Windows: repair or replace?
Like many old houses, our cottage came with original old windows. Do we repair the windows or replace them? I'm a sentimental gal, and old windows provide vintage charm that can't easily be matched with newer windows. However, replacing them would be practical: a home with old windows can get miserably cold in the winter.
I made the wrong choice once before. Once upon a time, we rented a beautiful little cottage next to a creek. I picked it because I loved the charming, original windows that let in light and gave a view of the creek.
Doesn't it look sweet in these photos? We moved in during springtime, and things were great -- for a while. When winter came, we froze half to death. The interior temperature matched the exterior, meaning our bedroom was regularly below 50*F at night. Our dog cried from the cold. We put up thick curtains, bought a 1/4 cord of wood for our stove, and put sweaters on the dog. It was still too cold. We moved.
Houses built in the early 1900's typically have double-hung, single-pane sash windows. This means that they're operated by a fabric sash that's looped around a pulley and attached to lead weights in the wall. Our former creekside rental and new home both have this type of window, as do most of the houses in our neighborhood.
Our windows had all of the typical problems:
- Single pane windows are inefficient. Warm air leaks through the glass.
- Many of the sashes had been cut, leaving the windows stuck closed.
- The windows were loosely fitted, meaning there were sizable gaps around the edges of the window where air could flow freely. This is possibly due to foundation settling or wood warping over time.
- The paint was peeling.
- They were installed with little insulation around the windows.
We decided to keep our original windows in the front of the house. To address my fears of freezing again, we had the windows repaired. Our contractor replaced the sashes, adjusted how the windows fit into the frames, and sanded. They operate smoothly now, and we're waiting for a fresh coat of paint to finish things up. I'm hopeful that the repairs will get us through the winter.
In the rear of the house, we replaced the old windows with larger, high-end modern windows. The new windows improve energy efficiency and expand our view of the yard with little change to the look of the house. We also replaced the bathroom window for safety and health reasons. A window near a shower ought to be tempered glass (in case you slip) in a fiberglass frame (to prevent the wood from rotting). Installation is still in progress.