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.

old window restoration
old window restoration

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.”