The call of historic renovation

There are a heck of a lot of historic renovation/home renovation blogs out there but we’ll wager there aren’t any with as much heart as Mandi Gubler’s. For years now, Mandi has renovated and redecorated newer homes and chronicled the process in her blog Vintage Revivals  for readers who love her unabashed enthusiasm.

Whether it’s finding just the right color of paint. Or just the right piece of furniture. Or why it’s important to make the front entryway stand out, she makes it fun:

Mandi Gubler, excited to take on historic renovation!

“The entryway is currently rocking a Beatles piece of art and THE MOST AMAZING FRONT DOOR EVER.”

Or

“EEEEEEEEEEE!”

Or

“ I mean this project will cost you $8. Booyah!”

But more recently she has done something different. She and her husband Court bought a 100-year-old mercantile in their town of Santa Clara, Utah. It had been a grocery store and a gas station and a post office. For a time, it was the last stop for gas and supplies on the way to California in their neck of the woods before I-15 in St. George went in.

It was old, far from perfect, but it had that something that you can’t find in a new house. The original windows were wavy, single-pane glass made by a glassblower and they needed attention. It had history, past lives and a sense of continuity and Mandi just new – immediately – that they needed to buy it. Even though her husband’s first reaction was “No way!” which, we should point out, is not an unusual reaction. People often shy away from historic renovation because they think it’s going to be too hard, or too expensive or not “new” enough in a culture that celebrates new.

Mandi’s husband Court helps with the historic renovation project at the Merc by working on the historic windows.

Making historic renovation approachable

The cool thing is that Mandi is showing how doable it is and why it’s worth the effort. She’s detailing every last turn of the screw for a reason: she wants people to know what they’re getting into with historic renovation so that they stick with it, because the payback is tremendous. She writes: 

I just wanted to drop in a quick thanks for being so supportive of all of my nitty gritty detail sharing on the boring behind the scenes stuff. I know it’s not the funnest to talk about (can we get to the design stuff already?!!) But it’s really important for me to share that there are actual real life issues that we had to deal with and overcome. That way if you ever find yourself on this journey, you won’t be discouraged by the quirks and roadblocks that come from saving an old building. Because man alive are they worth saving. There is almost 100 years of history here and it’s safe to say that none of the previous owners thought “I shouldn’t sign this easement because in 20 years someone might want to buy it and rip out the parking lot and turn it into a yard.” and guess what? That’s ok.

Next steps for this historic renovation project

And now she and Court are in the trenches turning this old building with a past into a home and office, bringing back to life something that had been so important to this town. And Indow is happy to be helping! The Merc is on a busy road, the noise of which goes right through The Merc’s single-pane windows. Mandi knew right away the windows were key to the spaces character and so she wasn’t about to remove that wavy glass.

So she’s using Indow Acoustic Grade inserts and keeping the windows intact!

Learn how they fit into the journey of reinvigorating the Merc. Please join us Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. PST for a Facebook Live Q & A with none other than Mandi herself.

Historic window restoration in action

Replace? Think again. 

There is a community of people out there quietly working to restore and save America’s old windows. These people know how to repair pulleys and ropes. They can repair rotted sashes. They know the value of rippling old glass and grab it whenever they can to repair cracked panes. Historic window restoration is their life.

They do not subscribe to today’s accepted wisdom that to save energy and do the right thing, you should rip out your old windows and replace them with new double-panes. That is the same voice that has razed historic buildings across the nation to construct strip malls that have made so much of this great and varied country, “Anywhere USA.” That way of being needs to stop. It’s possible to have energy-efficient historic buildings.

We need to value what we already have, including the windows. Character and uniqueness is what helps create a sense of place. And a sense of place is a prerequisite for economic vitality.

Old Window Restoration

These craftspeople quietly toiling on windows the nation over are a tight-knit community. Most are in something called the Window Preservation Standards Collaborative and they wrote the book: Window Preservation Standards.

