We get this question every day at Versatile:
When is it better to restore your existing windows and when is it time to replace them?
Here’s a quick check guide to evaluating the condition and value of your current windows to discover which option may be best for you.
1. IS THERE ROT?
Any window components with dry rot will need to be replaced. In some cases, if the rot is very minimal, the rotted portion can be removed and filled with epoxy. Proceed with caution, though- the removal of too much wood from the frame and sill can compromise its strength and create future problems.
How can you tell if you have dry rot? Take a pocket knife (or a screwdriver, as in the picture above) and poke it at the wood of the casing, sill and check rails. If the knife goes right in like butter, you have rot.
2. DOES THE WINDOW HAVE THE ORIGINAL WAVY OR LEADED GLASS?
Often there is a good reason to restore a window if it means you will conserve the original wavy glass or a beautiful leaded glass element. It is possible to restore antique leaded glass and we have great relationships with some local experts in that process.
If the frame and sash are rot-free, it may be worth it to to remove, strip, restore and repaint the existing window.
Just be aware that conserving the glass will come at a cost- surprisingly, repairing a window to conserve the glass can end up being more expensive than replacing it due to the higher labor costs for repair vs. replacement.
Also, single pane glass has an R Factor (insulating factor) of 0 to 1. From an energy efficiency standpoint, single pane windows are like open holes in your home letting heat leak out constantly. You’ll want to consider window coverings that will help counterbalance the poor insulating qualities of your single pane historic windows.
3. IS THE WOOD IN THE WINDOWS ORIGINAL TO THE HOME? IS IT OLD GROWTH OR HISTORIC?
If your old growth wood windows have elements of rot, you will most likely be best served by replacing those components. The good news is that Versatile can exactly match the casing and sticking profiles of your existing wood windows so that they will blend in seamlessly with the other windows in your home.
If your old-growth wood is rot-free, you can choose to conserve the wood and re-glaze the window with high performance glass, improving its R factor while keeping most of the original wood intact.
Be aware: Doing this will make the window heavier, which for double hungs may require adding weight to your existing weight pockets.
Re-glazing will also require modification of that sash that can be both expensive and less durable than a new sash designed to accommodate insulated glass.
4. IS YOUR GOAL TO HAVE A WARMER OR MORE COMFORTABLE ROOM?
If your goal in addressing your existing window is to make it less chilly and drafty near the window (or you need to meet the new stricter energy efficiency codes), replacement is going to be your best option. Even if you only plan to replace one window in a room, using a simulated divided lite window with the appropriate coatings will make a big difference in how much insulation value the window has and how comfortable a space feels.
And don’t worry- there are both custom and manufactured options for simulated divided lite windows which means the window can be designed to exactly match your other existing windows if that is your preference.
5. WILL YOU MAINTAIN IT?
If it is already part of your home maintenance routine to repaint your window exteriors every few years, the investment in repairing an existing wood window may be worthwhile.
Otherwise, replacing with new aluminum clad or fiberglass sash, inserts or tilt pacs will dramatically reduce your maintenance requirements over the lifetime of the windows. Clad windows never need to be re-painted and will stay colorfast for the lifetime of the window.
Have a window you would like some expert advice on? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help you determine if restoration or replacement will be the better option for you.