Historic Windows

It’s that time of year; the temperature drops at night, your house feels drafty, and around mid-October the heat turns on (unless you’re way down south). You wonder why your house is so cold and how you can make it warmer. Everywhere you read about new energy efficient windows and you consider replacing your windows.

Before you replace those historic wood windows, STOP! Your house is not losing its heat through windows; but rather, mainly through the roof and uninsulated walls. Keep those historic beauties in their frames! And if you have windows with real muntins and individual window panes, then you definitely have something worthwhile. The cost of replacing your historic window could take 100 years to make up for its cost.

Don’t believe me? Check out the Historic Windows Resource Page from Preservation North Carolina, and pay special attention to the NCPTT Testing the Energy Performance of Wood Windows in Cold Climates report and the replacement cost calculator from Historic Omaha. Note that it will take 41 years for the windows to pay for themselves!

Okay and aside from cost, we have to recognize the aesthetic value of historic windows and the historic value of these windows. Once removed, it is a part of the building that is gone forever. Windows are a very important part of architectural style. Take a look at this brief slideshow from the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota titled, “Historic Wood Windows: Why They Matter and How to Save Them.” Lastly, for a thorough review of why to retain and maintain historic windows, answers to your questions, window vocabulary, and resources, see the National Trust’s Window Tip Sheet. For repair information see Preservation Brief 9: The Repair of Historic Wood Windows from the NPS.

Do your research before believing the gimmicks of “energy efficient” window manufacturers and sellers. After all, they WANT you to replace your windows.