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Window alteration

By The Old House Web


Historic apartment building. National Park Service Photos.

The historic character...

This four-story apartment building was built in 1929 and is located in ahistoric district. Possibly the most distinctive feature of the exterior is itstripartite, multi-paned, wood casement windows (see close-up of top portion of photo,below). These historic casement windows are, at present, severely deteriorated and mostlikely need to be replaced.

...and how it was lost in the rehabilitation.

The apartment building was to be kept in continuing residential use. Amajor component of the rehabiliation project was to replace the deteriorated historicwindows with new windows in a manner that would meet the developer's requirements for theproject, and also meet the Standards for Rehabilitation.

When the owner replaced the historic tripartite, multi-paned, woodcasement windows with new pairs one-over-one double hung windows, the result was a radicalchange in the building's appearance (see bottom portion of photo, below). Because thehistoric windows were a distinctive and repeated feature of the building and played animportant role in defining the overall character, the very different looking replacementwindows resulted in the loss of that character, and the project--in turn--did not meetStandard 6.


Historic casement windows (top). New one-over-one double-hungwindows (bottom).

What should you know?

Window replacement is among the most common and difficult issues inrehabilitation. During rehabilitation, developers frequently replace existing windows withnew sash for reasons of energy efficiency, ease of operation and maintenance. It is a goodidea to get help from qualified preservation professionals, such as architects,architectural historians, historians, and others who have experience in working withhistoric buildings prior to installing replacement windows--especially where windows areon a primary, highly visible, facade and are important to the historic character of thebuilding.

Missing or severely deteriorated windows that cannot be repaired shouldalways be replaced with windows that match the historic windows in material, size, muntinconfiguration, and reflective quality.

Suggestions from the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation:

Standard 6: Deteriorated historic features shall be repairedrather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of adistinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, andother visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing historicfeatures shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.

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