This is not something they dashed off. To submit a technique to be considered as a “standard” a person must have:

“Used the method at least 100 times, and have been using the method for at least 10 years (20 years is better), and have gone back to check on at least ten projects to learn how the work is holding up, and be willing to share its failures and successes and how you have improved the results.”

We think that’s impressive.

Not only that, every couple of years, they hold a Window Preservation Summit, this year at the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Pine Mountain, Kentucky. At the summit people from around the nation who work on original windows learn techniques for bringing windows back to life so they can live on indefinitely. Sam, Indow’s CEO, attended the most recent one.

Energy-efficient Historic Buildings

He invented the Indow insert to preserve the original windows in his 1906 craftsman home. He wanted to block drafts but he didn’t want to damage the old growth wood. It’s one tool in a big tool box for window preservation experts to use.

“I came away from the Window Preservation Summit with a deeper appreciation of the historic design and functioning of windows,” said Sam. “And the need to be sensitive to what will help windows last through the ages. It does appear that preventing interior condensation is a good thing and a place where Indow inserts can help.”

The people who wrote the above-mentioned book are on a mission. They know the window replacement industry has deep pockets. They know it’s a Sisphyean task to tell America not to rip apart their homes even though it destroys the character and also creates unnecessary landfill waste. But they persist, because they also know it’s the right thing to do. The Window Preservation Standards Collaborative has this to say about what’s happening:

The quicker we put this effort into play, the less time the replacement window industry has to spend their tens of millions in marketing money to discredit this critical and objective effort. The window replacement industry’s aggressive marketing has bamboozled homeowners, contractors and property developers into believing window replacement is the only option.  Just because they claim their products are superior does not make it true. Act now or lose your historic windows forever.

Historic Window Restoration

Steve Jordan, a window preservation expert who has done a Window Hero Webinar with us, talked at the summit about the history of window glass which started with glass blowers, evident in the ripples and “seeds” or bubbles. Jim Turner talked about how to repair steel windows. Gordon Bock, co-author of the book The Vintage House, talked about how the historic preservation efforts have been influenced over the last 100 years: the rise of the automobile and freeways helped empty inner cities which lead to a decline in old building stock and then urban renewal bulldozed down historic structures. At the same time redlining skewed the demographics unfairly.

The summit has been called the Woodstock for window preservationists. Sam encourages anyone interested in historic windows to attend. It’s an education on what’s happened and is happening to America’s homes and buildings. Many of the people who spoke are also members of the Window Preservation Alliance, which has a directory of window preservationists and also window preservation events around the country.

Said Sam, “I learned so much from all these experienced people who have been working in this area for so long.”

 

home energy score

Jason Elton leads quality management system development for Enhabit

A Home Energy Score is a measure of home efficiency that reveals opportunities for energy-saving improvements and gives homeowners, buyers and sellers an objective way of comparing a home to others in the community. It’s a quick way to get a professional, certified rating that does not involve extensive diagnostic equipment.

The Home Energy Score developed by the U.S. Department of Energy,  uses a 1 through 10 scale where a 10 represents the most energy efficient homes. The scale is adjusted for the local climate and utilities, so the score number really represents how your home compares to the least and most efficient homes in your city.

Anyone can benefit from a home energy score. But, what’s driving a lot of attention here in Portland, Oregon right now is that the score is required for homes listed for sale in starting January 1, 2018. The score will allow home buyers to compare similar houses based on long-term operating costs, which have not been easy for buyers to see. And there’s evidence buyers are interested. A recent National Association of Realtors Sustainability Report shows that 71 percent of realtors said information about energy efficiency is valuable to clients looking for a new home.

What is assessed to create the home energy score?

The score is a rating of the home based on its building characteristics — the “assets” the home contains. For example, assets such as the type, age and condition of the heating system, water heater, ducting and air conditioning are important. So is the leakiness of the structure, and insulation levels in the attic, floors and walls. Window type and panes are a factor, because double and triple-pane windows have a positive impact on a home’s score. Roofing type and color are also factors.

The size of the home is a big influence. Small homes are inherently more efficient because there is less space to heat or cool. A large home, even one that’s built to be as efficient as possible, will tend to have a lower score. It’s like an SUV that uses a lot of fuel. It might be well-built and comfortable, but it just can’t operate as efficiently as a compact hybrid.

