If eyes are the windows to the soul, your home’s windows are the eyes to your home’s soul.
So maybe your windows are not as special as this one, but even the most mundane old windows are important to the architecture of your home.
Historic windows are so important to a home’s character that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has mass amounts of literature on their website regarding old windows. “While being very beautiful, original historic windows also serve a great purpose – they impart a building's inside-outside connection. … Above all, they offer clues to a building's history because they are integral aspects of architectural design. However, despite all of these attributes, windows are an easy target and are all too often blamed for energy loss. Commonly, people jump to replace their historic windows because companies promise that their replacement windows will not only save them time and money, but that their products and services are the "green" thing to do. In fact, a thriving industry has grown around the perceived need to replace rather than restore.” (National Trust Website)
Moreover, many states have actually launched window preservation programs. Indiana and Maine listed historic windows on their “Most Endangered” lists in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
If you are looking to resell your home, there are many buyers who in fact want to purchase a historic home. You should know, however, that these buyers are often much more educated than your average buyer – they know what to look for when purchasing a truly historic home, and inexpensive replacement windows can kill the sale.
The standard vinyl replacement window company usually offers one option – an inexpensive white window with frames that are thin and flimsy, and glass that is even thinner.
A quality standard (roughly 3 foot x 5 foot) double-hung replacement window should run about five hundred dollars. This gives you quality Low-E glass; options for historically-accurate grille patterns; and solid, well-proportioned sash frames. By well-proportioned, we mean that the frame width looks like it could actually hold a piece of glass in it. This sort of window gives you energy efficiency worth spending the money for, and also gives you a solid, historically accurate window to replace your old windows.
Compare that to the inexpensive vinyl replacements that are advertised at “$150 installed”. These vinyl replacements have limited options; are not considered historically accurate because the proportions of the frames do not match what you are replacing; and generally look cheap. (You know, you drive by and the glass looks funny.) Fortunately, there are a number of wonderful and affordable alternatives.
A company by the name of Inngerglass makes Compression-Fit interior storm windows. These windows are used on a number of historic projects nationwide, and particularly in the North East, where the winters are much worse than here in Virginia. The company has several options, including a beautiful double hung version. These storms will run about double the windows offered by the vinyl-replacement companies, with an additional up-charge for Low-E glass, but they will increase your energy efficiency comparable to the $500 window AND allow you to keep your old historic windows. And these qualify for the energy tax credits too!
A customer testimony from Innerglass sums it up nicely: “We were so happy to find a storm window that allows our 1880 Farm house to keep its historic look in the winter.” ~ Janice G.
Think before you replace. Please.
(This post was originally written by Gerald Forsburg on September 20, 2011.)