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Historic Windows: Replace or Restore?

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After posting our article, “Lifetime Sash comply with Secretary of the Interior’s Standards” on Facebook, we received some great questions.

This week we’re sharing those questions and answers with you. Before we dive right into the questions and answers, it seems appropriate to share with you the foundation for both.

For most preservation and restoration experts, the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties are the gospel.

The treatment standards were developed in 1992. The most recent update we can find was published by the Library of Congress in 1995.

What is the Secretary of the Interior?

The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for establishing professional standards and providing advice on the preservation and protection of all cultural resources listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

What is the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties?

The Standards were established to provide a framework and guidance for decision-making about work or changes to historic property. And though the The National Parks Service’s Treatment of Historic Properties page concludes with this statement: The Guidelines are advisory, not regulatory,” most preservationists and restorationists do everything within their power to comply.

Who Uses the Standards? The standards are used by Federal agencies to carry out their historic preservation responsibilities. State and local officials use them for rehabilitation projects and historic districts and planning commissions use them to guide their design review processes.

To What and Whom do the Standards Apply? The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, apply to all proposed development grant-in-aid projects assisted through the National Historic Preservation Fund, and are intended to be applied to a wide variety of resource types, including buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts.

The Standards address four treatments:

  1. Preservation
  2. Rehabilitation
  3. Restoration
  4. Reconstruction

The treatment Standards, developed in 1992, were codified as 36 CFR Part 68 in the July 12, 1995 Federal Register (Vol. 60, No. 133).

They replace the 1978 and 1983 versions of 36 CFR 68 entitled, “The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation Projects.”

The Guidelines in this book also replace the Guidelines that were published in 1979 to accompany the earlier Standards.

The official guidelines state that:

[…]The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties are only regulatory for projects receiving federal grant-in-aid funds; otherwise, the Standards and Guidelines are intended only as general guidance for work on any historic building.

Finally, another regulation, 36 CFR Part 67, focuses on “certified historic structures” as defined by the IRS Code of 1986. The “Standards for Rehabilitation” cited in 36 CFR 67 should always be used when property owners are seeking certification for Federal tax benefits.

Wood Window Makeover’s Lifetime Sash Complies Fully with The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Preservation

The first question wasn’t really a question… it was a statement in response to our blog and facebook post. We have a large national audience and we love the opportunity to share the value of Wood Window Makeover’s Lifetime Sash and our preservation and restoration philosophy.

Question | Comment #1:

Standards #2 and #6 say to avoid removal of historic fabric. It’s one thing to argue for in-kind replacement if replacement is necessary, but challenging restoration and repair altogether actually goes against the standards.

The conversation went back and forth for a few hours. I’ve consolidated the answer to the question.

Answer:

Here’s what the Standards for Preservation numbers 2 and 6 say:

#2. The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The replacement of intact or repairable historic materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.

#6. The existing condition of historic features will be evaluated to determine the appropriate level of intervention needed. Where the severity of deterioration requires repair or limited replacement of a distinctive feature, the new material will match the old in composition, design, color, and texture.

Let’s answer this concern in accordance with the “Standard’s” guidelines:

Standards for Preservation #2:

  • Wood Window Makeover Lifetime Sash retains and preserves the historic character of a property
  • When the original sash has fully served and exhausted its lifetime use because of irreparable rot or damage, our Lifetime Sash incorporates the original glass and historic materials whenever possible

Standards for Preservation #6:

  • We evaluate every single historic sash to determine the appropriate level of intervention needed
  • Where the severity of deterioration requires repair or limited replacement of a distinctive feature, the new material will match the old in composition, design, color, and texture – every time

In addition, Wood Window Makeover’s Lifetime Sash comply with the Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation

  • #5 – Distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a historic property are always preserved
  • #6 – Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.

Our Lifetime Sash also comply with the Secretary’s Standards for Restoration, as well:

  • #2 – Materials and features from the restoration period will be retained and preserved. The removal of materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize the period will not be undertaken.
  • #5 – Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize the restoration period will be preserved.
  • #6 – Deteriorated features from the restoration period will be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture, and, where possible, materials.

Question | Comment #2:

We are all well aware that replacement is allowed in certain circumstances under the standards.

Why would the window restoration industry want to buy your product and use it appropriately if you’re saying that nobody can stand behind or have peace of mind about a restored window.

You are simplifying reality just like the vinyl pirates to push your product, but still sounding preservation enough to blend in with that demographic.