A home’s utilities are factors (whether your home uses gas, electric or both, and the source of the power for those utilities). There’s a calculation that takes into account cost of energy and carbon use depending on the utility’s energy sources.

If the house has any solar panels, those are also considered.

The score does not consider lighting, appliances or the number of people living in the home. The scoring software makes estimates on those items based on the size and the number of rooms in the home. This allows a more “apples to apples” comparison of the building characteristics themselves, rather than how the home was used by previous owners.

What you can do to improve your score.

Fortunately, there’s no guesswork when it comes to determining what to do to improve a score. Included in the score is a report with  recommendations to improve efficiency and reduce the home’s carbon footprint. Those recommendations can include any combination of upgrades tailored to the specific home. Some homes may need an extensive home energy retrofit, while others may require just one or two changes.

The building envelope (the walls, ceiling and floor that together enclose the living space) can range from well-insulated and tight to hollow and leaky. Recommendations might include installing or adding to wall, attic, floor and ceiling insulation, and sealing up leaks.

Using interior window inserts like Indow inserts, or exterior storm windows, can favorably impact the score because they essentially convert single-pane wood or metal windows to double-pane. If all the windows are fitted with window inserts or storms, it can positively influence the score.

Mechanical systems like heating systems, air conditioners, duct work and water heaters are sometimes targeted for upgrades. New systems are far more efficient than older, inefficient models. High-efficiency technologies like heat pumps and ductless mini-splits can make a big difference in efficiency and comfort.

Getting started with energy-saving improvements.

Because most energy efficiency work requires specialized knowledge, you’ll most likely want to work with a contractor to find out what it will take to implement the recommendations that come with the score’s report.

Look for contractors with staff certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) and are Home Performance with ENERGY STAR qualified. These contractors are trained in techniques to help you get the most out of energy saving upgrades. If your home is located in Oregon, search for contractors who are Trade Allies of the Energy Trust. Another option is to contact Enhabit for independent non-profit advice and access to certified, quality contractors.

____________________

Jason Elton leads quality management system development for Enhabit, a non-profit offering homeowner advising and home upgrade services. He has played a critical role in evolving and implementing building science in Oregon, to the benefit of both contractors and homeowners. His interests in energy efficiency developed while working with a local construction company building and remodeling homes, ultimately leading to his career promoting residential energy efficiency.

Hot windows?

Do you need to know how to block sunlight heat from windows? You walk in and it’s almost hard to breathe it’s so stuffy and you think, “I could roast a chicken in here!” Beth Bryan in Alabama had something like that with her upstairs attic, which was also her office. It’s a lovely space with white walls and dark wood floors, a globe, wooden stars and a sign that says “Let it be.” It’s where she writes her blog Unskinny Boppy in which she muses on everything from her children to the eclipse to how to throw a stylish and inspiring Outlander party. She is all things home, comfort and family.

Cool Down with Shade Grade Inserts

Beth’s office desk faces a window due West, which can make it hard to muse when it’s roasting hot. We supplied her with a Shade Grade window insert that blocks solar heat gain and reduces UV light coming through a window by 90 percent. It took 10 minutes to unpack and install. Beth couldn’t have been happier that she now knows how to block sunlight heat from windows, lowering the temperature from 91 to 75 degrees.

“My attic-turned-office is a nice cool place to work now!” she writes in her blog.

Top Considerations for Treating Windows for Solar Heat Gain

  • Window faces West
  • Climate is southern and hot much of the year
  • High air-conditioning bills
  • Room needs to be cool for sleep

 

One Comfortable Blogger

Beth loved how the insert blended into the window frame so it’s hard to notice it’s there. We’re just happy she’s more comfortable so she can keep the blog posts coming!

If you have a super hot room that’s making your air conditioner work overtime, think about investing in some Shade Grade window inserts that will help keep your space cool without spiking your energy bills.

