Restoring your windows

So the window company has given you an estimate of many thousands of dollars to replace the windows in your house. They are going rip out your original hardwood windows and put in soft wood or vinyl windows and somehow fill in the gaps around them. In just a few days you will have the worst possible windows money can buy and the likelihood of leaking. They will probably only last 10-30 years, and then the window company will be happy to come back and do it all over again. Sound familiar?

As a painter, I am often called to reglaze windows before repainting them. This is probably my favorite part of house painting because I know I am giving the old windows renewed life and hopefully the homeowner will not succumb to the scam artists known as “window replacement” companies. These companies want you to throw away your old windows (that may have lasted a hundred years or more) and replace them with vinyl or soft wood double pane windows that will deteriorate in decades. They literally have to be “replaced” since they cannot be fixed. Often the gases between the panes fog up and that can’t be fixed either. They tout the energy savings of their windows, but studies have proven over and over that those energy savings will never add up to the price of the windows before they have to be replaced. Storm windows can usually give the same or better energy savings that they are claiming. You are literally throwing away your gold jewelry and replacing it with junk. If that’s not a scam, I don’t know what is. And I haven’t even gotten to the part where it ruins the historic integrity of your home and looks really, really fake.

There are many resources on the interwebs to show you how to care for your original hardwood double hung windows. Scott Sidler of the Craftsmanblog is one of the best. But I have to say I am disappointed that all of these great preservationists make it seem like you have to remove the sashes (moving parts of the window) in order to work on them. You do not. I think this one step keeps a lot of people from working on their windows, especially large ones. If you are comfortable on a ladder, you can reglaze and paint your windows in place. If you need to replace a sash cord, you will have to get at the side of the sash and the weight in the pocket, but that may not require full surgery. Watch several videos, read up, and experiment. You also do not need to remove all the glazing from around the panes. If it won’t come out, it’s doing its job, so you can glaze over divots and pockets to make the smooth angle that sheds water.

One trend I’ve been seeing in Atlanta is that the “painters” will dig out the crumbling glazing and just paint over the remains without reglazing. This not only looks terrible, it does nothing to help keep water out of your house. Water is likely to seep in and rot the delicate muntins that hold the panes in. I have also had clients say that the “painters” broke some panes pressure washing or painting and then charged them extra to fix them! Unacceptable, to say the least.