Is restoring old windows really that hard? Turns out, no! Join me as I save the ONE lonesome original window I found in the house.
All of our original windows were removed before we bought this house. Or so I thought.
Finding the Window
One week in September of 2019 Brandon went on a motorcycle trip. I kissed him goodbye lovingly, gave him a hug, and told him I was not responsible for the state of the kitchen when he returned.
This is what we started with. And being left alone for four days means I was going to take a good crack at getting it demoed.
I was demoing along on Thursday night and decided to just pull down one more board.
O. M. G.
Behind the wall, perfectly preserved, sitting there waiting for me…was an original. One complete original window…in the pantry.
When I tell you I screamed, I’m sure they heard me several counties over. A window. An original, wooden window of my very own. It wasn’t even a question at this point. Of course I was going to save it.
Does this mean I have to learn about restoring old windows now? ABSOLUTELY. AND I AM THRILLED.
Why save old windows?
I have to take a moment to pause here and point out that if you have old windows, SAVE THEM. No. Don’t argue with me.
There is a lot of talk about how old windows are inefficient and wasteful blah blah blah. I am here to tell you that the greenest window is one that a) already exists and b) can be repaired.
We installed new vinyl windows during this renovation partly because of cost constraints and partly because of time constraints.
However each of those windows (at upwards of $350 a pop!) will be completely useless in 15 years when the seals break or the plastic disintegrates or they fail some other way. And when they are done? We have to THROW THEM IN A LAND FILL.
You know what happens when a wooden window starts leaking? You fix it. New glazing, new paint, and new weather stripping. It’s all fine again for another 20-30 years.
I have included some resources for great window restoration experts below. You don’t have to believe me. Believe them. They’re experts. The bottom line is that your old windows will work hard for and serve you well when you take care of them.
Minimal waste, minimal cost, lifetime of service. When our windows finally go I will be figuring out how to get repairable windows in our house. So if you have your old windows, learn to repair them and save yourself a life time of costs.
Restoring Old Windows in Our House
OK! Let’s save this pantry window!
First we had to open it up. Whoever decided to close up this window just put a piece of plywood over the opening. Which means the window and both sashes stayed nice and safe underneath.
On the inside I removed the window stops and carefully took out both sashes. More on that to come later.
Then Brandon cut and hammered his way through the plywood. I can’t adequately describe how freaking happy I was to finally see light pouring in through the pantry.
And it’s seriously so much light!!!
Honestly we didn’t think very far ahead with this window. I just wanted to see it open! So Brandon put vapor barrier on the outside to keep the rain out and I went to work on the window.
I used a chisel to carefully remove all the glazing and glazing points around each pane of glass.
Public service announcement! If you have broken glass, wear gloves or protect the edge of the glass in some way. I got a nice big cut on my knuckle when my hand slipped.
But eventually I got all the panes of glass out safely. At that point I scrubbed the frame with water and a little TSP. Then I scraped off all the loose paint to get the surface ready for priming.
I used a good coat of oil based primer to coat the inside and outside. Glass cleaner and a razor blade made quick work of the gunk on the glass. Time to reassemble!
Reinstalling the Glass
I read quite a few articles, watched quite a few videos, and asked a few friends to get myself prepared for this window restoration.
Essentially it boiled down to this process.
- Glazing down first.
- Squish down glass in to glazing.
- Install glazing points.
- Scrape excess glazing from underneath.
- Glaze top of windows.
- Use whiting powder to remove residue.
- Wait a week or two then paint inside and outside with two coats.
I will leave more links for window resources below but overall, it turned out pretty darn well!!
Resources for Restoring Old Windows
The Craftsman Blog: Absolutely EXCELLENT resource for all things old house.
Blake Hill House: Window wizard herself!! Great resource.
Supplies for Restoring Old Windows
Stay tuned for Restoring Old Windows part 2!
We still have to reinstall the window in the pantry. And of course build the entire pantry. But that’s ok. We’ll get there!!
In the meantime, I’m just going to dream lovingly about when I can finally get my window back.