 

If your neighbors don’t love your awesome noisy drumming, it’s OK: there’s a way to quiet the sound so no one has to stop rocking out. Indow Acoustic Grade window inserts will damp the sound. One professional drummer named Dan found the quiet he wanted and made a video to prove it:

 

The Hows of Noisy Drumming

Most noise leaves or enters a house through the windows. Sound is energy. When you play, the drum vibrates, sending sound waves through the air that can penetrate gaps and cracks in your windows. Anywhere air can get in, sound can too. And it goes both ways, so that sounds from a leaf-blowing neighbor can buzz right through your practice space.

The average double-pane window has an STC or Sound Transmission Class rating of 28. Placing an Acoustic Grade insert over that window will quiet the noise by 50 percent yielding an STC rating of 42-45, according to tests done at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. You’ll get approximately between 50- 70% reduction in noise coming through an operable single-pane window.*

Stay Cool 

Playing drums takes stamina. Dan also bought Shade Grade inserts to block the solar heat gain so his living space stays cool while he plays. 

Indow supports drummers and the parents of drummers the nation over. We also support neighbors of drummers and will help you find quiet and energy efficiency too!

 

*Note, overall noise reduction performance depends on how much noise is coming through walls, ceilings, floor, and doors. The window noise reduction will be less when Indow inserts are placed over double pane windows. Indow inserts are not recommended to reduce noise coming through laminated double pane windows.

Insulating drafty historic windows

Frank Lloyd Wright loved windows. And there’s probably no one who understands this better than the architect John Eifler. He has spent decades restoring Frank Lloyd Wright homes for clients as principal architect for Eifler & Associates Architects.

And now he owns one himself: the Ross House in Glencoe, Illinois in the small 1915 subdivision of six homes planned by Wright’s attorney, Sherman Booth Jr. But most people knew it simply as “The Purple House” when Eifler bought it in 2011.  

It had heavy lilac trim around all the windows.

Eifler knows Frank Lloyd Wright windows from all the houses he has restored: they are casement windows that swing open – often made of beautiful stained glass – with wooden screens on the inside for summer. Since the second-floor windows of the Ross House have some classic Wright leaded-glass detailing, he didn’t want to cover it up in any attempts at insulating the drafty historic windows. He knew it would be impossible to retrofit them with insulating glass without destroying them.

He wanted a simple interior storm window.   

And when he heard about Indow inserts, he knew he had it.  He bought 15 to make the windows more energy efficient without altering them.

“That’s why we needed an interior storm to keep the beauty of these patterned windows on the second floor.”

After the install, we asked Eifler what he thought about the inserts.

“They are working well and I like the look – the brown color is a bit darker than our trim color, so they’re pretty invisible, and one can still see the exterior window sash, which is great. Our house is much less drafty and the geothermal furnace does not kick on as often, so it’s quieter.  Glencoe is pretty quiet to begin with, but the commuter train isn’t too far away, and we barely hear it now.”

Bringing the Ross House back to life

A classic Prairie-Style House, the Ross House had stood vacant for three years in what is known as the Ravine Bluffs Development. It had no heat, no running water. The exterior was covered in a plastic stucco that didn’t let the house breathe. At first, no bank would lend him money for a mortgage. But having worked on these houses for years, he understood what the Ross House could become and so he persisted.

He and his girlfriend Bonnie stripped the paint and acrylic plastic stucco and put on a new roof. They put in geothermal heating and cooling, all new plumbing, bathroom and fixtures.

The attention to windows is central to the draw of Frank Lloyd Wright homes, which are rooted in the Prairie School Architecture style with horizontal lines that evoke flat vastness of Midwestern prairies, the homes and buildings worked into the surrounding landscape whether it’s a bluff, hillside or waterfall. They always making use of natural light.  

“These are exciting properties,” Eifler said. “He looked at things much differently than other people. My house is only 1,800 square feet, but it’s a very open floor plan and comfortable. He was sensitive to windows and having natural light and views. All good things.”

