XP from windows (Historic District rules, long)

juno2008September 1, 2013

Hello, I'm hoping to find some like-minded people here, though I haven't lurked much, so I hope I'm not stepping out of line. I live in a 1909 bungalow in northern California historic district, and we have restored our own original windows and had reproduction single-pane units built to replace what replacements the previous owners had (idiotically) installed. We've also built our own wood screens and storms for insulation. To say that I'm passionate about window aesthetics and my historic district would be an understatement.

There is new construction going up near us on an empty lot. The developer is building it as a spec house. The original plans proposed vinyl garbage. In response to my letter to the city planners, the planners told the developer he had to use fiberglass with wood cladding on the interior, which addressed exactly none of my concerns about the exterior appearance of the windows (sash thickness, paintability, exterior dividers, longevity). After a second letter, the staff is now proposing a compromise of a vinyl window with wood cladding on the exterior. Does anyone know anything about these? Any input on the aesthetics of them, since I've never seen them? I'm concerned about the expansion rates of vinyl vs. glass and wood, and I can't imagine these things will last any longer than the other vinyl garbage and will look like crap within 10 years, when the developer is long gone. I'm also concerned about sash thickness. All this on top of my environmental and human health objections to vinyl, especially in a house fire.

Second question: the city staff has invited me to work with staff to develop rules about new construction in the district going forward so that it's not a fight every time. Is there any district out there that does it "right"? No replacement of originals, only wood in new construction, etc.? I have a full time job, and I'd like to not start from scratch. I do have the DOE's Vermont window study, along with language from the National Park Service about the irresponsibility of allowing replacements. I do think it would be easier to convince them to adopt rules if someone else has already done it. I've poked around a little, and it seems like the many of districts do allow vinyl in new construction (gross).

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renovator8

I have no way of knowing what you would think is "right" but if you google "historic window guidelines" you'll find a lot of them.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 4:09PM
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Circus Peanut

Ah! I know the very person to contact - John Leeke. I know he recently headed up an alliance of wooden/historic window restorers in the formation of national guidelines for historic window conservation. He's a very nice guy and I'm sure he would respond to your query with enthusiasm.

Check out his web site, linked below, for contact details listed on the front page. On the window forum there, you'll find his collection of studies -- old and new -- proving the better investment of maintaining original wooden sash vs. replacing with vinyl, and disputing the replacement industry's myths about the efficiency savings in doing so.

As someone who once ripped out an entire house's worth of cheap vinyl replacement windows and refenestrated the place with restored wooden sash, screens and storms, I applaud you. :-)

Why are they called 'replacement windows'? Because you have to replace them a number of times before the first ones are paid for! har har.

Welcome.

Here is a link that might be useful: Historic Homeworks

    Bookmark   September 7, 2013 at 3:14PM
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juno2008

Thank you circuspeanut!! I will take a look at his site and try to contact him this week. I'm so glad you posted. I'd love any help I can get in convincing the city to stop the free-for-all they've been allowing in the district.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 1:41PM
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old_house_j_i_m

I have no answers about what you should do, BUT, THANK YOU for being a preservationist and NOT cow-towing to the vinyl industry.

THANK YOU

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 7:20PM
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columbusguy1

Just a quick browse, but this might help:

Here is a link that might be useful: Pasadena Historic Guidelines

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 8:43PM
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Circus Peanut

Glad to help, Juno. Let us know what you come up with!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 9:06AM
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juno2008

Thanks columbusguy1 and old_house_j_i_m. I've actually got a call into the planners in Pasadena, but it's been a couple of weeks, and they haven't responded. I'm going to try again this week or next. I appreciate the link, I will check it out soon.

I like the answers here so much better than on the windows board. Definitely not my sort of people over there with their vinyl and fiberglass love. Not to mention disagreeing with DOE science.

Final review hearing is tonight. The staff says the board is now deciding between all wood or wood with aluminum cladding, which is stupid because they will just rot out. Staff says both options are (1) paintable, (2) have exterior dividers and (3) are full wood thickness. I don't hate the pictures of the AL clad the staff has presented, but I trust the staff and developer about as far as I can throw them right now.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:48PM
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