Why Preserve Wood Windows?

Window Replacement Review
The Weston Historical Commission reviews window replacement under the Demolition Delay By-law and encourages homeowners to retain original wood windows. Homeowners considering window replacement are encouraged to explore the articles linked to this page.

About Window Replacement in Old Houses (PDF) is an article by the Weston Historical Commission that provides information about cost-effective measures to save energy without the major expense of replacing original wood windows.
Three types of windows contribute to the character of the house at 253 Glen Road

Guidelines for Preservation & Replacement of Historic Wood

An excellent analysis of the importance and advantages of retaining wood windows can be found in Guidelines for Preservation and Replacement of Historic Wood Windows in Cambridge (PDF) prepared by Paul Trudeau for the Cambridge Historical Commission in 2009.

These guidelines emphasize that historic wood windows are considered to be one of the important distinctive characteristics of historic buildings and “protection of historic wood windows not only preserves an irreplaceable resource but is also cost-effective to the homeowner and environmentally responsible.” The author sums up the benefits of window restoration under 3 categories: Sustainability, Energy-Efficiency, and Historic Character.

Helpful Articles & Resources on Historic Preservation

Economics, Sustainability, and Historic Preservation, an article by Donovan Rypkema on the website Preservation North Carolina, argues for the preservation of original windows and makes the case for historic preservation as sustainable development.

“Should your Old Wood Windows Be Saved?”
by Rob Yagid. This article in the magazine Fine Home Building weighs the options with cost, complexity, efficiency, and preservation in mind.

A new study shows that restored 200-year old windows are as airtight as brand new replacements, which compared two new windows against two restored windows for air infiltration (the biggest source of heat loss with windows).

"Restore a Wood Window Sash" (PDF) by Ben Brunick of Fine Home Building. This article explores the steps in restoring an old wood sash.

A Tip Sheet from the National Trust for Historic Preservation written by Rebecca Williams.

Study of Cumulative Energy

The following statement is from A Comparative Study of the Cumulative Energy Use of Historical Versus Contemporary Windows (PDF) written by  Frank Shirley, Fred Gamble and Jarod Galvin from December 3, 2010:

“This study compares the life-cycle costs of 2 residential window systems in a pre-1940 house in Boston, Massachusetts. One is an original double-hung window with a new triple-track storm unit. The other is a new, vinyl, double-hung replacement window. Our results are obtained from an algorithm that yields the total present value of all costs associated with a window system over its entire life, including acquisition, installation, maintenance, and energy.

Our study provided 2 notable findings:
  1. the thermal performances of the 2 window systems are similar; and
  2. taking all costs into account, it is more cost effective to add a storm window to an historical window, and it remains so at all times for the full 100-year life we considered.”

New England Window Restoration Alliance

Members of the New England Window Restoration Alliance (NEWRA) share a common commitment to the preservation and restoration of historic wood windows. Other local window restoration companies also committed to restoring historic wood windows include Cleary Window Restoration, Window Repair,Masterworks Painting and Restoration, Inc. and Olde Bostonian.

The following quotation is from the book Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Building by Jean Carroon:
"No description of a sustainable world can avoid addressing the completely unsustainable way in which “developed” countries carelessly use and dispose of materials. Throwaway cultural norms apply as directly to buildings and their components as they do to plastic bottles. Current economic structure and cultural attitudes support new over old replacement of repair. A sustainable approach takes an entirely different tack. A sustainable world values stewardship, repairability, and durability because a sustainable world recognizes that every new object has substantial but hidden environmental costs, including health impacts, that may be irreversible.”
Community Preservation Coalition, written by Rebecca Williams of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Repair or Replace Old Windows: A Visual Look at the Impacts was written by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It looks at the impacts of repairing and restoring existing windows versus replacing them by weighing benefits and costs, discusses important details, and provides case studies of various issues involved.