The couple removed all 26 windows. They laid them on a workbench, took out the glass and used a heat gun to remove all the purple paint. Then they sanded and stained each one and put them back together. None of them have the art glass Frank Lloyd Wright was known for, but the second-floor windows have lovely ornamental mullions.

Hearing the Rain

The windows are central to the house: during warm summer rain storms, Eifler enjoys opening the second-floor ones, protected as they are from the deep eaves. The Indow inserts are easy to remove.

“They were original windows and we wanted to keep them that way,” he said. “The Indow inserts worked out well.”

Since Frank Lloyd Wright designed the entire tiny subdivision, Eifler has a house by the famed architect on either side of him as well as across the street.

“I think I’m the only one in the whole world.”

 Join us for the next Window Hero Webinar with John Eifler on Tuesday, August 29 at 11 a.m. PT

(1 p.m. CT) You can register here.

If you live in a place with hot summers, a white roof can make a huge difference. Think about it: in summer we tend to wear light-colored or white clothes – as opposed to dark ones – because they reflect heat more easily and keep us from getting too hot. White roofs have a similar effect, benefiting both our homes and the environment.

You can create a white roof a number of ways. Buy solar reflective asphalt shingles or clay, concrete or fiber cement tiles. Or paint an existing dark roof with a reflective white coating that has a solar reflectance index (SRI) as high as 90 percent.

Another important aspect of a white roof is that it emits thermal heat. A white roof can emit up to 90% of absorbed heat, maintaining a stable, cooler temperature inside your house. This increase energy efficiency, reduces utility bills and extends the life of your roof.

Heat Island Effect

Urban areas tend to be hot. Not only are they covered in dark surfaces including roofs and asphalt, they also have a lot of people. And just a little vegetation and green spaces. All the dark surfaces absorb lots of heat and don’t reflect – or emit – enough of it.

The “urban heat island” effect, as it’s called, contributes to climate change by forcing people to use lots of energy to cool their homes. White roofs help solve this problem by absorbing significantly less heat, which in turn lowers the overall temperatures in the area. And those cooler temperatures also lead to less smog!

White roofs can save you money. Since they do not absorb heat, the interior of your house will heat up much less, reducing the need for air conditioning. Other ways to keep your house cool if you live in a hot climate is to use Shade Grade window inserts. They block solar heat gain through your windows. Both strategies will cut your energy consumption, reduce your carbon footprint and save you money.

White roofs usually last twice as long as black roofs sine they don’t absorb heat that can crack and warp them.  They have longer warranties and require less maintenance and repairs. Since they don’t have to be replaced as often, they reduce waste going to the landfills.

If you decide to paint your roof white, you should be able to do it yourself. But if you have never done any work on your roof, or the prospect makes you uneasy, consider hiring professional roofing contractors.

When the sun comes out, especially here in the cloudy Pacific Northwest, we all do a little happy dance. But that summer sun also comes with some harsh UV rays that can fade furniture and artwork. You may have asked yourself: do windows block UV rays?  They can with our Museum Grade window inserts, which we created to protect you and your space from the harmful radiation coming from the sun!

can windows block uv rays? Yes, with window insertsThe sun is the reason we slather on sunblock, right? Summer sun can damage more than your skin. UV radiation goes right through your windows to fade furniture, wood floors, artwork and rugs. (And that’s a huge bummer because those items are expensive.) A single-pane window lets in 90 percent of UV radiation and a standard double-pane window lets in over 80 percent. 

Museum Grade window inserts block 98 percent of the ultraviolet radiation from damaging your belongings through your windows. 

So what is UV light anyway? The sun’s energy has three parts: ultraviolet radiation, visible light (think rainbow!), and infrared radiation. Ultraviolet radiation is invisible to the human eye and has the shortest wavelength of the three types. It can break down the chemical bonds present in dyes and plays a large role in changing the color of wood floors or fading fabrics and artwork. 

We thought it was so cool when the owner of a Case Study house, homes commissioned by Art & Architecture Magazine after WW II, used Indow inserts in the clerestory windows without curtains to help protect artwork from fading.  We’re in #26 and thrilled to be there.

