We’ve been doing some more research recently on different approaches on how to replace older double-hung wood windows. As many of you know, this style of window is incredibly common (and looks great) on so many of our older Portland homes. That said, these windows are often nearing the end of their useful life, and certainly are a contributing factor to less than ideal energy consumption in our older homes. We’re often asked for different approaches to deal with the situation, so I thought I would take a few minutes and share some thoughts.
The first real issue to consider is what intrinsic value the original windows bring to your home. In some cases the original windows are incredibly charming, convey a great deal of the history of your home, and really fit into the neighborhood. In particular where the street facing windows have leaded glass, intricate divided lights, or anything that really sets them apart from the standard double-hung window, it can be worth spending the time to save the original windows. In cases like this, we’re often looking for ways to repair the original windows, and hopefully bolster their energy efficiency more in line with modern standards.
The first step with this approach is to really get the windows working as they were designed. This can mean simple steps as working to free painted shut windows, replacing worn or missing sash cords, re-balancing counterbalance weights, or even replacing the weight mechanisms with newer solutions. This is also a great opportunity to fix any issues with the glazing, repair whatever water damage might be going on, and generally make the original windows look fantastic again. Once the windows are back to tip top shape, we then often suggest looking into storm windows and/or fixed screens for the exterior to help add some function to the windows. We’ve also been thrilled with the application of a local product to help with the energy efficiency from Indow Windows (link down below). These folks basically make a storm window that attaches to the interior of your existing window, without any mechanical fasteners at all.
In cases where the original windows are either in worse shape, or simply are less visually interesting, we often lean towards simply replacing the windows with new models. The clear advantage of a new window replacement is absolutely modern levels of energy efficiency and convenience, though replacement is clearly a more expensive route than getting existing windows to work. In addition, by replacing the windows we can add in some interesting divided light detailing to really make the new windows pop. Once replacement has been decided upon, there are a couple main routes to take for replacing original double hung windows.
The most common method of replacing these windows, is to simply remove the sashes and install one of the many variants on the “sash pack” window. Our favorite model is manufactured by Marvin, and rather than shipping in multiple pieces, assembled into the original window opening, the Marvin unit is a self-contained unit that drops into the opening already assembled. We’ve found this approach has better moisture shedding attributes, and provides a much nicer finished product even in out of square original openings. The appeal of this approach to replacing the original windows is that the time involved with the replacement is dramatically less than the alternative full frame window replacement. In addition with this method it’s uncommon that adjacent surfaces need more repairs than a simple touch up, as the siding and wall coverings are left intact.
The other main direction we take when replacing original double-hung windows is to purchase full frame replacement windows. Rather than simply replacing the damaged sashes with new units, in this approach we remove all the original window elements (down to the studs) and install a new framed window. This method is a bit more intensive, but does allow for the greatest improvement in energy efficiency, the largest finished window openings, and the most flexibility with window configurations and options. We again often look to Marvin for these windows, but also love working with Loewen and Jeld-Wen products.
We realize all these options can be overwhelming, if you’re thinking of tackling upgrades to your home’s windows give us a call and we can come help sort out a plan of action with you.