Replacement windows. I wouldnt do it again.

thecobblerJune 5, 2005

Many years ago I started replacing the windows on my old 1923-built house. IÂve been installing Marvin Tilt-Pac replacement sashes. I have 34 windows but only 22 will eventually be replaced. IÂve done 13 so far.

To MarvinÂs credit, the new sashes are well made and have been very easy to install. The problem is that they just donÂt look right on the old house. My old windows were single pane on the bottom sash and triple pane on the upper. The replacements are all single pane. In the beginning I tried the accessory grids that are available with these windows but the grids didnÂt stay put and sometimes were destroyed when the lower sash caught on them as the sash was being raised. Also, the new sashes have to be stained and painted.

If I were to start over again, IÂd look for exceptionally high-quality outer storm windows (insulated if available) and restore the old sashes. I would think that $200.00 (about the cost of a Tilt-Pac) could buy a pretty good storm window and yield about the same fuel savings as the new insulated windows.

IÂm just sounding off here. Every time I look out the window, IÂm reminded of my poor judgement in this project.

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We paid $800 per window to have them special made repos of what was here with storms and screens.Ihave 24 windows.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 7:20AM
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cobbler, you must miss the soul those old windows gave your home. Is there any way you can move those replacements to a side you don't look at very much and restore and add storms to the other old 3 over 1 windows? Could dividers be secured to the exterior of the new windows so opening and closing wouldn't disturb them? Do you still have the old windows that were replaced?

My carpenter will be here today and I'll ask him if he has any ideas for giving your windows a more true divided light look. I'm sure lots of others will offer good suggestions as well.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 7:42AM
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thanx for your point of view... hope it might help people to at least think twice about getting rid of their old windows--there are SOOOOO many reasons for not doing that... the sales pitches for supposed energy savings and resale value just do not hold up under scrutiny. At the very least hear the other side and make an informed decision.

I just bought top of the line Larson storm windows for my screen porch which are more sturdy and much less drafty for around $100 ea. (large 64" x 38" ones). The ones w/ low e glass wouldve been another 100 or so more... Draftiness in old house can also be addressed by sealing up the channels around the window, and also (most importantly) sealing the openings into the attic to stop the updraft or chimney effect which actually will pull cold air in thru the windows.

Someone advised me early on to never throw anything away which comes from your house, if possible store it somewhere for future owner. I wish I wouldve done that myself-- I sold off some glass from overhead light fixtures (the fixtures themselves were long gone and I figured the shades were therefore useless. WRONG! Recently found out that lamp restorers can rebuild a light fixture to fit the shade, for not a lot of money. Damn.... it wouldve been really neat and it wouldve semi-matched another fixutre which I already had.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 1:51PM
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Not trying to take this off topic, but where are folks finding replacement storm windows? I would LOVE to replace the old storms on the front of my house, as the screens are missing on two and the lower storm sash is gone from one of the windows. The windows themselves are in decent shape, but I want to reduce the draftiness and would love to be able to open the windows and let the breeze in. I live in Westchester Co., NY, if anyone can provide a referral. Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 4:30PM
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Harvey makes nice storm windows. Here's the link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Harvey

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 9:28AM
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Sorry, that link seems to be broken.

Try this one instead:

Here is a link that might be useful: Harvey Storms

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 10:53AM
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We're using wooden storms. They can be painted the same color as the window. I think they look "right" on an old house. Our bottom sash will be removeable and have both window and screen inserts.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 12:34PM
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Where do you get "new" wooden storms?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 11:43AM
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We had one made by Coyle Lumber and now we are copying it and making our own. Coyle was at the Valley Forge Old Home Show and they are a couple of miles from my house. We are using glass only in the top and having both screen and window inserts for the bottom section. Spanish cedar is the wood of choice around here for them.

