Looking to Restore Windows in Trenton, NJ

aewhistoryJanuary 27, 2012

Howdy folks!

My wife and I live in a 1908 Queen Anne Victorian. It has approximately 40 or so windows. The vast majority are in very good shape and all are original (believe it or not) and they are also mostly 1 over 1s with a handful of 9/12 over 1s. I've read in magazines, and even on forums, that one can expect to pay around $300 per window to restore a typical 1 over 1 but I am having zero luck finding anything near that price.

I've gotten quotes from $600 to $1200 per window. Perhaps I simply misunderstand what people mean by a window, as ridiculous as that sounds. For instance, the contractor who quoted me $600 had originally said he thought my 1 over 1s would be around $300 each to restore. When I received his bid his prices worked out to essentially be charged per PANE. Maybe I am an idiot, but when I say window, I mean the the whole contraption in the frame, not, for instance, one pane of glass and its frame. However, this could be construed as each "window" costing around $300 since there are two literal windows in a double hung I suppose.

Anyway, my main concerns are this issue of definition above and then finding a reputable, trustworthy, and reasonably priced restoration professional in my area. I live in Trenton, NJ. How many windows and how quickly I move through doing them will be dependant largely on the price quoted. So if I was able to get a good price I would gladly give someone the entire job, but I don't know if my wife and I can afford to spend $25K minimum on on these windows right now.... so the prices we are being quoted definitely means we would have to move slowly (something I do NOT want to do if I can afford it since I have twins on the way and I would like to have any potential lead paint/hazard removed from these windows if at all possible).

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Any information would be helpful. Leads to window restorers, helping me figure out if my pricing expectations are correct, etc.

Thanks for any help,


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Windows on Washington Ltd

What is your definition or what was included in the "Restoration"?

What is wrong with the windows right now?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 8:44AM
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+1 what kind of "restoration" work are you looking to have done.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Essentially, removing the two window panes and stripping them of paint. Repaint or stain as well as reglaze. Add weatherstripping on bottom and sides to try to ensure an airtight fit where possible. I would replace the other hardware myself, although I might have the chains replaced with new cords; they are all painted multiple times. However, locks, the pulleys on the sides, and the window pulls at the bottom I will definitely handle.

As for condition: every window is structurally sound, which is to say the frames have essentially no rot to speak of. Of the 80+ panes of glass, perhaps five are broken, although I would expect replacement to be a separate price and, in fact, was not included in the above numbers. In general, all of the bottom windows open and move; some with ease and some jerky jerky. Most of the top windows have been painted shut. And yes, I have checked and these should all be double hung as there are two sets of weights in each of the pockets on the right and left. All the weights are present and the larger frames into which the actual windows are set is also in good to very good condition save for years of being repeatedly painted.

This is what has frustrated me so much. The contractor who quoted me $600 per window was simply stunned at the condition of these windows; he had hardly seen so many windows this old (104 years) in this good of condition. I asked him what it would cost to "completely" restore them. His answer: about $300 per window. When the written estimate was given to me, it was $600 or more per window ($600 was for most but not all of the windows, others were higher and any glass cost more still). Perhaps I should have been more specific, but I wanted a worst case scenario of cost to get a feel for what I would expect to pay and his initial number was in line with what I have read.... Perhaps I have been reading the wrong stuff, but I simply don't get how his initial feel could be 100% off. I feel as though he thinks I've got sucker written on my forehead.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 3:11PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

For clarity's sake, what you are referring to is the sashes. Panes are the actual pieces of glass.

Old growth wood is much harder than the newer stuff that is out there. More often times, we see windows that are in better shape that are 100 years old than windows that are 20 years old.

Do you have an existing storm window?

Re-glazing the window is pretty simple and you can handle that section of the work in all likelihood.

Have you considered interior storms? They will be more air tight than a retrofitted wood.

Restoration of wood windows is a bit of a niche industry and the number of guys doing, and doing it well is getting smaller and smaller by the day.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 3:46PM
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Thanks for the reply! Yes, I have storms, but for some reason not all of the windows have them and those that are missing are not in any logical--to me--pattern. Also, most are ugly metal (aluminum?) jobbies that are ineffective I have been told; there are a few good old-fashioned wooden storms that hang from hooks. Unfortunately, these have not really been maintained, so pretty much all of these are in crappy condition. Still, those that are there seem to help considerably.

I have considered adding internal storms as well as replacing/upgrading the exterior storms with something like MonRay storms. This would definitely buy time, which would help. Unfortunately, it doesn't cure a few problems: there would still be lead paint on these windows, the tops don't open, etc. Also, it seemed silly to me to paint them again if the idea is to strip them. Otoh, I suppose one more layer won't make much difference. Lord knows how many layers are already on these windows! In any case, my long-term plan is to both restore these windows in addition to adding storms; in the areas of the house that are particularly cold I've even considered using exterior and interior storms simultaneously one day, when budget allows. Still, I take your point about using multiple panes and from what I have read this is a very good idea.

Btw, thanks for the reminder about "sashes" as opposed to "panes.". I think I've done enough reading to educate myself fairly well, but I am constantly forgetting the right nomenclature.

