Restore or Replace: What Are Your Options for Old Style Windows?
Old style windows can lend a lot of charm to your house, but they do have their drawbacks. Here’s where you should draw the line with your vintage windows.
It’s common for ambitious home buyers to pick up older homes as a project house. Maybe the home has some damage from neglect or simply never received upgrades to more modern code standards.
The temptation you may face in that situation is simply to gut the building and start over. You plan on replacing everything from the flooring to the roofing and the windows.
Before you lock down on that plan too hard, you should spend a little time considering whether you should replace or restore the old style windows in that project house. While you should replace any broken panes in the old windows as a practical matter, there are benefits and pitfalls for both window replacement and window restoration.
Keep reading and we’ll walk you through the major considerations for making the choice between those window options.
Most old windows consist of glass and wood. The people who built them understood that even well-maintained wood would eventually fail. They expected future homeowners to replace the wooden components and reinstall the windows.
If you know what you’re doing, you can make those repairs yourself for nothing more than the direct cost of the wood itself. You also face the indirect costs of electricity and time. That second one often proves the dealbreaker for busy adults.
Restoring old style windows this way is often cheaper than replacing the windows. If you must outsource the wood repairs, however, you can tack on a massive fee for a professional woodworker’s labor. That can drive the price well above what you would typically pay for replacement windows.
If you lack time or skill for a major window repair project and want to save on the cost, replacing the windows is the most practical course of action.
Modern windows employ a multi-pane approach that often includes inert gases. This approach means that windows don’t conduct heat or cold very well. your living spaces retain the heat or cool better, while your furnace or air conditioner don’t run as long or as often.
Heating and cooling often account for a huge percentage of a home’s utility bill, which means replacement windows make sense for cutting those costs.
One important caveat with replacement windows is that the improved energy efficiency almost never translates into fully recouping your investment. While you will save money on heating and cooling, it’s typically a few hundred dollars a year.
Choosing replacement windows is about a better quality of life, rather than a strict financial benefit.
Older, single-pane windows routinely transfer heat out of the home and let cold into the home. That drives up heating and cooling costs.
Many of the other energy efficiency problems in old windows have simple solutions. You can fix some drafty windows with a little weather stripping and caulk.
Weather stripping prevents leaks where the window seats itself in the sill. Caulk secures the pane in place and seals any small cracks around the glass.
Despite certain weaknesses in heat or cool retention, old windows do boast a certain advantage over modern windows in the longevity department. After all, historic windows often survived for decades or more with little or no attention.
Contemporary windows can last for quite a while. A general guideline is that windows will hold up for around 15-20 years.
For most homeowners, that seems like more than enough time. With such a highly mobile society, many homeowners rightly assume that they will sell a home long before a second round of window replacement becomes necessary.
If you expect to stay in a home for longer than that and can tolerate the heating and cooling costs, sticking with the original windows can make sense. You might not ever replace them.
Retain The Original Look and Feel
For some, retaining the original look and feel of a home matters more than other considerations. The original wooden windows often make a powerful contribution to that look and feel.
For example, the original glass in an old home often has a wavy quality that you don’t see in contemporary glass. That waviness is the result of glass making techniques no longer in common use for residential windows, which makes modern replacements hard to come by.
For some home buyers, original windows or restored windows using the original glass is a crucial element in their purchase decision. They want as much authenticity as they can get. Modern windows damage that authenticity and your selling price with these potential buyers.
Window Replacement Restrictions
You may also encounter certain restrictions on replacements. For example, a listed historic building must often make repairs within certain guidelines to remain a listed historic building.
Let’s say you acquire a building and discover it possesses some historic significance. Maybe someone famous lived there for a time or it was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
You must take great care before you make significant changes to the structure if you want to get a building listed. As a general rule, assume any changes or repairs you make to the windows should also conform with the historic restoration guidelines.
Parting Thoughts on Restoring or Replacing Old Style Windows
Deciding on whether you should restore or replace old style windows isn’t a straightforward process. If authenticity matters to you or you think it will for future buyers, restoration may make sense. Future buyers may reduce an offer based on the contemporary windows.
For the cost-conscious, time-strapped adult, replacement is often the most expedient path. After all, you must live in the house. Replacing the windows offers quality of life improvements and often happens faster than restoration.
Forde Windows & Remodeling, Inc. provides window replacement and remodeling services in the Chicago area. For more information or to schedule a free estimate, contact us today.