Our inserts have gone in everywhere from the Homewood Museum on Johns Hopkins University campus to a family home in Hickory Creek, Texas where the sun was doing its sun-thing on the family’s artwork and leather furniture.

We like to imagine they all did little happy dances after our Musueum Grade inserts were installed! 

 

 

Any house built before 1978 likely contains lead paint. It was durable and marketed as a premium paint, and so homeowners happily coated the exterior and interior of their houses with it.

Back then people didn’t understand lead is a potent neurotoxin that can cause intellectual disabilities and permanent brain damage. The Lead Safe America Foundation notes that one in three American children under 18 years old today has had an unsafe level of lead in their blood in their lifetime – or more than 22 million children.

Today as people restore and renovate historic homes for modern life, they wonder: how do I safely deal with lead paint?

If that’s your situation, you’ll find our upcoming Window Hero Webinar with Catherine Brooks of Eco-Strip useful. She is a former board member of the Lead Safe America Foundation, which has a wealth of information for anyone living in a home with lead paint. She is an expert on how to identify and safely remove it.

“Anything you do with lead paint, you need to do it right or you’re going to poison someone,” said Catherine. “So many families with older homes don’t realize how dangerous it is.”

Catherine has long been involved in creating healthy, clean environments. Early in her career, she started one of the first recycling centers in Oregon. She later got an MBA and did private consulting for government agencies including the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

In the webinar, Catherine will talk about staying safe while stripping lead paint from historic windows. She’ll go over how to prep the windows and surrounding space, what to wear, and helpful tools including the Swedish-based SpeedHeater, which she sells. Catherine says the SpeedHeater is compliant with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Program.

Heat guns and open-flame torches can cause lead paint to vaporize and create dust. The SpeedHeater works more like a microwave, sending infrared rays into the paint and wood. These jiggle the molecules, and that friction creates heat that then causes the paint to separate from the wood. The paint becomes bubbled and soft – instead of turning into dust – and can be scraped off.

But staying safe goes beyond using the right tools. Catherine will give a full picture of what it takes to safely restore a beautiful old home.  The EPA also has a great “Before You Renovate” document that should be consulted. Among other things, it lists safety equipment and best practices if you are a Do-It-Yourselfer. 

Join us on Thursday, May 25 at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT) for Indow’s free Stay Lead Safe webinar, which you can sign up for here. We love connecting with others who take comfort in things like worn floors and old-growth wood windows that physically link us to the past!

At Indow we firmly believe that business can be a positive force for good. It’s the reason we’re working to make the built environment more energy efficient to fight climate change. And it’s the reason we partnered with our local Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization to launch We Hire Refugees. It’s an initiative designed to rally the business community to declare that refugees strengthen our communities, businesses, and country.

The idea for this started last April when we were struck by the negative political rhetoric surrounding refugees. It didn’t reflect the refugees employed at Indow who are among the finest people we know: Myo, Myo-Naing and Khin, who are from Burma and Ahmed who is from Iraq. They are working to build their lives in a new country after fleeing oppression and war.

Having a stable job is key to successfully integrating into the U.S. Even though refugees undergo rigorous background checks and are fully authorized to work when they’re granted entry, it can be hard for them to find jobs, the cornerstone of a stable life in the U.S.

The We Hire Refugees initiative reads in part:

We, the undersigned, believe hiring refugees makes our communities stronger and our companies more competitive. We know refugees are often highly skilled and have strong work ethics, in keeping with a nation built by hardworking immigrants. We know refugees often become valuable and loyal team members. They become one of us.

But beyond that, we know that the world is going to see an increasing number of refugees as climate change continues to cause rising seas and drought. Look at Syria. A severe drought – worsened by climate change  – contributed to the Syrian conflict and its refugee crisis. Over time, rising seas and increased floods and drought will displace more people and so it’s incumbent on the world to be open to helping and welcoming refugees.

We understand that not all businesses are in a position to hire refugees. But it’s still possible to sign the declaration and use the We Support Refugees or We Welcome Refugees digital badges provided on the site.

Please join us in supporting refugees!