Answer:

Restored windows are neglected in the same way replacements are neglected. When the sash is rotted, restore it with a sash that won’t rot. Wood Window Makeover’s Lifetime Sash won’t rot. They are made with materials that will last a lifetime – just like the original sash.

Lifetime Sash are made with more affordable materials, too.

When we patch splinters – because we can – and because we, the preservationists, love the feeling of our own work of art, are we really serving the spirit of the home, the window, the craftsman and the homeowner?

Are we serving the need of our own ego?

Are we serving the window debt cycle?

When we patch up a rotted window and give it another year or two, maybe even five depending on the elements… are we really serving the spirit of the building?

This is Not About Conforming to the Standards

The argument isn’t whether Lifetime Sash conforms to the Standards – it is clear they do conform.

I turn this question back to you:

Are you, the historic wood window craftsperson, serving the integrity and best interest of the building, the window, and the homeowner?

If we aren’t serving the highest purpose, we are not doing right by historic preservation – at all.

I know of no historic wood window restorationist that guarantees their work for life.

That’s a problem.

That problem enrolls owners of historic properties into a cycle of debt.

Whether they use your historic restoration services to protect, preserve and restore or, God forbid, they go the way of the manufactured synthetic replacement window, they cannot get a financial break on their historic windows.

One by one, as the original historic windows require replication, we serve the highest purpose of the building, the window and the owner by using Wood Window Makeover’s historically accurate Lifetime Sash.

Question | Comment #3:

Are you suggesting we replace all the old windows? Replace the jambs and sills, too, with your Lifetime product?

What is the cost difference in restoring an entire window unit with no rot vs. replacing and finishing a brand new window unit with Lifetime product?

Answer:

We do not suggest replacing all the old windows… that’s crazy. We recommend doing an analysis of each window. We recommend using a principled, objective approach (that of course complies with the Standards) to identifying what the window needs.

We explain our approach in a little more detail toward the end of this article.

When the sash needs to be replaced, replace it with a Lifetime Sash. It only makes sense to replace it with a sash that will last a lifetime, like the original did.

In addition to the Standards we’ve been referring to, The National Park Service provides “Preservation Briefs.”

The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows” brief says:

If extensive replacement of parts is necessary and the job becomes prohibitively expensive it may be more practical to purchase new sash which can be installed into the existing frames.

If you have an historic sash that needs to be replaced, give us a call or send us a request for pricing. We provide Lifetime Sash to homeowners, commercial building owners and historic contractors.

You’ll find that the Lifetime Sash will typically cost less up front and will always cost less in the long run than continuing to patch and splice a rotted sash that has lived its full life.

Lifetime Sash ends the historic building owner’s cycle of debt.

No more repairing sash that have succumb to nature, the environment or the harsh treatment blast upon it by your other building contractors (painters, pressure washers, etc.)

No need to buy a synthetic replacement window that breaks down and requires replacing in 10 – 15 years.

Most Lifetime Sash can be ordered and received within 7 days.

What treatment will best put it back the way it was when it was built?

We take a strong stand on doing the work as though the money isn’t involved. This allows us to perform an objective analysis of the window and its parts. It allows us to develop a sound preservation or restoration approach that is based on what’s best for the historic integrity of the window, the home and the spirit of the original craftsman and his or her craftsmanship.

In our thorough objective window analysis, we also consider the remaining life of the window and its parts, the sash and its mechanics. We analyze the treatment that is best for the:

  • Window
  • Building
  • Homeowner

What treatment will best put it back the way it was when it was built?

We realize that to many lifelong preservationists, the thought of a Lifetime Sash is alarming. It sets off all kinds of bells and whistles because it could mean the end of your maintenance and restoration revenue.

There are millions of historic windows in this country that need you.

Let’s remove all of the obstacles to getting those windows restored.

Let’s put those windows back to the way they were when they were built!

Whether you are a building owner or a contractor we can customize your Lifetime Sash. We can even turn your order around in less than a week, if needed.

Have questions or an order?

Fill out our form below and we’ll contact you immediately.

Ready to order your Lifetime Sash?

Give us a call or give us your information and we’ll call you.




Let’s Talk About Your New Window Restoration Business


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Steve
Steve
CEO & Craftsman Steve founded Wood Window Makeover in 2006. His passion and vision for community, connection, historic preservation and excellence in craftsmanship has been a catalyst for homeowners and historical organizations to connect and preserve. He started the annual Historical Homes Workshop to teach and inspire others to passionately and responsibly preserve and connect.

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