Replacement window ideas

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.

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Finished Burnside Kitchen

The finished kitchen, this is the new view as you enter the room from the front of the house, quite an improvement! We had one of the cabinet shops make custom cabinets for the project, fully utilizing the space and all for a cost less than Ikea cabinets. Our clients picked a bold green colored marmoleum for the flooring, and a solid-surface corian counter top. We find it remarkable how similar the Corian looks to carrera marble, for much less money.

This shot, as you enter from the patio, shows the new pantry, relocated stove and vent hood, and a much more open bright space.

It’s funny to think that this corner was where the refrigerator was located before we started, it’s no wonder the space feels more open at completion.

For the main bank of upper cabinets, we chose a frosted glass cabinet door. The frosted glass allows a glimpse into the contents, but hides enough so our clients packaged foods are not on full display. We also varied the height of this set of upper cabinets to create a small display area, and add visual interest.

The opposite wall of upper cabinets we decided to use a clear glass door to give our clients the space to display some of their favorite china and glassware.


We pride ourselves on making sure the pieces come together just right, like the perfect intersection between the stove and counter.

While a true built-in refrigerator was outside of the budget of this project, by creating a cabinet for the free-standing fridge to slide inside of we were able to achieve a similar look for a much more reasonable amount.

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East Burnside Kitchen

Some before pics of a light kitchen remodel on East Burnside.

Looking into main portion of the kitchen. Somewhat random features (short soffit run, tightly packed appliances) make the modest sized kitchen feel downright tiny.

The existing layout was cramped to say the least. While the window over the sink was a nice feature, the small size didn’t do enough to bring natural light into the kitchen.

This small desk cut into the functional space of the kitchen, without adding much usable storage space. The plans call for removing this feature, to be replaced with a full height pantry.

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Laurelhurst Bathroom Remodel After

Some pictures of our completed remodel of the cramped master bathroom in NE Portland’s Laurelhurst district.


Looking from the pocket door into the bathroom. You can see the new upright, tiled shower enclosure and adjacent inset bathtub. We designed the space such that the tub deck becomes a bench inside the shower, separated by a custom built glass shower enclosure. We selected a quartz product for the tub deck, of course matched on the new vanity, manufactured by 3Form called Chroma. Our clients chose a carrara marble for the walls, both inside the shower and around the new bathtub, which works well with the Chroma.

Another image of the transition between the new tub deck and shower bench seat. This was our first time implementing a tub deck that flows into a shower seat, though we will be tempted to bring it out again!

As part of the changes in this remodel, we deleted a window centered over the existing vanity. With the increased depth of the room (by pushing out into the adjacent dining area three feet) the window would no longer have been centered, and stood in the way of the double mirrors our clients were interested in above the new vanity. To bring some additional natural light into the bathroom we suggested adding this new Velux skylight. We selected the largest unit that would fit in the room, then angled the sides to capture as much sun as possible.

It’s certainly hard to take good perspective shots in a small bathroom, though we try! This shot of the new custom vanity shows the double sinks, and the floating front. By lifting the front of the vanity 12″ off the ground, we achieve the appearance of a larger bathroom, something this project clearly needed!

This closeup of the new vanity shows the clean lines, mixed with more traditional hardware, designed to update the bathroom and hopefully provide for an illusion of greater space.

A closeup of one of the new under-mount sinks, inset into another solid slab of Chroma, with wonderfully modern Toto lavatory handles.



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Laurelhurst Bathroom Remodel Before

Just a couple pictures of the before. A nice remodel in Laurelhurst of an as-built master bathroom. While part of one of the wonderful established neighborhoods of Portland, this house was built in 1979, making it a unique find. As you can see from the pics the simple master bath was in need of an update.

Clearly a very small bathroom, this is looking towards the vanity from the master bedroom. While in good cosmetic shape, the dark stained vanity with laminate counter-top strongly dates the room. The sheet vinyl flooring also isn’t up to the general standards of the residence, or certainly the potential of the neighborhood.

