Don’t make the wrong choice.

When it comes to windows on an historic house – watch out       It can be very confusing with all the hype.     At least, Anderson Windows actually admits it.        With that hype comes confusion.

The simple question when dealing with windows: “Why am I replacing these windows?”     To save money?       To make my house more energy efficient?      Do the windows look bad?     Am I doing it because I have been told continually that I have to replace the windows?

First, if at all possible – do not replace your old historic windows.         The best bet if they are at least in reasonable condition is to put storms on them.

There are simple aluminum storms that can go on the outside of the house or if you want to have that real ‘historic’ look, there are sophisticated interior storms that literally block almost completely the cold from the outside.     And yet, they can be easily removed during warmer seasons.

Second, if the windows have deteriorated then replace them with wood windows with true divided light.       Manufacturers benefit selling cheap windows that are actually complete glass with fake muntins on them.      Yes, you may get your money back after 60 years from energy savings but what about the immediate hit on your equity?        Check with DIY Network, check with HGTV; when dealing with the 8.3% of houses out in the United States that are a hundred years or less, don’t replace them with these modern windows.   

It cheapens your authentic historic house and you lose far more in property value than you will ever save on energy efficiency.


If you purchase wood windows, make sure each pane of glass has its own area.    Worried about loss of energy?     Put in small panes with double glass. (I wouldn’t do it but if you’re the nervous type, go ahead.)

Most energy loss in old windows comes from the casement surrounding the windows – not the glass.

In my situation, I had to replace three windows because a previous owner put in ‘modern’ windows.        I went with quality, wood windows, expertly installed by qualified workmen with individual divided light panes.     It looks stupendous.       The tracks for each window are high tech but largely not visible to an onlooker.       I have passed by dozens of homes that have made this intelligent choice and they all look good.

As for the rest who made the wrong choice, well, you can’t cry over money flushed down the drain.(Well, now you will since you are no longer ignorant.)      Just remember to make the right choice in the future.

Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful.  If it’s bad, it’s experience.”

-Victoria Holt (1906–1993) British writer

-P. Preservationist

PS. I encourage when looking for qualified local craftsmen to check out the Newburyport Preservation Craftsman Directory.

Window Diagram

C. Pane or Light  Glass held in place by glazing putty and metal glazing points 

G. Muntin Strip that separates the panes of a window. The shape, or profile, of a muntin provides a clue to the window’s age.

I. Casing  The finished, often decora­tive, framework around a window

This entry was posted in Conservation, Economics, Education, finances, Health and wellness, Preservation, Restoration. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Don’t make the wrong choice.

  1. marc says:

    historic monuments sometimes require window replacements and can be hard to find the match for the replacement.

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