Historic Windows: Replace or Restore?
April 6, 2017
Window Restoration: Where do you Start?
April 18, 2017
Show all


A client called me out to look at the windows on the second floor of his home, where he lives with his wife and kids.  They live in a typical south Tampa neighborhood called Beach Park; it’s been there since the 1920’s.  Renovations were done before they bought the home. The second floor windows were replaced, but for some reason they hadn’t replace the first floor windows. It was an interesting comparison and contrast.

Rotten Renovations

Rotten Renovations

The renovation was 15 years ago. Now the second floor windows are rotting.  The first floor windows are still fine.  Painted shut, but solid, intact and good to go.  With a little elbow grease, they could be working fine in no time. They aren’t rotten.

Rotten Renovations

The homeowners were looking for a solution. I wasn’t the first to come and offer something. They had already talked to several replacement window companies.

True innovation is hard.  I don’t pretend to know what led the previous homeowners to replace their windows, but I am sure they made the best decision they could with the information they had.

Fifteen years later, the evidence is clear – the attempted innovation in windows was just that – an attempt.

A fail.

What innovations?  The windows are wood, like the originals, but they are mounted in innovative plastic tracks and held in by springs.

This is the type of innovation that serves the maker more than the buyer.

The innovation seeks to convince a client to trade good wood frames for cheap plastic tracks, and there’s about as much plastic in the new tracks as there are in a couple of tupperware dishes.

Add a couple of springs and BANG!

You have a window that goes up and down and costs next to nothing to make.

We’ve seen what happens to plastic when it is left out in the sun.

It gets brittle and breaks down.

And where is a window?  In the sun.  Lol.

A client is lucky to get 15 years out of a product like that.

So if they have innovative new tracks, they must have innovative new wood windows mounted to them.

What’s the innovation?  Cheap wood that rots.

Again. The innovation serves the maker more than the buyer.

Funny thing is that the original windows already have tracks.  The new innovative tracks install right on top of the originals.  So now the client actually has two of what they need.  Why not just make the sashes and put them back in the original tracks the way they were?

Makes sense to me!  But who am I ?

Owners of historic homes face this decision all the time.  Looking at failing windows, the new window salesperson promises the latest innovation won’t fail. (The salesperson is actually counting on the hope that the homeowner will move before they go bad.)

Fifteen years later, when you compare and contrast the new and the old, the conclusion in this case is that the original windows were built better than the new ones.

This can be very frustrating. Culture has shifted. Most people have come to believe that an old window isn’t worth working on, so much so that our culture hasn’t developed anyone to do it.

Homeowners call who they can and don’t have many choices.

Why don’t we just put it back the way it was?

Why? For the most part, they can’t.

Nobody knows how to do it.

But it’s really not that hard.

People are smarter than windows.

They go up and go down, for crying out loud.

They swing open like a door.

They lock.

I’ve figured it out, and others can too.

Most new, innovative replacement windows for historic homes are designed to slide right into the original window frame.  They remove the old sashes, (the part with the glass that goes up and down) and slip the new unit in.  They nail it, caulk it, trim it out and walk away. Done.

So the original window is actually still there.   The tracks, pulleys, weights, jambs, casings – still there, just covered up with cheap plastic, wood and caulk.

It’s a facade.

All anyone needs to put it back the way it was is to remove the cheap facade and put the sashes back.

You don’t need a whole new window.

Just the part with the glass that goes up and down.

It’s all there.

So that’s what we sold this client.  Lifetime sashes.

One of our preferred partners, whom we trained, is going to resurrect the original tracks, frames, pulleys and weights. They will string in new ropes or chains and put it back the way it was.

And really, the way it should be.

We made all new Lifetime sashes for this client. They are guaranteed not to fail for at least 50 years. We painted them the color the client chose and will be putting them in shortly.

We have done this more times that we can count.

Putting the windows back the way they were.

We stopped the debt cycle of getting new windows every 15 years; not just for this homeowner, but for every new homeowner.

And, we really, legitimately, saved the client money.

Replacement window companies don’t like it.  But it’s the right thing to do.

Please follow and like us:
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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Wood Window Makeover