Coyle Lumber has a decent website and might be worth taking a look at. They do lots of custom moldings and make replacement doors and windows to match originals that may be beyond repair. They are near Carlisle, PA, but I think they ship lots of places.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 12:23PM
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I live in the Midwest - any recommendations for replacement storm windows equivalent to Harvey (not available here). I like corgilvr's idea of wooden storms with replacement screen and glass inserts. But if the glass is removable and not fixed in place with glazing putty I don't understand how you are going to get a good seal. I currently have wooden storms with 2 fixed glass panels - they work well but removing them every summer for ventilation is a pain - still have to find wooden screens for some of the windows.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 3:56PM
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I'm overjoyed to find a current thread on this topic--I've been searching for others thinking about building replacement storms/screens for quite a while. In that, I'm nearly ready to build them myself.

With that in mind, would anyone who has either copied or originally built such frames be able to post or send a few photos? I have particularly large windows (~3' x 5 1/2') so I'm curious about type of stock and joinery.



    Bookmark   September 5, 2005 at 10:10PM
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We live in North east Pa we had the glass removed from rotten widows ,the old wavy glass.We had windows built exactly like what was in,with removable screens and removable storms all wooden.A company in Glennville Pa did it.Its 2 guys that run it.They do all kinds restoration work,anything you need knobs,flooring,they custom make cabinets,they made some of our wormy chestnut wainescoting,cabinets.They do beautiful work.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 3:51PM
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Would you be able to post a phone number for the Glennvile PA wood working guys?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 9:02AM
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Ill get the no.Ive been busy fall cleaning,Ill get it tomorrow...

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 8:20PM
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This months copy of the This Old House magazine had an interesting article about kits you can buy to weather tighten your original windows. Looked interesting. And no storms! $50.00/window and 1 hour of your time, plus, its DIY.

Not affiliated yad yada yada...

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 3:26PM
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These guys business is called Edward H.Nace Inc.Theyre from BrodbecksPaI think just changed town name to Glennville Pa the no is 717-229-2556 as I said our windows were all rebuilt,expensive but beautiful..We had all ours redone.storms and screens.Great guys good luck.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 7:39PM
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Read an article put out by the feds that said the payback time for replacing windows is anywhere from 20- 200 (yes , 200) years.

in general,its just not worth it. Much cheaper to do new storm except for the windows that are rotted!
(often bathroom)

will post the article if I can find it again.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 9:40AM
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You said this month's copy of This Old House magazine has an article about kits for weatherizing old windows?

Do you mean the September 2005 issue? I can't seem to find anything like that?

Could you confirm the magazine name and date, and/or point me to an article name or page? Apologies if the article is in front of my nose and I'm somehow missing it.

Steckjam, if you find any sources for good storm windows in the Midwest, I'm all ears.

Thanks so much. Great topic.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 4:12PM
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It is in the October issue, 2005, page 75. I did, however, missread it. It states you still need a storm to get a great seal, but it still beats replacment windows.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 8:16PM
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Our home's original windows were all replaced, probably around the 1950-60's. They didn't look terrible, but they functioned poorly and were quite drafty. Also, our property is quite steep, we have two floors, and cleaning the windows was scary! So, we opted to replace our replacements. I know I could have researched what the original windows might have looked like and had them reproduced, but ease in cleaning drove my decision, as well as cost to some extent.

We looked at several quality brands (Pella, Marvin, a few others) and chose Springhouse. The main reason is that our house is a small farmhouse, definitely not a grand building. We found that the scale of most new windows was off; they were too bulky. And the muntins that divide the panes of glass were too thick and flat in comparison to historic windows, or even our 1960's replacements. We also had trouble with getting smaller windows replaced, and some brands could only fit a casement style in their place - definitely not the original look of the home. Springhouse windows were nicely proportioned with less stumpy muntins, and they could replace all double hung windows with double hung. We definitely like how they look, function, and are easy to clean. I know this sounds like a commercial, but I am just a satisfied customer.

If I had had original windows, I would have done all I could to keep them. Those wooden storms sound great!


