Repair, Don't Replace, Old Wood Windows - Part 2: How?

richard904November 5, 2012

There was a classic thread from 2010 on the value of repairing old wood windows. We decided to renovate and repair our old wood windows. The problem is that there are just not skilled artisans, at least that we can find, around here. I think this is a problem that people who are not in the heart of a hot shot metro area find. We are right at the edge of the Kansas City metro area 36 miles SW down I35 from Olathe, KS, and 26 miles S of Lawrence, KS. The web site has a window contractor map that showed one company in Lawrence, and the gentleman is now retired. Even the painters who will do the epoxy wood repair and know how to paint windows do not want to come out of Lawrence. There is supposed to be an organization called the "National Association of Window Restoration Specialists" but there are very few references to it on the web. There seem to be no up-to-date national databases of artisans or contractors who can do this type of work. Maybe a very good, experienced carpenter is all we need?

In 2011 "This Old House" did a restoration of an historic house in Bedford, MA. They restored the windows using a company, "Window Woman of New England," run by Alison Hardy. But that is New England, and further "This Old House" has the resources and contacts to find people. She did very intricate work.

So, the question is how does the average home owner proceed? How do you find these artisans?

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There is or was a custom wood window 'couple' in west Kansas, near Dighton. As I remember they replaced or refurbished the clock tower windows at Fort Leavenworth. Once you find a craftsman to do the work, I hope you will be able to afford the cost. New, and much more efficient wood windows are available and MUCH less cost probably. Can be a close match to your existing.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 7:42PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

If they are worth saving, be prepared to spend a pretty penny on them.

There is nothing prettier than restored and updated wood windows.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 8:43PM
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Richard, I have a national listing of 300+ window specialists, but none closer to you than the fellow in Lawrence, or way over in St. Louis, or up in Omaha. As you already suspect, the best way may be to find a carpenter or woodworker who already knows how to do careful, thoughtful work on these older buildings, and then ask him (or her!) to work on one of your windows and see how they do. Check with the people in the Kansas State historic preservation office who may be able to help you find such a carpenter or window specialist. There are a lot of details on how to do this window work at the forum of website, but it is against the rules here for me to post a link to it.

The "national association..." you mentioned is just a private facebook group.

You can get some details on window preservation work (and see who is doing it by looking at the members listing) at the forum of the national Window Preservation Standards Collaborative:

John Leeke

Here is a link that might be useful: Window Preservation Standards Collaborative

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 7:23AM
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Wait a minute, I do have a window specialist listed, right nearby Olathe. Talk with Corey or Dan at:

Pishny Restoration Services
12202 West 88th Street
Lenexa, Kansas 66215

They usually work only for commercial clients, but I just talked with Dan who said it would be OK to pass their contact info along to you. Feel free to mention my name.

John Leeke

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Or you do the work yourself.

It is not all that hard, just time consuming.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 1:37PM
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I have more information now on my windows. I talked today to a well known, retired, restoration expert from Lawrence Kansas. The windows we have were custom built at the same time the house was built in 1994. We do not know who built them since we could find no label on the windows. He cited that the rot we have in some of the windows and the failure of some of the double panes is characteristic of newer wood windows. He stated that careful painting and maintenance would have slowed down the process, but the windows are not old growth timber. Also he stated that the double panes of that era have at most a life of 20 years, so we are seeing the beginning of their degradation.

His own opinion was that if the windows were his, they could be restored to a relatively good enough condition to last maybe another five or 10 years, but he would also put storm windows up. I won't go into much more detail, but the math is changed maybe quite a bit in that these windows were not recycled from 1905, therefore how much money should be put into restoration versus putting up new windows and even custom made new wood windows?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 9:07PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

If you approach the 40% mark of investment for repair vs. replacement, I would opt for replacements.

The glass will be more efficient and the materials bulletproof (depending on what you choose).

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 9:20PM
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1994 is not old enough to be worth a huge effort.

1954 would be worth a decent effort.

1914 would be worth a serious effort.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 4:12PM
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I just signed on tonite to post something on this very subject. I have a turn-of-the-century semi in historic Columbia, PA and don't want to lose my old style wavy glass, or authentic look. My idea is to retro fit new jamb liners for weatherstripping and air infiltration needs and leaving the single pane with storms, as the storms are first quality from say 1965?
Wish me luck!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:41PM
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Making a space for jamb liners can require cutting wood off the side edges of the sash, which reduces the strength of the joints at the corners of the sashes. This can lead to the failure of the joints later on.
Weatherstripping at the edges of the sash can be done with lower costs and with less damage to the sashes and can be just as effective as jamb liners in limiting air infiltration.

Historic HomeWorks

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 7:35AM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Why not just replace the storms with something that is more air tight and has Low-e?

+1 on cutting the sashes at all.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 4:00PM
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Or hit up Resource Conservation in Baltimore, MD for some of the plastic 'flipper' seals that are designed for the edges of double hung sashes.

They have felt seals for use at the parting rail in the middle also.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 5:43PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

The interior window should be retrofitted regardless of what you do with the storm window.

If you have poorly sealing storms right now, they would be worth upgrading as well.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:15PM
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Thanks guys. I'll be looking up that Balto, MD company.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:47AM
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    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:26AM
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This is such a good subject. Everyone tells me, except the local window whisperer david clark (nationally known) that I should restore my old windows. He took one listen at the morning traffic coming by and even he agreed a $ 500 restoration pet window would still not cut it on the niise. Id still need an interior storm and these windows already had their wavy glassfall out. Restoration seems futile???

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:01PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

While the improved air tightness will help with the noise, you best bet in this case would be a storm window with laminated glass.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 7:14AM
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