Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement WindowsWood windows are an integral part of the innate energy efficiency of historical buildings. If we have learned anything from history it is that sometimes with all our modern advancements we do ourselves more harm than good.

Advancements in technology do not always produce better results, and construction technology isn’t exempt from that. Built in a time of readily available building materials and energy sources, modern building designs typically make poor use of both. Historical buildings were built when neither was in abundant supply and early designers made the most of building materials and design options to construct buildings with a powerful combination of harnessed natural resources and innovative design that worked together to maximize energy efficiency.

Everything from exterior paint colors, to locations of balconies, to numbers and placement of windows, to physical placement of buildings on lots was carefully considered to maximize heating, lighting, and ventilation in traditional construction.

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The results are astounding and studies have shown that properly restored and maintained 18th & 19th Century buildings can be just as energy efficient as new construction, and in many cases even more energy efficient. (Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have also shown that buildings built in the 1950’s through the 1970’s were the biggest energy consumers of all.)

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The historical wood windows in your building contribute to that energy efficiency and, contrary to urban legend, new replacement windows are not more energy efficient than historical wood windows. Typically, studies that conclude such a finding have compared new replacement windows with historical windows that

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have not been maintained or restored, are decaying, and have no complementary energy retrofits such as weather-stripping and storm windows.

If you would like to read these studies, you can access them in the resources section of our website.

Studies on energy efficiency also usually fail to consider “embodied energy”. Embodied energy represents the energy it took to manufacture a product. They say the greenest building is the one
already built when you consider this embodied energy – an existing energy investment that will never be able to be recaptured once you destroy the product it’s embodied in.

If the greenest building is the one already built, then the greenest window is the one already there. Historical wood windows have an embodied energy value that includes all the energy from harvesting and milling the wood to transporting and manufacturing the windows to installing them in your historical building.  Preserving existing windows conserves that embodied energy and reduces the use of additional energy when making replacement windows.

Which means that when you take all energy, energy expended on heating and cooling costs as well as the embodied energy, into consideration for defining the energy efficiency of windows – historical wood windows are far more energy efficient than replacement windows
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Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Blog

The Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office (PHPO) has launched a new blog “PA Historic Preservation” where  you can keep up with all the preservation happenings in Pennsylvania.

From their blog:

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“The Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office (PHPO) is part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). The Commission is the Commonwealth’s official history agency, and the Executive Director is designated as the State Historic Preservation Officer. Oversight of the Commission is provided by a board of Commissioners appointed by the Governor.

The role of the PHPO is to identify and protect the architectural and archaeological resources of Pennsylvania. Our responsibility is to work with individuals, communities, local governments, and state and federal agencies to educate Pennsylvanians about our heritage and its value, to build better communities through preservation tools and strategies, to provide strong leadership, both individually and through partnerships, and to ensure the preservation of Pennsylvania’s heritage.”

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The Pennsylvania Preservation Post

The PHMC also has an email newsletter, the “Pennsylvania Preservation Post”, you can subscribe to for information on preservation in Pennsylvania.  You can sign up on the PHPO blog (look on the sidebar at the right of any page to find the signup form) or visit: http://phmc.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe/post

 

 

 

Rhonda Sincavage (Associate Director for Intergovernmental Affairs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation) talks about what historic preservationists do, and what they look like (we’re not the little old, blue-haired women most people think of, she points out).  And most importantly, how historic preservation encourages economic growth, incubates independent and small business growth, promotes green building practices and sustainable construction, and builds a sense of community.

httpv://youtu.be/zwSPIRceSi0

The April/May 2010 issue of Old-House Journal listed the top ten restoration mistakes. Following these tips can help to save time and money (in the long run). The entire article can be found at: http://www.oldhousejournal.com/top-10-restoration-mistakes/magazine/1673

  1. Cheap Paint (good paint is hard to find – we are trying linseed oil paint on our house available from http://www.solventfreepaint.com/)
  2. Poor Paint Prep (paint will not adhere to dirt or loose paint)
  3. Mixing Metals (unlike metals can react)
  4. Epoxy Overuse (I would also add using the wrong type of epoxy, such as, marine or automobile filler on wood)
  5. Waterproofing Exteriors (houses need to breathe and moisture trapped behind the coatings can cause the underlining materials to rot)
  6. Waterproofing Interiors (use holistic building approach when solving water infiltration – look at source of water and ways to direct away from the house)
  7. Removing Masonry Finishes (removing paint or formstone from a brick wall is often not recommended because of the likelihood of damaging the brick by removing the veneer)
  8. Removing Wood Finishes (take care that the paint prep does not damage the wood underneath)
  9. Using the Wrong Mortar (use soft lime-based mortar with older brick to stop the damage from the thaw-freeze cycle – a good source is http://www.limeworks.us/)
  10. Bad Design (use water-shedding designs for all exterior repairs)

Restore Media (publishers of Old House Journal, Traditional Building, and Period Homes along with many other avenues to promote traditional trades and preservation) has developed a web site devoted to reports on traditional products.

