The original windows in our historic homes can be repaired and can be energy efficient. Homeowners just need to know
what to do,
how to do it, and
who can help.
"I've...assessed the condition of more than a thousand [sashes], and never seen a sash that could not be repaired," wrote John Leeke, a nationally-known preservationist. Older original windows that need repair may seem like they are worn out and hopeless. In fact, they almost never are.
"[T]he repair...of existing windows is more practical than most people realize, ...because [they] lack...awareness of techniques for evaluation, repair, and weatherization" (National Park Service, Preservation Briefs 9 and 13.) Most repairs actually are pretty simple. Even for windows that need a good deal of repair, mostly they just need several different simple repairs.
And here's how! The Boston Edison web site now has a great deal of information on how to repair and restore windows. There is general information about historic window repair. For specific repairs, there are many how-to video demonstrations. How to refresh glazing, replace a broken pane, un-stick windows, restore rotted wood, replace a window rope, and many more. Take a look. DIY. Save some money.
Homeowners who cannot "do-it-yourself," there are specialists who can repair and weatherize windows. Unfortunately, many carpenters and general contractors don't know how to repair windows. Not knowing, they think that it can't be done. But it can! Fortunately, there are more and more skilled specialists in window repair and restoration, and in weatherizing. The web site lists some.
The web site also has information on how to make windows energy efficient. This also has how-to videos.
Since we live in an historic district, we also have an obligation to the historic preservation of our homes and our neighborhood. The main message from the Secretary of Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation of buildings is that whatever can be repaired should be repaired, not replaced. That is what historic preservation is all about. The same standard applies for windows. Any historic window that can be repaired should be repaired and preserved, not destroyed and replaced.
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