Restore or Replace? The Options for Old Windows

Shannon Lee

old wood window blueMany old homes boast their original wood windows, and in some cases, the architectural detail is magnificent. Unfortunately, the older the windows are, the less likely they are energy-efficient. Upgrading the windows means either restoring them to their original condition or opting for replacement windows.

Window Replacement or Restoration?

Deciding between window replacement and window restoration can be a tough choice. Study the pros and cons of each option before you make a decision.

Replacement Windows

  • Replacement windows can be well-insulated, cutting down on energy costs and noise.
  • You can open the windows with minimal effort, and they stay open, unlike old windows with no springs or pulley systems.
  • You can replicate the architectural designs of old windows, although extensive designs might become a bit pricey.
  • Efficient, thorough weather stripping is a given on new replacement windows.
  • You can install replacement windows quickly, which leads to less disruption for those who live there.
  • Removing the existing windows can damage the surrounding wallboards, stucco, or plaster and can lead to expensive repairs.
  • Replacement windows with pulley systems, bubbled glass, and other historic details necessitate a custom order and can become very expensive.
  • If you are seeking a landmark or historic designation, reviews of the window replacement details can take quite a bit of time, and might hold up the work schedule.

Window Restoration

  • The original materials and design are preserved.
  • Most historic windows were built of durable wood taken from large trees, and in some cases, those woods are now extremely rare--some species have died out or are not plentiful enough for new construction.
  • Any damage to the surrounding area during a restoration is minimal, and usually only cosmetic.
  • Unique, beautiful original glass details can be left undisturbed.
  • If the windows are in good shape to begin with, restoration might be surprisingly affordable.
  • If the historic windows are single-pane, simply restoring them provides no significant energy savings.
  • Restoration can take a great deal of time.
  • Old windows are often painted with lead paint and require costly, specialized removal.

Doing it Right

Professional installation for replacement windows is a must to ensure the full value of energy-efficient upgrades. If you choose to restore the windows instead, restoration professionals can make certain your windows are as secure and energy-efficient as possible while maintaining all the unique features so important to a historic home.

Whether you choose to replace or restore the beautiful windows in your old home, hire a professional to get the job done right!



About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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