. We have already replaced those with better vinyl. These are the "last ones standing" so to speak. The dining room window and two front windows in the living room, as well as one in the spare bedroom, which to the best of my knowledge, has been painted shut horribly. Don't know what to do about that one :( What on earth is spring bronze weather stripping? Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 7:28PM
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Crazy question, but are in love with the window as a window, or would you still love it if it were removed, hung on a wall and a trompe l'oeil picture painted inside?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 7:30PM
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I am in love with the windows as windows. They are original to the house and are a part of it's history. Anyone can go to a yard sale/salvage yard etc. and buy an old window. Mine WORK (well, most of them do).

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 9:34PM
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The attached link shows spring bronze weather stripping and further down are pictures of it installed. It closes off air gaps.

It's a long-lasting weather stripping for use around doors and windows. The foam stuff disintegrates and needs to be replaced often.

Here is a link that might be useful: spring bronze

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 7:45AM
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Replacement windows have been over-hyped and over-sold. They may be very efficient when first installed, but the seals frequently fail, usually just after the warranty expires. Old windows, properly weather stripped if needed, and equipped with good quality exterior storm windows plus an interior storm window in really cold climates, are better aesthetically, much cheaper, much easier to install and just as efficient.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 5:23AM
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My 120 yo orignals are in better shape, leak less than the 40 yo replacements. True, a couple need reglazing and spring bronze, but I'd rather do that than replace them (we already have storms). I was at a house with vinyl replacements. It was a very cold winter day. They looked well made, everything square and plumb with tight-looking furry seals, and to admire their efficiency, I held my hand up along the edge where one of the seals was. To my surprise, I felt a cold draft. It was as bad as one of my problem windows that is waiting for weatherstripping. I guess the seal had failed as mainegrower described. My leaking windows can be maintained and improved, but I don't know what you do for vinyl when it fails.

It's just funny because I am not a purist, and I will consider sacrifing aesthetics for functionality, but in this example, you are making a huge aesthetic sacrifice for a dubious improvement in performance. OTOH, if you follow the old window maintenance and restoration tips on this forum, you will get a reasonably tight window that performs well, and is beautiful.

Here is an article that sums up what I'm trying to say based on my own experience. It explains that older windows often have a longer life than newer windows, that major maintenance/restoration can be done once per hundred years, whereas modern windows, after a few decades or less, frequently have irreparable failures and require total replacement (as I've experienced with the 40yo windows in my house that are in worse shape than the 120 yo's).

Here is a link that might be useful: Repair vs. replace original windows

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 8:25AM
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OK--promise not to get mad...

I actually think that French doors in place of that window would be fabulous, for two big reasons--(1) because it would open up the room and give great access to your deck/backyard, and (2) it would make the space much less confining feeling. But I always get sort-of an uneasy feeling in places that have windows high up, where you really can't see out of them too well. I'm sure there was a reason for that--and I'm guessing that a buffet under it, as the pp mentioned, is probably the case.

But, although the window is cute, it's not so glorious that I would sacrifice access/view/light for it. Could you take it out and save it--maybe use it in another room in the house that needs more light? If you do wind up taking it out, by all means, store it in the attic for future owners. I am SO GLAD that the previous owners of our 150-year-old house saved all the old stuff they thought was outdated--80-year-old fixture from the dining room, old doors, etc.

Also, if the rest of the windows are replaced, I would probably just throw in the towel and get an absolutely gorgeous, all-wood window from Marvin. They do gorgeous wood replacement windows--and while they can be pricey, at least you feel like you're getting something energy-efficient that's at least attempting to be historically accurate.

Good luck--the house really is great!!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 10:10AM
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I wouldn't hesitate to open up the dining room to the backyard, as long as you realize you're giving up that wall space. It's not as if you're destroying the integrity of a grand heritage dwelling!

