The Problem With Old Windows
Old houses and nostalgic charm go hand in hand, but along with appealing touches like intricate woodwork, hardwood floors, and tucked-away alcoves comes an inevitable draftiness. Owners of old houses regularly complain about gusts of wind that blow through creaky windows, moving curtains as if by ghostly hand and giving the home’s residents a quick chill. If you thought that shelling out for expensive replacement windows was the only way to make your home airtight, you may be interested to learn about a new option that can insulate and weatherproof your existing windows while preserving their beauty.
A window restoration company that has serviced old houses and historic buildings in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, for decades has distilled their process into a new kit that can help homeowners nationwide preserve their old windows. The Window SLIP system from Chosen Wood Window Maintenance involves fastening a slim-line insulating pane (SLIP) to the sash, overlaying an existing window glass setup to reduce drafts and add insulating value to old wood windows. These new panes come in clear, obscure, or low-e options and, thanks to their unobtrusive, low-profile design, they won't change the look or function of your windows.
Now that you know about this solution for single pane windows, take some time to consider the current state of your windows. Are you happy with their performance? To evaluate them, look for these five symptoms of failing windows, then learn how this one upgrade can remedy them.
1. Waning Comfort Levels
For all their good looks, original wood windows are notoriously drafty and tend to rattle in their frames at the first sign of a breeze. Because old houses are not weathertight, indoor comfort levels in can vary widely. One side of a room might feel warm while cold drafts blowing through a window keep the other side chilly.
Installing a SLIP on an existing windowpane will help reduce thermal transfer through the glass, which means those inside the home will be more comfortable. During the installation of a SLIP on operational windows, weatherstripping is added between the sash and the window jamb—a prime spot where drafts enter and heated or cooled air escapes.
2. Seasonally High Utility Bills
Another benefit of reducing drafts and thermal transfer through old windows is the way this reduces the stress on your HVAC system. Your furnace in winter and your AC unit in the summer will be able to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature without having to work as hard. Not only will the savings on heating and cooling costs help recoup some of the investment on your window upgrade, but you may even prolong the lifespan of your appliance.
3. Difficult Window Operation
Over the decades, double- and single-hung windows in older homes usually receive many coats of paint. Those accumulated layers of paint can make it difficult—or impossible—to open the windows today. Older double-hung windows may also be hampered by brittle, frayed, or broken cords on the sash weights that allow the windows to open and close smoothly.
If either of these issues has made it difficult for you to open your windows to enjoy a fresh breeze or the sounds of nature, restoration with the Window SLIP can reinstate full, unobstructed operation. Installation on double-hung windows involves removing the window sashes and replacing the old weight system with either ropes and weights or spring-loaded balances that make it much easier to open and close the window. Once the process is complete, even windows that haven’t been opened in years will operate smoothly.
4. The Noise Factor
Sound travels easily through single panes of glass and the gaps that are typical of old wood windows. The SLIP system adds a second layer of tempered security glass over the existing pane to help damper noise from the street. The added weatherstripping between the window sashes and frames that is part of the process reduces noise transfer, and perhaps best of all, makes rattling windows a thing of the past.
5. You Can Keep the Originals!
Wood windows of yesteryear were often made from high-quality old-growth wood—species that could withstand virtually anything Mother Nature sent their way. Even in poorly performing older wood windows, the wood itself is frequently still in good shape. Not only would it be a shame to rip out those windows, but doing so would strip away some of a house's charm. That's why so many owners of older homes choose to live with their underperforming windows rather than spend the money to replace them.
Sometimes, older windows just need a little TLC to make them weathertight—and that’s where the SLIP system can help. When you install SLIPs, you retain the vintage character of your windows, such as the soft ripples and bull's-eye indentations found in handblown glass panes. Likewise, classic windows with leaded or stained glass are just too lovely to lose, so it makes sense to find a way to leave them in place while increasing the home’s overall weather resistance.
An Affordable Alternative to Replacement Windows
Installing replacement windows is an expensive proposition. A single replacement window runs anywhere from $200 to $1,300 or more, depending on the manufacturer, and that doesn’t include the cost of professional installation. For owners of old homes who have lengthy bucket lists of upgrades and repairs, having replacement windows installed can be cost-prohibitive. It often makes sense to economize on windows so you can tackle other projects.
The final cost of installing SLIPs on your home will depend on the number, size, and type of windows you want to upgrade—and whether you install them yourself or hire a pro—but the SLIP kits themselves are less expensive than standard replacement windows, with a square foot cost starting at $23. (For a more precise estimate, measure your existing windows and then fill out an online quote form.) The SLIP system can be installed by a certified installer, contractor, or handyman, or even a homeowner with good woodworking skills. If you decide to get quotes from contractors, send them a link to the SLIP installation overview so they will be able to give you an accurate estimate on labor.
Do-it-yourself installation will save the homeowner the cost of professional labor, but this is not a project for newbies. Before tackling it, you’ll need to understand how wood windows are assembled, and you’ll need to own and have a working knowledge of a few power tools, including a plunge router and a trim router. A detailed how-to video provided at the time of your order will guide you through the installation process.
On fixed windows, such as picture windows, the installation process is fairly simple: Attach the SLIP and then caulk around the window frame. The process for double-hung and single-hung windows, however, is more involved. These require disassembling the window, removing any accumulated paint, cutting a kerf (groove) on all four outer edges of the sash to accommodate the weatherstripping (included in the SLIP kit), terminating the window’s sash weight cords, and then creating channels in the sides of the sash and the frame to accommodate the new spring-loaded balances (included in the kit).
If this sounds like the solution to your window woes, check out the information on the Window SLIP website, and start planning!
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