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Restoring Old Windows with Oscar

Posted on: May 12th, 2020 No Comments

By Christine Bush

Greetings everyone, Oscar the Grotesque here, joining you for another week to look more closely at Adirondack architecture, historic buildings, and preservation opportunities.

This week we are going to talk about one of my favorite architectural features: Historic Wood Windows! Windows are perhaps the most character-defining element of an old house. They captivate us, and they make us fall in love with an old house. Your home’s old wood windows are some of the most valuable, yet misunderstood elements of a historic house.

Old windows have a bad reputation for being leaky and energy-inefficient.  You might also find windows painted shut, inoperable, and needing repair. The handy homeowner can handle all of these issues.


The window industry has successfully convinced a large portion of the American public that replacing old windows will make a significant difference in heating and cooling costs. Another marketing ploy is that replacement windows will be tighter and eliminate that “drafty” old window. Of course, all of this is easily remedied with storm windows, weather stripping, and other techniques described below.

Everyone who owns an old house needs to know how to restore old windows.

Your old window was constructed with materials like old-growth wood, which is more rot and insect resistant than today’s options, but also the quality of the workmanship.

Almost all of their parts may be repaired or restored.  These parts (cords, pulleys, locks, etc.) along with individual glass panes and glazing putty are designed to be easily replaced or repaired when they reach the end of their useable life. They may be restored many times, and their lives extended into centuries of use.

Keep in mind vinyl, or aluminum windows don’t move, but your house does! Repairing your old windows not only saves the architectural character of your home, but it is the cheapest and the greenest solution!

There are numerous sources out there to help you repair those windows. I highly recommend The Window Sash Bible by Steve Jordan. This comprehensive guide is easy to use and features abundant photographs and resources. You will also find instructional videos and resources below.

So grab your putty knife and get glazing!!

Window Repair Information and Resources:

How to Repair a wood window in 12 steps

How to fix rotted wood with epoxy

NPS Preservation Brief 9 – Repair of Historic Wooden Windows

Window Restoration 101

HAF -Historic Wooden Windows

How to repair window glazing


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