Monday, November 22, 2010

Save the Windows

The virtues of replacement windows are reinforced all around us--in the building codes, in commercials, by the IRS and the federal tax credit. But if you live in a pre-war house, the saying really is true: "They just don't make them like they used to." Save the Windows, brought to you by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, wants to get the word out that making some upgrades to your existing windows can also be energy efficient. 

By keeping and maintaining original windows, you are preserving a time when building was not just about efficiency. The greenest house is an existing house, and although new replacement windows may keep your house warm, most of these are vinyl, which are extremely toxic to manufacture and are not recyclable (unfortunately, most storm windows are also vinyl). My husband has argued with me many times that most people don't notice the materials of windows, and that I am just being an architecture snob. But I challenge anyone not to appreciate original wood windows in a historic house, especially when compared with vinyl windows.

Historic wood windows with true divided lites. Photo credit.

Here are some tips from Save the Windows:
  • Learn how to fix your windows yourself! With just a little guidance and a few small tools, you can make repairs and retrofit your windows on your own. Look through our list of workshops nationwide and our online training videos.
  • Improve the performance of your existing windows,
    • Caulk around window openings on the exterior to stop air from coming in.
    • Caulk around the window trim on the inside to block drafts.
    • Add weather stripping to the window sash. There are many types of weather stripping to suit various window types, budgets, and needs, from simple "rope" caulk to bronze.
    • Use a storm window or thermal panel. These can be placed on the interior or exterior and are available in a variety of styles. They may also qualify for a tax credit.
    • Install insulated shades or blinds—some of these qualify for tax credits.
    • Use insulated curtains or drapes to block cold air and to keep the hot sun out.
    • For more information, visit our windows page on PreservationNation.
  • Find the right contractor to fix your windows for you. We'll help you find a dependable and qualified contractor in your local community. Check out our contractor guide today.
Storm windows can be added each winter. Operable storm windows, like double hung, can be permanently installed and can be opened to not interfere with operations of the original window.
More References:


  1. I've purchased wood storm from Coppa Woodworking for 2 houses. They don't specifically advertise that they make them on their website (don't know why) but they are top notch! You have your choice of woods and they can pre-paint them! Made in the USA Not expensive either!!!

  2. Chris, that is great to hear. Thanks for the tip.

  3. We maintain our old windows by regularly cleaning the glass and have them painted also. As for the blinds and shutters, we take them to the dry cleaning shop here in Indianapolis. Less chances of dust may occur if both of the windows and shutters are clean.

  4. I've just downloaded iStripper, and now I enjoy having the best virtual strippers on my desktop.