The other side of the master bath. You can see the very small shower stall in the corner, the toilet was tucked behind the door in a cramped nook. Not exactly the best configuration…

This first pass of the proposed bathroom remodel, rendered using Google SketchUp. We increased the overall size of the bathroom by pushing the far wall out into the adjacent dining area by three feet. While this increase still results in a modest sized bathroom, it does give the space for both a shower and bathtub, wonderful floating double basin vanity, and some added elbow room.

A closeup of our rendering of the new vanity. Custom designed in house, and fabricated by one of our cabinet shops, we created a floating modern solution to the small space bathroom. By deviating slightly from standard dimensions, we helped create a functional walkway between the vanity and the new bathtub, as well as accommodated for our taller than average clients.

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NE Portland Master Bathroom, After

Some pictures of the previous post after we wrapped up our remodeling work.

The new clear stained vertical grained fir cabinet clearly ties the updated bathroom into the aesthetic conversation of the rest of the house. Finished with a solid surface quartz counter and an under-mount sink the vanity adds modern cleaning convenience and long term functionality, but still retains the look and feel of what might have been original. The same goes for the bin pull style drawer hardware, bright chrome faucet hardware and period appropriate towel bars and the like. The newly framed mirror, in matching CVG fir, is understated but helps tie the room together further. While some of these details may seem trivial, they go a long way in making the space simply feel “right”.

As soon as you step into the inner portion of the bathroom you are confronted by the new, wonderfully large shower. We removed the jetted tub, which was only used for occasional children’s baths and turned the entire area into a new tiled in shower. Our clients opted for a fixed glass panel, which works great to keep the rest of the space dry yet avoids the congestion sometimes caused with operable doors. The shower was finished with two tiled in nooks, all in period appropriate subway tile. We replaced the older double hung window with a new fixed vinyl window, which from the street matches the six over one design throughout the rest of the house.

This is the right hand view looking out of the shower. We removed a very rudimentary bookcase, and access to the eaves crawl space, replaced with a built-in cabinet in matching CVG fir. The newly added ventilation fan was located in the crawlspace, venting out the roof, to allow for additional insulation in the otherwise shallow roof rafter bays.

This image is looking the other direction out of the shower, at the relocated toilet. We chose a Toto toilet that retains some of the period detailing one would expect, but with very modern water-saving features and superior performance. We also added additional chrome towel hardware to further complete the package as well as increase functional storage in the small space.

A better shot of the hex tile in the bathroom. We installed a Warmwire radiant floor heating kit throughout the bathroom, to help combat that terrible cold tile feel first thing in the morning. While hard to tell from these pictures we selected a hex tile that has a slight variation across the field, again to better help tie the remodel into the surfaces elsewhere in the house. We also chose to use a subdued accent scheme, which again fits the overall aesthetic of the house to a T.

This image shows the subtle, yet fun accent we installed in the shower pan. These simple accents help add visual punch to the project!

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NE Portland Master Bathroom

This remodel will resonate with folks all over town, or so I imagine. This great NE Portland home as built didn’t have a bathroom on the second floor, so at some point in the 1980′s a dormer was added and a master suite was created. While this is the most ideal solution to adding a bathroom on the second floor, the fixtures and finishes were starting to show their age. We proposed a simple cosmetic face-lift to the space, truly creating a master suite worthy of the home. While this project did not include any complicated changes to structural elements, or major redesigns of the space, it does serve to show how updating these cosmetic elements can help all at once modernize and tie a house together.

The existing vanity, with tiled counter top and black drop in sink were in need of replacement. In addition to some failing grout, and outright missing tiles this design did nothing to reference the aesthetic of the rest of the house.

In order to make the space work legally as a bathroom the tub and toilet were inset into the dormer, which is a great means of picking up the needed headroom in the otherwise pitched second floor. While this basic design was still working, the jetted tub had stopped functioning years ago, and the tile was dated and failing throughout. Furthermore the wide tiled deck created around the tub presented an awkward means of getting into and out of the bath.

