Why Restore Old Windows in Historic Homes?

May 10, 2016 8:30:00 AM Christina Wilson

Windows are the eyes of a house.” They define the character of the home and create a visual impact that distinguishes its curb appeal. On historic homes, the windows are frequently an important element of the architectural integrity. Their design, craftsmanship, or other qualities may make them worthy of preservation.

You love your old Washington DC brick house with its original wooden windows. But, to be honest, old windows can be a challenge to maintain and repair. Many owners of historic homes, in seeking ways to improve the energy efficiency, consider new replacement windows. If you want to preserve the historical characteristics of your home, energy-efficient replacement windows made for newer homes may not be right. So, what are your options? Should you restore or replace original windows?

Deciding between window replacement and window restoration can be a tough choice. Here are some pros and cons of each:

Should You Restore Old Windows?

There are benefits to restoring original windows…

  • The original materials and authentic design are preserved.
  • Most historic windows were built of durable wood taken from large trees, and may now be extremely rare.
  • Any damage to the surrounding area during a restoration is minimal, and usually only cosmetic.
  • Unique, beautiful original leaded or stained glass details can be left undisturbed.
  • If the windows are in good shape to begin with, restoration might be surprisingly affordable.

...but there are some drawbacks as well.

  • Simple restoration of single-pane windows provides no significant energy savings. However, adding storm windows is an effective way to gain energy efficiency.
  • Restoration can take a great deal of time, depending on the style and condition of the original windows.
  • Removal of lead paint requires costly, specialized removal.

Should You Replace Old Windows?

Modern replacement windows have some advantages…

  • Replacement windows can be well-insulated, cutting down on energy costs and noise.
  • They are easy to open and shut.
  • They come with efficient, thorough weather stripping.
  • You can install replacement windows quickly.
  • The architectural designs of old windows can be replicated, although they might be costly.

...but replacing original windows in historical buildings can be challenging.

  • Removing the existing windows can damage the surrounding wallboards, stucco, or plaster and can lead to expensive repairs.
  • Replacement windows with pulley systems, bubbled glass, and other historic details necessitate a custom order and can become very expensive.
  • If your home has a landmark or historic designation, reviews of the window replacement details will be required.

Whether you choose to replace or restore the beautiful windows in your old home, make sure that you research the options fully.

Source: Old House Web


Renaissance Development, a leader in historic preservation, specializes in the repair and restoration of historic DC brick buildings. We love old homes and are committed to preserving their historic charm and value. If your renovation plan includes masonry or brick repair, contact us for a free site visit and project quote.


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