    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 12:21PM
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Gawkins-I may be able to, not in a hurry though Im fall cleaning.We have large windows too.We have maybe 2' wide by 5'.The widow opens like reg.old window with bottom 1/2 screen.we take off screen and put on full length glass with wood trim, storm

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 2:32PM
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Well, I'm sure this project has been finsished for many years.

But I have to agree that it's not a good idea to replace those old windows. Our 1926 home had beautiful old chestnut windows. We decided from the start to keep them maintained, rather than destroying the character of the house. DH made sure the weights all worked, he replaced any glass that needed it (and even put stained glass panes in the small casement windows). He repaired or built new screens or storm windows as needed.

We now live in a 1950's house, even the new, $500/ea, windows we've put in don't keep out the drafts and cold the way wooden windows and 3" of dead air space does.

Not only are the old windows (if well-maintained) far more effective for energy savings, but they certainly helped sell our home. Our buyers were entralled by the authenticity we maintained in our almost 90 year old home.

Anyone who has the option of keeping the old windows and keeping them in good shape will find they pay dividends for year to come. And if you search out and read the IMPARTIAL literature on the subject, you'll find the experts agree. Unfortunately it can be hard, since most of the 'experts' quoted are selling replacement windows.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 7:44PM
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Azzzalea, I was glad to see this topic reappear!!

I've been doing research on this very topic for years and the fact is, "replacement windows" have a lifespan of 10-15 years, at which point they need to be replaced AGAIN.

One of the worst things you can do to an old house is rip out its "eyes" and put in new PVC-clad inferior quality windows.

The whole "energy saving" story is pure myth. It'd take DECADES to recoup the cost of replacment windows, and by then, you'd be on your 3rd, 4th or 5th set.

Here is a link that might be useful: Great link on the reality of replacemnt windows.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 6:21AM
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It is not helpful to others to criticize replacement windows in general just because the PVC kind do not last or someone would not pay for the old pane patterns to be replicated.

Marvin doesn't make tilt-pac replacement sash anymore but I have some that are over 30 years old. One had a problem with the sash balance jamb liner a few years ago and the Marvin rep just needed to know the number written on it to replace it for free.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 5:52PM
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Seven years after I built and sold a 2,511sf home with Donat-Flamand (now Jeldwen) windows, all wood, argon-filled and e*coated, the new buyer scrapped them for low-end vinyl units so he wouldn't have to ever paint them. If I had only known, I could have saved myself thousands!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 8:43PM
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My DH and contractor wanted to replace the original windows in our 1871 house but I won the battle to keep them and now they agree it was the right thing to do. We are very lucky in that our windows all have wooden storms. In the coldest days this winter (and we're in Ontario Canada) I put my hand right up to the windows and there is no draft or cold radiation at all. These old craftsmen knew a thing or two! Apart from being perfectly satisfactory from a comfort point of view, keeping them has maintained the architectural integrity of the house.
If you can get storms made for your old windows then I think that's the way to go...

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 12:21PM
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The subject of the proper restoration of original wooden windows versus the purchase of replacement windows is as controversial as the three topics that are traditionally alleged to be the most controversial. The Historic HomeWorks forums moderated by John Leeke are the most complete source of information on this topic that I have seen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Preservation Brief 9, from the National Park Service

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 10:29PM
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We replaced all of our windows in our 1952 house as part of a semi-deep energy retrofit and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. We added 2" of foam on the outside of the house and took advantage of the opportunity to resize and change the window configurations to dramatically (IMHO) improve the interior room configurations, lighting, and improve the exterior look of the house. I probably wouldn't have done this on a classic really old house that looked good and had architectural integrity in the first place, but let's face it, most houses don't. The 1952 windows leaked like a sieve, had quarter inch gaps to the exterior of the house, and were crappy, cheap windows to start with. Yes, we had someone who could have made them tight and functional for ~$800 each, but they still would have been too small and in the wrong places. Replacing them was, I think, the right decision for our kind of old house. The new ones look right, quiet the road noise substantially, and keep the cold out, the old ones did none of that.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 9:21AM
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