Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Preservation Tuesday: Maintaining Historic Windows

I am going to try to start featuring a historic preservation story each week, on Tuesdays, as a way to maintain focus on the topic.

The inaugural piece is on historic windows vs. replacement windows, especially vinyl, given the big marketing campaigns by replacement window companies ("Thompson Creek carves niche as Washington home town window-maker," Washington Post, but favorably), the fact that vinyl windows tend to fail within 20 years, and how as winter approaches, we're thinking more about windows, cold air leaks and weatherization.

Note that tomorrow night, Historic Takoma (which serves historic districts in both DC and Maryland) is holding a workshop on repair of historic windows. From their website:

Wednesday, October 8, 7-8:30PM - Neil Mozer of Mozer Works demonstrates how to restore your historic windows. In the Takoma Park (Maryland) Historic District, window restoration is eligible for a combined County and State tax credit of 45%.

Later this month, a follow-up Tuesday historic preservation piece will list DC-area historic window repair and restoration services suggested by participants from the HistoricWashington e-list (yahoogroup).


By Ana Lopez for Right Path, a New York City-based windows restoration company

One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of Manhattan are the famous brownstones and pre-war buildings. These gorgeously detailed historic homes found in coveted NYC neighborhoods such as Brooklyn Heights and the Upper East Side feature some of New York City's most elegant architecture and significant landmarks. With several of these buildings dating back to mid-1850s, some even earlier, how is that the oldest buildings in New York City and all other cities for that matter, keep up their appearances? Well, through restoration, of course. Though restoration is important for all aspects of a historic home, one of the most important conservation points for an older home are its beloved windows.
Brownstones in Harlem
Brownstones in Harlem by Apostolis Giontzis, on Flickr.

According to the editorial staff on Old House Journal, thirty percent of windows being replaced are less than ten years old – these windows have problems like failed seals on insulated glass units or the issue of being fogged up – historic wood windows don’t have these problems. A positive thing about older homes is that historic windows work better and cost less than replacement over the long term. These windows are more durable than their plastic, newer counterparts.

So what are some other notes to consider when repairing the windows for a historic or older building? Here are four things to keep in mind:

1. Uniqueness – Not all windows are the same in older buildings. It’s important to inspect and prescribe treatment for them individually.

2. Authenticity – These windows are the eyes to the soul of your historic home. Characteristics like original mold profiles or old wavy glass won’t be found much elsewhere, so it’s crucial to pick restoration techniques that maintain a home’s “personality.”

3. Upkeep – Do some research and find out the type of upkeep your windows need. Texas window restorer Pam Rodriguez knows that historic windows can be made to last 50 to 100 more years with proper restoration and full refurbishing, but small maintenance tweaks can also increase the life of a window for 10 to 20 more years.

4. Energy efficiency – Old windows have the potential to be energy efficient, if they are upgraded properly. Simple and cheap techniques -- such as exterior storms, interior air panels and curtains, and even roller shades -- can meet current energy-saving standards and maintain architectural integrity without the costs of replacement.

Refreshing the windows in historic homes through removal and board-up, restoration and rehabilitation, reproduction, finishes, and re-installation can make a surprising difference in overall operability and aesthetic.

These small, affordable changes can make a noticeable difference when a historical building or home is undergoing a restoration. You might even opt for historic embellishments on the inside of your home to match the vibe.

Historic windows often look nice accompanied with plantation shutters or lace curtains (appropriateness depends on regional variations in historic practices, for example shutters were not typical in DC or Brooklyn, but were in the South).

Not really a do it yourselfer? Window restoration should go through at least the inspection process with a professional.

The windows in this NYC institutional building were restored by Right Path.

Right Path, a window restoration company in New York, has extensive experience with historic wooden windows and offers a variety of services for historic homes. Whether it’s help with hand-carved details or custom historic weight and chain wood window fabrication that your home needs, let a pro help enhance your old homes and landmarks to their former splendor.

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