Older homes were often built with no regard to the setting. In a 1948 bungalow I bought, the south facade overlooked 300 feet of wooded ravine. When I moved in, I put in two sets of 6 ft. sliding doors and a large deck to take advantage of the view. (I later demolished the whole house to build another.)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 11:22AM
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I'd still keep the windows and weatherproof them largely because this home is in Canada and I wouldn't want to introduce more potential air leaks into the structure (at least not with Canadian winters). I have to say I disagree with worthy because I believe that older homes WERE built with regard to the setting. Windows were put in to provide for ventilation and circulation. Obviously, central a/c was not around in 1922 (or 1948) so windows were very critical. In addition, trees were planted to provide for shade, eaves are wide to provide shade. Today's huge trees and wooded ravines were probably not more than small bits of scrub when the homes were built.

Just my 2 cents worth....as a bungalow owner with all original windows except for 1 (thanks to a previous owner).

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:23PM
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I believe that older homes WERE built with regard to the setting.

I should have qualified it to "many homes I have seen in my city as a real estate broker/builder." Like another '48 bungalow I bought backing directly onto Lake Ontario 200 feet up on the Scarborough Bluffs. The plan was identical to the thousands of bungalows built at that time. Two small windows at the back bedrooms. You might as well have backed onto an alley.

"Just some brush and water. Why bother?" Scarborough Bluffs

Here is a link that might be useful: Scarborough Bluffs

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:49PM
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The down side of french doors is then that room becomes nothing but a passage way, function-wise & fengshui-wise (is that a word?) Esthetically, you lose more than just the cuteness of the windows.

I love those little windows too and know exactly why you want to keep them. window coverings, storm windows, all would accomplish the same thing at much less cost.

Vinyl windows?? Talk about a mixed marriage :-)

Unless you have that same view as above (yowza!) I wouldn't bother opening it up.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 4:54PM
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I took a closer look. You already have a door off the kitchen to the back porch and yard. Why add another one and spoil the dining room. I've only added doors where there wasn't access.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 5:56PM
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Wood storms can be ordered online if you can't find them locally at a specialized wood or bldg supply store that is not a big box national chain - shouldn't cost all that much

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 6:25PM
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One of the big advantages of the newer windows is double panes. You could try and see if you can have someone adapt the current windows to that.
I grew up in a house built in the nineteen teens, and it was a great house, but the windows always leaked like mad even with the plastic.
If adapting the original windows to a more energy efficient form isn't doable, I would think there are wooden framed, or good quality vinyl, windows that you could change to. It may not be a pritty as the original, but it'll be warmer, better on the heating budget, and more environmentally friendly (less fuel used to heat).

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 9:41PM
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Circus Peanut

No no, please please don't get the white vinyl windows! The previous owner ripped out all the gorgeous original wavy-glass windows from my bungalow (which is a mate of yours, over in Maine) and slapped in high-efficiency vinyl. They're an absolute eyesore and frankly not very efficient in our very cold climate. We've still had to put up that gawdawful shrinkwrapped plastic. They're so hideous that we're now looking into paint that works on vinyl...

If you do go the vinyl route, definitely find something high-end with custom color. And at that point you might as well do nice wooden replacements.

Moving-in day:

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 9:20AM
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Thanks for the tips everybody. I am convinced I want to keep them. I am still working on hubby. Worthy, our view of Lake Ontario is significantly LESS pristine than that, lol. ;)

And yes, we do have a door off the kitchen onto the back porch. Hubby just thinks it will let in a lot of light with garden doors in the dining room. All I foresee is cold draft, my little windows gone, and a pile of shoes by the door lol.

CP, unfortunately, in the dining room off to the left of the pic I posted above, the windows are already white vinyl. Replaced by the moron previous owner who wanted to sell the house. The old ones apparently were in abominable shape. But they replaced them with single pane, no argon, cheapest crappiest windows available. All for looks "Hey it has new windows in here". We had a window guy by and he claimed they were the worst he'd seen. Plus, they are ugly. Working on getting hubby to leave the windows in the LR!!!!!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 12:27PM
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Work on hubby to keep the living room windows AND to replace the dining room with either restored or new wood double hungs!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 3:18PM
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