Todd Spraggins is grappling with a question that many owners of historic homes have faced: If the original windows are in poor condition, should they be restored, upgraded with better glass, or completely replaced?
In Spraggins’s case, the originals are painted shut and have broken weights, and he plans a variety of energy upgrades for the house. “So,” he writes in this recent Q&A post, “I’m debating replacing windows completely (or sash replacements) or doing my own repairs and upgrades.”
If he replaces the windows, he expects to have trouble matching a detail on the existing sash called a sash horn. That’s a small flourish on the stiles of the upper sash. Spraggins has been unable to track down a U.S. manufacturer that makes a window with this detail.
“My other option is to do weatherstripping, install a spring-based chain, and replace glass with a good insulated-glass unit,” he adds. “My problem is I have no clue where to get really good IGUs in small quantity.”
New, restored, or somehow modified? That’s the starting point for this Q&A Spotlight.
Keep the old windows
To Greg Smith, it’s an open-and-shut case.
“Personally I wouldn’t consider window replacement in a 1901 Victorian,” he writes. “I would be firmly on the side of restoration in your situation (assuming they are original). Also, I would avoid replacing the glass in the original windows as much as possible.”
Smith thinks that replacing the single-pane glass in vintage windows is “rarely a good idea and often way more trouble than it’s worth.”
Instead, he suggests Spraggins consider storm windows rather than insulated glass units. “Performance-wise, adding dual-panel low-e storm windows to your refurbished originals would give you better energy performance results than substituting IGUs for…