This corner plumbed toilet was a great way to pick up some floorspace, allowing for a full size tub. That said, part of the intent for the project was to find room for traditional fixtures that would fit the overall aesthetic of the house much more completely.


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NE Portland Basement Renovation After

Here are some after images from the previous post.

The above image shows the new set of built in cabinets we used on this project, and the new egress window to allow the space to function as a legal bedroom. The far left cabinet is small hanging clothes closet, the center upper sliders hide a flat panel television and associated electronics, with plenty of deep drawers below for other bedroom necessities. We also matched the wood and stain to the clients existing bedside tables and headboard, in order to better tie the room together.

The new bathroom and laundry area are similar to previous, but modernized and brought up to the standards of the rest of the house. A new shallow depth cabinet hides the existing water heater tank, a new butcher block counter-top over the washer and dryer provides a great work surface for folding clothes and the like. Along with a new set of appliances the room is really starting to feel like a modern retreat! While this image is before paint, the final touch was a nice bamboo themed wall paper, really making the room have a wonderful spa quality.

Another shot of the laundry area and new cabinets on the adjacent wall. These cabinets add much needed storage to the new living area, not only hanging space on the left but great drawers and shelf space through the middle and on the right side.

The other side of the bathroom, including the new shower stall. This image is again before the new wallpaper and paint had been applied, but you can see how we tied the space together by continuing the bead board wainscoting onto the new shower stall. The subway tile and glass shower door both echo the prevailing details we would expect to find in this part of town, and modernize the space at the same time. The green Marmoleum was a wonderful solution to the needs of this job. Economical,  sustainable and a great sheet flooring option for a space like a bathroom, we found the choice to be relatively easy to make.

A better closeup of the new shower stall. You can see the new shower, while still on the smaller side, is wonderfully inviting and reflects the desire to balance the aesthetic of the existing house with a more modern retreat feeling space.

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NE Portland Basement Renovation Before

Another project from last summer, though worth showing off.

The basement in this NE Portland bungalow was finished immediately before our clients bought the house several years ago. While the work that was done was overall great, some of the finished surfaces were less than ideal for use as an actual bedroom. In particular the bathroom finishes were more suited to occasional guest use rather than daily use. Furthermore, the renovations performed did not include an addition of a legal egress window, an important safety feature for all legal bedrooms.

The above image shows the existing bath conditions. While the sink and toilet were both high quality fixtures, the brown linoleum flooring and one piece fiberglass shower weren’t in line with the rest of the house, or up to snuff for a daily use bathroom.

While functional, the washer and dryer hookup at the other end of the bathroom left a bit to be desired. No cabinets nearby, and a poorly operating vent line made for a constantly dirty feeling space.

The existing bookshelves were quite nice, but didn’t help with storage in the way the homeowners needed.

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Older Moisture Ant Repair

This project is from last summer, though seems like a nice chance to highlight the downsides of our wet climate.

What started as a simple replacement of an older set of French doors, with a new set of Simpson doors, turned into a massive structural repair along two sides of this NE Portland residence.

When the original set of French doors were installed on this small porch, improper flashing was applied through the bottom of the sill allowing water to seep into the underlying framing. Once the wood framing and subfloor became compromised from this moisture incursion, moisture ants were able to infest this woodwork and completely destroy the wood. As we investigated further, we found the ants had been able to work their way along the rim joist and sill plate, destroying the framing running approximately 40 feet in total.


We proceeded to remove all water damaged and insect compromised framing, supporting the house in sections as we worked around the front of and down the side of the house. While replacing the framing, we used pressure treated lumber, and took the time to add seismic hold down bolts into the foundation. Once all the structural repairs were dealt with, we replaced the deck we removed off the french doors, and added a simple overhang roof to keep the new doors dry during the rainy season.

All in all not the best news to find when setting out to simply replace an older door, but does go to show the importance of proper flashing and frequent checks around your property for signs of water or insect damage.



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