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Should You Repair or Replace Historic Windows in Your Home?

For a home, or any part of a home, to become “historical,” it must be deemed so by the city council that represents a particular community. Perhaps simply the age of a home – usually before 1900 – will make it historical. Also, if any historic event took place at your home, it can be deemed historical. With every historical home, there are many historical “period” pieces, like lampshades, fixtures and windows. When it comes to renovating historical homes, the owner of the property must be careful not to take away any important details. Yet, there are some necessary upgrades that can bring the home into the 21st century – without harming its historical status. So, should you repair or replace historic windows in your home?

While you never want to replace entire windows, you do want to repair and retrofit. Retrofitting simply entails taking the original window and frame and bringing it to code. This includes adding new glass panes, strengthening fixtures and replacing any internal mold and wood rot that could prevent the window from being opened and closed, or causing injury. What you need to know is that the window is an essential part of the structure of the home and taking away that character can make the home less valuable and historical.

If the frame of the window and some essential parts of its structure are damaged – a natural result of old age – there are some measures you can take to not affect the window’s character. For instance, if molding and historical details are still evident, perhaps all that is needed is some minor refinishing. Many homeowners make the mistake of simply covering the historic windows with plaster, which can destroy the window’s character and significantly lower the value of a home. It is a much more wise investment to restore the window – instead of completely replacing it.

Also, windows can often be the number one source of energy inefficiency in older, historical homes. It seems that all the air conditioning in the summer and heat in the wintertime simply escapes through nearly imperceptible drafts in the window frame and glass. However, by replacing the panes with thicker glass and providing some light caulking around the frames, you can save up to 60% of the energy inside your home. With energy efficient windows you can also cut down your utility bills.

Lastly, if you must completely replace your historical windows – and there are no other options – there are a number of ways to do so without effecting the historical and market value of your home. One option is to install windows that were removed from another home that was demolished or you can hire a specialized renovation company to recreate the old windows. The first option is slightly more expensive, because not only do you have to find transportation for the old windows, but also construction can be incredibly costly. If you want to save money, effort and time, it is recommended to go with a special renovation team. Either way, you want to make sure the new windows are seamless with the architecture of your home, because historical accuracy is critical.

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