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Antique windows are an essential element of the history and character of a house that, when properly maintained, contribute to the elegance of the view. The young lumber wood used in today’s windows doesn’t compare to the close-grained and resinous virgin forest wood used in older windows, rendering antique models far more durable. Considering the amount of time they can last — up to hundreds of years — antique windows are sustainable, and when restored, they can be more energy-efficient than a new modern window.
You may think that restoring old windows entails a lot of work, but this is not necessarily the case, especially not with the window treatments and hardware available today. It also depends on how well the windows have been maintained over the years — and basic repair work is minimal if maintenance is performed regularly and properly.
So don’t rush to replace old windows with new ones when they become inoperable, leaky or energy inefficient. There are fixes for these problems.
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What You Need to Know About Antique Windows
Antique windows are designed to be easy to fix and can be repaired piecemeal. They can be easily disassembled to insert new rails or muntins (the cross pieces separating the panes). Whole sashes can be duplicated, or any of the individual components can be restored, replaced or repaired by the homeowner or a window repair business, making it unnecessary to replace the entire window unit. For example, you can repair rotten wood frames with epoxy fillers designed for window restoration.
To restore the exterior aesthetic, all your windows need is a coat of paint. You should paint your old windows roughly once every decade. This keeps them safe and protected for far longer than the average replacement window would last.
Drafty old windows can easily be weather-stripped, and exterior or interior storm windows can be added to increase their efficiency, often beyond that of replacement windows.
3 Techniques for Restoring Old Windows
If you notice that your old windows are in significant disrepair, there are several simple techniques to restore your windows to their original condition.
Restore by Reglazing
Reglazing isn’t hard. It just takes a little know-how and time. First, examine if there is glazing missing. If so, remove what remains of the old glazing by first removing the sash.
Once the sash is out, carefully remove the damaged glazing. There are different ways to do this, but a heat gun is ideal for softening the glazing for easy removal. When you’ve removed the glazing, examine the wood frame to see if it needs repair.
Replace the glass pane, then apply the new putty to reglaze, tool the glazing to smooth it and cut the excess away. Because glazing requires curing, it will take at least a week until you can paint it, preferably using a high-quality, oil-based primer.
Fixing Broken Window Glass
Measure the frame for the new glass, which should be just slightly smaller than the opening to allow for expansion and contraction and imperfections in the frame or glass. Seal the new window pane with glazing putty around the outside edge, and press another roll of glazing putty into the glass-frame joint around the pane, using a putty knife to smooth the compound with long, smooth strokes. Carefully remove excess glazing putty with a glass scraper and let it dry for about three days. Then, paint the new compound to match the rest of the frame.
Sealing Old Windows
Old windows get drafty because the glazing putty may have grown brittle and fallen away, and the wood sashes on the windows can shrink over time with general wear and tear. Easy fixes include V-seal weatherstripping, rope caulk, shrink fill and even nail polish!
Long-term fixes include replacing the loose or missing glazing by removing the old putty and detaching the pane, adding a new layer of putty. Press the glass into the putty adding glazing points, which are the small metal pieces that secure the sash to the pane. Apply a roll of putty, stretched long and thin, and then use a fresh putty knife to smooth it into place.
Repair and Restore, Don’t Replace, Your Old Windows
Many people think old window restoration is too challenging to attempt, but just about anyone can get started on fixing their old wooden windows with the proper hardware, a few inexpensive tools and some practice.
In addition, the window restoration process offers the opportunity to upgrade the look and feel of your home with the vast selection of unique hardware parts offered today. You can also complement your existing windows with wood decor to give them a fresh allure.
At Van Dyke’s Restorers, we have a huge selection of high-quality home accents, shutter hardware and decorative wood to transform your old windows into picture-perfect features for your restored home.