We all know that windows for the home can have a huge impact on heating costs in addition to just looking pretty. But if you have a historic home, figuring out where to get authentic materials to replace them can be a headache.

The good news is that this process probably won’t be as difficult as you fear once you know what you are looking for. By updating the windows of your home you can reduce your energy costs and give your home a fresh look all in one step. However, there are some things you need to think about when considering replacing the windows of a historic home.

Window Replacement in Historic Homes

Replacing the windows of historic homes is a little different than when you are upgrading a more modern home. Owners of historic homes need to remember that if they are on the National Registry of Historic Places or have received specialized funding, they may have restrictions regarding what they can and can’t do to their house. Even if you don’t have restrictions controlling what you can and can’t do, most owners of historic houses want to keep their homes as authentic as possible. Windows for the home are no exception.

Windows for Victorian Homes

Although there are actually several different styles of houses that fall into this category, they all boast beautifully intricate windows. Victorian houses feature a dazzling array of ornate windows. Homes from the Victorian era have bay windows, arched windows, stained glass, oddly shaped windows, windows with geometric patterns, and many more unique window designs. Naturally, wood is the best material to use for the windows of a Victorian house.

Image CC by A-SA 2.0, by FloNight and Russell Poore, via Wikimedia Commons

Windows for Colonial Homes

While the windows of colonial homes are not nearly as unique as those of Victorian homes, they are still distinctive. Different styles of colonial homes have different types of windows. For example, French Colonial homes have eyebrow dormers. These are the slightly arched shape above the windows. They also have narrow windows with shutters on either side. Georgian-style colonial homes have a large central dormer flanked by gables. They also tend to feature bay windows on the main floor of the house.

When to Consider Replacement

When dealing with aging replacement windows that were installed just a few decades ago, the decision is easy. Replace them. But it can be difficult to tell if you are dealing with original architecture or someone else’s rehab project. Remember that research will be your best friend no matter what part of a historic home you are renovating. When you are dealing with original windows, if it is at all possible, it is much better to restore the windows of a historic home rather than replacing them. However, sometimes they are just too far gone to be restored and window replacement is the only viable option.

3 Benefits of Window Replacement

When you decide to replace the windows of the home, you are making a choice that will have a lasting impact on the comfort and worth of your home. Here are three benefits of replacement windows:

  1. Because replacement windows reduce your heating costs by keeping warm are in and cold are out, and vice versa, they save you money. Make sure that you balance authenticity with energy efficiency.
  2. Replacing the windows of the home can raise the value of your property. This also means that your resale value will be higher if you eventually decide to sell your home.
  3. Replacement windows also make your home more comfortable by helping to control the temperature. They also reduce UV light, which can protect the interior of your home from the effects of the sun. This protects the skin of your family members too.

Image CC by ND-2.0, by denisbin via Flickr

Finding a Windows Store with Authentic Materials

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when renovating a historic home is replacing existing wood windows with modern windows that are made with inferior materials. When renovating existing original windows is not an option, look for a replacement that keeps the historic window’s character. Here are a few things you should know before you start shopping:

  1. pattern and size of the openings
  2. proportions of the frame and sash
  3. the configuration of the window panes
  4. muntin profiles
  5. type of wood
  6. paint color
  7. characteristics of the glass
  8. associated details (arched tops, hoods, or other decorative elements)

After you understand all of this and can see period, style, or regional characteristics of the building, then it is time to start shopping. There are plenty of places that specialize in authentic materials to replace windows in historic homes. Below are ideas of where to find replacement windows for the home with history.

  • building supply firms
  • local woodworking mills
  • carpenters
  • preservation oriented magazines
  • catalogs or suppliers of old building materials
  • local historical associations
  • state historic preservation offices

Special Considerations of Replacement Windows for Historic Homes

It is worth noting that there is quite a bit of debate regarding how energy efficient replacement windows actually are in historic homes. The original wood windows with an added high-quality storm window should perform better than a new double-glazed metal window. But as mentioned previously, this isn’t always an option. If the original windows have already been replaced or are simply too far gone to save, remember to balance energy efficiency with authenticity when shopping for replacement windows.

Image CC by A-SA 2.0, by Spencer Means, via Flickr

Windows for the Home Make All the Difference

Choosing the right replacement windows for a historic home is daunting. It’s an expensive upgrade that you don’t want to get wrong. Doing your research ahead of time is the best way to make sure you get this decision right the first time. Replacing irreparable windows in your historic home saves you money in the long run by saving you money on heating and air conditioning costs. Replacement windows for the home also keep your home as comfortable and safe as it can be, which increases its value. As an added benefit, replacing old windows gives your home a fresh, updated look, boosting curb appeal.

Featured image CC 2.0 by John Carmichael via Flickr 

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