solutions for low quality replacement windows

JoshCTDecember 8, 2010

Hello all,

My 1892 home in Connecticut was fitted with low grade vinyl replacement windows by a previous owner, probably in 2002 or 2003. They are ugly. They are also already failing. The weatherstripping is damaged or missing, the top and bottom sashes jam and are difficult to open and close, and they really don't seem to insulate very well. Some of them don't stay open. The vinyl seems to be brittle and pieces of trim have been breaking off.

I would love to get appropriate wood windows made, but this will be massively expensive.

Another option was to get good wooden storm windows made, which will help with the air infiltration issues I am having and cover up these ugly windows, and down the line when I can afford to get good windows I can continue to use the storms as well.

Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated.

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Usually replacement windows are inserted into the opening left when you remove the stops and channels for the old sashes. Making new stops is not too hard and you could get new window sashes made for less than the cost of a complete framed out wood window. You might be able to find used sashes that would fit at a recycler's yard. If you can find a couple of used sashes, you might try installing them and see how it goes. The worst that could happen is you'd have to buy another replacement window. Getting the existing replacements out and accessing the old counter-weights might be a problem, but generally, windows are less complicated than they look. There are gaskets that will make them more weather-tight, but you will probably still need storms.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 3:59PM
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I'd be more incline to have the windows replaced with appropriate wood windows one side of the house at a time.
Start with the front. Save up do a side. Save up again do another side till you've completed the entire house.
When it comes to old houses there's just somethings that you have to do over a period of time because of cost and because of the sheer volume of what you are dealing with!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 6:20PM
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It is maddening that the original windows were removed! My next door neighbor has a house identical to mine and has the original windows. They require painting, putty, sash cords, weather stripping, and a one time investment of quality storm windows, but beyond that they are structurally sound and look "right" on the house. I hate vinyl replacement windows. I don't expect mine to have a useful life beyond about 5 years from now, so I need to plan to replace them. Unfortunately, I don't think you can get new windows that really match the quality of the originals, as the old growth wood is not available. I will look into getting new sashes made up and rebuilding the stops, and then get a good wooden storm window to cover. I could also deal with good quality aluminum triple track storms.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 6:26PM
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We've got aluminum storms on our house. I grew up in this house and I remember when the aluminum storms were first installed. My dad was so happy that he wouldn't have to wrestle the old oak frame storms up into each window. Aluminum storms are easier to live with. That said, they are ugly, too.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 10:10PM
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Josh, whatever you do--do NOT get triple track aluminum storms!! Not only is there the ugly factor--but they are nothing but trouble and inefficient. My house has them, and I'm going to build wooden storms next spring--they do not seal out the cold--in fact aluminum transfers it faster than wood does. The only factor they have going is that they are relatively cheap--but you can build your own wood storms for less money per window--just takes some simple measurements, and a few basic tools.
With your neighbor having the same style, you could get your design clues from that (where to put the divider between the upper and lower panes, etc.)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 1:29PM
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I have been slowly replacing my old windows that are in such bad shape that I can't fix them due to lack of care by the PO. Thus far I've spent an average of $1000-$1500 per custom wood window. So, it's gonna take a while to replace all 34 of them!

For the upstairs windows that I can't get to for a few years (repairing those, not replacing) I bought the interior storms from Magnetite and DIY'd them on those 8 windows as a temporary fix. It cost about $600 for 8 windows, but the temp in my upstairs has been comfortable for the first time in 6 years! It's not ideal, but it's a great fix until I can get to that project. They also keep out the sound, which is a nice bonus, and you can't really tell they are there.

Btw- I have the triple track aluminum storms- they are ugly, don't work and I hate them. I can't wait to rip them off every time I buy a new window!

Here is a link that might be useful: magnetite interior storms

    Bookmark   December 10, 2010 at 5:07AM
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The replacement window game is one of my pet peeves. Millions of dollars have been spent on these borderline fraudulent "energy efficient" replacements while the original windows which are usually far better wind up in land fills.

In your particular case, you need to decide how much trouble you want to go to and how much you want to spend. Custom made windows are likely to be just too expensive. It's possible, however, that you may find windows of the right size at an architectural salvage yard. They may require a bit of repair, but they will likely be much better than what you have.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2010 at 5:17AM
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I'm in the same situation as joshct (replacing ugly vinyl windows installed by a clueless previous owner in an old home). I'm replacing 12 of these vinyl windows with sash-only replacements. It appears to be the best way to take advantage of the original 1905 window frames which are in decent shape (insulated and sealed), although not completely square. We'll most likely go with the Marvin Tilt Pac, but we're also getting quotes from Jeld-wen and Windsor. Has anyone else used these sash only systems to replace either old double hungs or vinyl windows? Any insight on recommended brands would be appreciated. Also, I'm a bit concerned about the frames not being 100% square and plumb, but I don't know a better option.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 9:16PM
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Same boat, here, too. I never thought of replacing with just new sashes. How do I find out if the original window frame is still there and in good condition ? Do I have to remove the window ? the siding ? pretty novice but fast learner.

The house has vinyl replacements that are 4 years old, without warranty (no transfer with new ownership) and totally useless. It is also wrapped in vinyl siding and aluminum flashing everywhere - the vinyl replacement windows are seated on the aluminum flashing that wraps every window and door opening.

any thoughts are appreciated from those of you better experienced.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 3:04PM
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This post should be mandatory reading for anyone buying an old home that has the original windows.

I simply would not have bought my 1870's Victorian if it had replacements....I am that nuts about this subject....just ask my friends - they are tired of hearing me talk about it....

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 3:34PM
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