This is a valuable resource complied in a central location for anyone interested in restoring or preserving their own historic building. They are located at http://www.traditionalproductreports.com/ and they are available by subscribing to their newsletter. The reports include articles about products, case studies, installation/treatment tips, and where to buy replacement products.

Topics include:

  • doors
  • windows
  • hardware
  • interior finishes/fixtures
  • metalworking
  • timber frame
  • and many more …

Last Saturday, Chuck and Lois went to lunch at the Preservation League of Staten Island to receive an ‘Encouragement Award’. Recognizing the work underway (but not yet completed) at the George W. Curtis house – we have completed the front facade restoration including the front porch, missing architectural details (aluminum siding installers love straight edges to work toward), and working louvered shutters. There will be a final award once the work is completed.

The Preservation League of Staten Island works to preserve Staten Island’s historic architecture. More information about their work can be found at: preservesi.org/plsi.htm.

We exhibited at the 2009 Old House Fair sponsored by The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia this weekend – this is the last of our home shows for the spring season. It is always affirming to meet so many people dedicated to caring for their older buildings.

As promised some energy conservation tips from the Traditional Building Show are below – check back every week for more knowledge gathered from the seminars.

1. Do an energy audit – contact your electrical company for information.
2. Change your light bulbs to either CFL or LED bulbs.
3. Install a Programmable Thermostat.
4. Unplug electronics when not in use – 40% of electricity is used when electronics are not in use.
5. Retrofit toilets and faucets to save water.
6. Use lighting controls – dimmers and usage.
7. Use ceiling fans to help circulate air both in the warm months and the colder months.
8. Upgrade appliances to the most efficient possible.

We are working on building our preservation store on our website. Besides the Speedheater Paint Removal System we are adding John Leeke’s Practical Restoration Reports. These reports are able to be used by homeowners, contractors, and architects to provide an industry standard within restoration to work to. The reports we are going to carry are: Save Your Wood Windows, Wood-Epoxy Repairs, Wood Gutters, Exterior Wood Columns, Mouldings, Exterior Woodwork Details, and Managing Maintenance. A sample of Save Your Wood Windows
http://historichomeworks.com/hhw/reports/WoodWindowsSampleScr.PDF is available at the link above.

If you know of a preservation product or tool that you cannot live without let us know we are always looking for additional products to added to our website to help people restore/preserve their buildings with sensitivity.

Have a great holiday weekend!

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) began in 1933 now contains the written record with drawings and photographs of 35,000 historic structures. This is a digital collection managed by the Library of Congress. Many buildings we have been involved in restoring have been featured within this collection. Searching the HABS for your building or buildings in your area can give you clues to the remodeling completed on your structure. This provides a good place to begin researching your building’s history and gives you a snapshot of the time period when the HABS was recorded. You can search the collection at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/. This is just one of the many tools available to help you research the history of your building.

Last Saturday, June 7, Chuck, Lois, and Danielle drove to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (right above State College) to conduct a seminar for the Borough of Bellefonte as part of their wood window seminar day in the park. There were various other exhibitors (replacement windows, storm windows, and stained glass window experts with booths) as part of the window fair.

It was a hot day with high humidity on top of the heat – I would describe it as oppressive. We made do with the weather (which impacted the turn out) and moved our presentation into the park gazebo where there was shade and benches for the attendees.

Despite the small crowd we had a good time discussing the importance of wood windows to a historic building, the replacement cycle (caused by inferior new growth wood and modern construction practices – the replacement window salesman was not happy with this aspect of the discussion), and storm window options (interior and exterior). We also covered energy efficiency of wood windows, with support from the University of Vermont Wood Window Report (showing the energy savings is less than a dollar a year when wood windows are replaced with modern replacement windows), how to make wood windows more energy efficient, and a demonstration of the steps to repair wood windows.

We enjoyed sharing our knowledge with the few concerned homeowners and the Borough of Bellefonte’s available HARB members. We look forward to visiting this Victorian city again in the near future.