Dear Burnett Brothers:
Shame on you for writing an article encouraging people to replace their wood double-hung windows without any consideration of the type of home and type of replacement window, and whether the two go together.
Many old, historic or potentially historic houses have been irreparably altered by people who put in aluminum windows, for example, in a Victorian. When significant features of a historic building are altered, the historic integrity and status can be lost, and the building can more likely be lost.
When historic buildings are lost, through loss of integrity or demolition, they are irreplaceable.
Homeowners should always consider their home’s style and architecture when replacing windows. You should do better than this when you are trying to educate the public.
A: Easy now! We agree with all of your points but one. You’re all wet when you accuse us of promoting the destruction of the architectural integrity of historic homes.
Our regular readers know that we champion historic preservation at every turn. Whenever possible, we try to relay our hands-on experience to our readers. From century-old Italianate Victorians to Craftsman bungalows, we cut our teeth refurbishing homes in Alameda, Calif., a town known for its historic housing stock.
We’re sensitive to the destruction of these treasures such as the grand Victorian mansion that once stood at the corner of Tilden Way and Buena Vista Avenue that was demolished to make way for, of all things, a self-serve car wash. It’s a crime that endures to this day.
A few weeks ago, one of our regulars asked us how to exchange the wood double-hung windows in his house for double-glazed vinyl replacements. From previous correspondence, we knew that his home is a 1940s-vintage stucco house. He was unclear as to how he could replace the wood double-hungs without destroying the exterior stucco.
We answered the question, explaining that manufacturers of replacement windows design them to fit neatly inside the opening once the old wood sashes have been removed. His proposed window replacement project did not offend us.
Although replacing the old wood sashes with new ones would certainly be an option for our reader, given his particular house, it’s a no-brainer to go with energy-efficient, double-pane replacement windows. …CONTINUED
That said, we’ve replaced many a heavily painted dry-rotted sash over the years. It’s a job that a handy homeowner can easily tackle. The trickiest part is getting the right measurements for the replacement sashes.
Measure the length, width and thickness of the existing top and bottom sash. Also measure the angle at the base of the interior sash where the sash meets the sill. Use a bevel tool to take this measurement. Then order up the new sashes from a company specializing in manufacturing wood replacement sashes.
To begin the installation process, use a sharp utility knife to score the joint where the stop holding the sash in the window meets the frame. Then, gently work a thin putty knife into the joint. Start at the bottom of the stop and loosen it. Once there is a large-enough gap between the stop and the frame, insert a thin pry bar and work the putty knife up the jamb, further loosening the stop as you go until it can be removed. Go gently, because you’ll need to reuse the stop.
With the stop off, open the bottom sash slightly and pull it toward you out of the channel. If the windows have been painted shut, you’ll probably have to loosen the sash at the joint of the top and bottom sash with a putty knife. Once the bottom sash is out of the channel, remove the sash cord from the groove in the side of the sash. Firmly grasp the sash cord and slowly lower the weight until it bottoms out on the inside of the widow.
With the first sash cord out, pull the sash out of the opening and remove the cord on the other side of the sash. Be careful to hang onto the sash cord.
Next, remove the parting beads, the narrow pieces of wood, set in a groove, that separate the upper sash from the lower sash in the frame. Often, parting beads are painted in place. We’ve had the most success removing them by scoring the joint where the bead enters the groove and gently working them out of the groove with a pair of pliers.
Finally, remove the upper sash in the same way as the lower sash. This is a good time to replace the sash cords. Older, double-hung windows are equipped with a small door in the side of the frame to access the window weights. Remove the door, fish out the weights and cut off the old cord. Fish a new piece of sash cord through the pulley at the top of the frame and tie it to the weight. Insert the weight into the hole and cut the cord to the same length as the old cord. With the old sashes out and new sash cord replaced, install the new sashes.
We’ve always felt it preferable to paint or stain and finish the replacement sashes prior to installation. To install the new sashes, slip the knots of the sash cord into both sides of the top sash and push it against the exterior stops. Install the parting bead, install the bottom sash and replace the interior stops. We like to drive a small screw through the knot of the sash cord into the sash to ensure the knot doesn’t come undone over time.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.