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Restore vs. Replace:  How to Decide?  

Restoration of original wood windows is usually less expensive, equally energy efficient, and more aesthetically rewarding than replacement windows.  But, there are a few situations where replacement may be necessary.  Here are the factors to consider:  

  • The condition of your original windows:  Even windows with broken elements or some deterioration can be repaired and restored.  Check out these examples from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  • Building codes governing a renovation:  If your windows are located in an area of the home you are renovating, you’ll need to check your local building codes for any special requirements.  For example, some codes require egress windows in all bedrooms, and original windows may or may not meet the requirements based on the size of the windows.  That said, you may be able to keep all or most original windows and simply add one new egress window to satisfy requirements.  Be sure your architect knows your preference: to keep original windows wherever possible.
  • Age and method of manufacture:  Any window created before 1950 is definitely worth trying to restore (at least get an assessment from a professional!).  Some newer windows, particularly those constructed of wood, can also be restored.  But others—e.g., those constructed of vinyl or aluminum—-simply weren’t made to be restored. When they wear out you’ll have to replace them.

Here’s an easy way to decide whether to restore or replace the windows in your home:  call us for an evaluation and estimatealways free, and we’re happy to help.

What About Energy Efficiency?


Concerns over loss of heat (or air conditioning) are among the top reasons homeowners consider window replacement. But you don’t need to compromise the beauty of your home to achieve energy efficiency:  A 2010 study comparing replacements and original windows paired with a storm found that “(1) the thermal performances of the two window systems are similar; and (2) taking all costs into account, it is more cost effective to add a storm window to an historical window, and it remains so at all times for the full 100-year life we considered.”   Here’s the full article.


A similar study was conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, California and was published by the State of California.  It concluded, “The addition of low-E storm windows to the prime [wood] window provided performance very similar to that of the replacement window, and expected differences in performance were only detectable through a sensitive fitting procedure.”


When you install a storm window, you create a static air chamber between the original window sashes and the storm glass.  Static air is the best insulation available – it’s what thermal windows are designed to create. But new thermal windows only give you a small channel of this insulation; a storm and your original windows create several inches of insulation.  No wonder they work!


If you’re concerned about saving energy, have your roof and attic evaluated.  Heat travels up – you’ll save much more by focusing on the top of your house than the windows. 


To make sure your original wood windows are well-maintained and energy-efficient, call us for an evaluation.  It may be that simple repairs like new glazing or installing an efficient storm will keep your windows energy-fit for all seasons—and looking beautiful, too!



Concerned About the Environment?


Don’t compromise on your values:  restoration is definitely the “green” choice.  You are keeping these lovely antiques out of garbage dumps and in the home where they belong.  Anytime you can reuse what you have rather than replacing it with a newly-manufactured item, you are conserving energy, land, and waste.


You’re also keeping replacements out of the garbage, because most vinyl or aluminum windows will have to be replaced in 20 to 30 years.  Today’s replacement windows are tomorrow’s landfill heaps.  And we haven’t even touched on the environmental impact of manufacturing vinyl replacements!


At Open Window Restoration, we use water- or soy-based glazing compounds, and environmentally friendly paint and finishing products. 



Donate Your Unwanted Windows or Hardware


If you must replace your original wood windows, please call us and allow us to pick up your wood windows and store them for future use in a restoration.  By doing so, you will: 

  • Reduce the cost for your contractor/handyman to haul them away
  • Keep useful wood windows out of landfills and garbage dumps
  • Contribute to the preservation of antique windows in our area

We will be happy to work with your contractor’s schedule. Bob, one of our founding partners, has been an independent builder and contractor for over 20 years, so he has exceptional experience in working with other professionals and handling window replacements.  Feel free to have your contractor call us to arrange pick-up or to answer any questions. 



If You Want to Start a Window Restoration Business


Our primary concern is helping to preserve original wood windows. The more businesses that support the effort, the more choices homeowners will have, and the more original windows will be saved.  So we welcome other craftsmen who want to jump in!


We would be happy to visit with you and share our experiences in getting started, resources we’ve discovered, and advice that’s helped us along the way.  We can also connect you to other window restoration experts who feel the same way.


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