The old growth wood issue is something I have heard from others and it is one of the reasons why I won't allow my current general contractor to replace my windows even though he swears "modern" windows will be better. It seems to me that a high-quality storm and a restored antique window such as the ones I have should perform at least as well as most contemporary windows and for about the same, and even possibly less, money than a replacement window.

I honestly didn't realize that window restoration was becoming a niche. I sort of figure, perhaps naively, that it was something on the rebound, what with the greater emphasis on the environment (eg-keeping historic windows out of landfills while still saving energy) and a growing homeowner awareness in things like maintaining historical integrity, etc. Then again, I am an historian, so I suppose my perception might be skewed.

BTW, what interior, or exterior, storms would you recommend I look into? I am completely open to suggestions.

Thanks, Aaron

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 5:56PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Quantum for the interior (and exterior for that matter) storms.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 11:27PM
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Familiarize yourself with John Lee's window restoration website - link below.
any chance you'll be doing some of the work yourself? t's not hard once you've learned your way thru one window.

also, contact Jade at Heartwood Window Restoration. She is very knowledgable as to restorers in the northeast and may have other local recomendations.

Here is a link that might be useful: John Leeke's windows

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 5:00AM
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Did you ever have your windows restored. I'm looking into it for my house in Woodbridge and trying to find someone.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 3:01PM
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I am not a big fan of restoring windows just to save money. If there is some real historical significance,thats another story. As many of the pro's here would attest to,there are some very high end vinyl( yes vinyl) that have much more structural integrity than a wood window as well as providing much better energy efficiency numbers . They actually look nice and fit in well with older homes. This was unheard of 10 years ago. Forget the cheap grade vinyl at home depot or lowes, these brands are in a league of their own.
Some brands to consider : Okna " EnviroStar" , Soft Lite " Elements",
Affinity " Ultra series, Sunrise " Vanguard".

This post was edited by mmarse1 on Thu, Nov 7, 13 at 22:20

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 9:39PM
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I never have... well, not yet. I never found anyone else that's as available to be frank but I'm planning to start looking again. I'm trying to decide whether to go the storm window route, restoration, or both. Perhaps we could team up and find someone? You think these companies do group deals? :)

Mmarse, are you familiar with the research comparing restored windows and storms to modern windows? I ask because it is very convincing. More importantly, it is logical. The main advantages of modern windows is the multiple panes and inert gas between the panes. However, the distance between the two panes is generally small. With antique windows the distance between the window and storm is much greater, meaning that the amount of heat/cole it will take to make it inside is that much greater (I hope I'm explaining this correctly). Then there is the factor of wood. If you don't buy new wood windows then most of the time you end up with aluminum. The problem is that that is actually a conductor! So you're actually helping the cold/heat bypass the double/triple panes that you've bought. So unless you're buying wooden framed windows you've got a problem. I'm less educated on vinyl right now, but to my knowledge there is no combination that can beat a PROPERLY restored antique window and good storm for cost effectiveness, sustainability, and comfort. Case in point, to my knowledge the new windows that would truly be top notch for my home would come in at over 1k each. That's over $40k and doesn't truly deal with whether they will take away from the resale value of an older home (that actually adds to the cost in reality, or deducts from their value, take your pick philosophically), outperform my existing windows if restored, and/or outlast windows that have already made is over 100years. I dunno, you may be right, but I'd be a very hard sell....

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 4:07PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

If the home has original windows, they are salvageable, and the home is of a historic nature...restore them.

The idea of the performance of modern replacements not equaling a storm and single pane combo has been well hashed out and proven, in large part, to be incorrect.

I would suggest that you read this post for all the back and forth volleys and information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Repair don't replace

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 4:19PM
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+1 to Windows on Washington. Unfortunately much of the info out there showing restored windows as superior in performance is incomplete, outdated, and or incorrect. That is not to say that there are not very valid reasons for restoring your original as there are. We are all in agreement on that, however, superior performance is not one of those reasons.
Just to address a few of your questions/issues:
- The wider space between a prime window and a storm is not dead air space, therefore its ability to insulate is mitigated.
- Besides thermal performance, the building science community has identified air leakage as a primary culprit in the issue of overall home performance and energy loss in recent years. A 100 yr old restored double hung won't hold a candle to a good performing replacement by today's standards.
-Cost? That depends. If you are talking $600+ for restoration, you can get a very high performance replacement in that ball park. The same could not be said for the $300 price point that you mentioned earlier.
- Aluminum is NOT a very common material for replacement windows anywhere except the South and Southwest (hot climates) for obvious reasons as you stated. The most common choices today are vinyl, fiberglass, and composites, and then clad wood where the metal is thermally broken...

The link posted by WOW is a great read if you have the time.

Lastly, let me reiterate that we are not saying that restoration is not a good option, and perhaps the BEST option for you, you just want to make sure that you have accurate info on which to base your choice. As you stated, that old-growth wood and original charm are aspects that cannot be matched by today's choices, but it really comes down to prioritizing your goals for the project. Resale is a consideration as well, and as you also stated, there are two sides to that equation as well.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 5:01PM
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