Historic Window Restoration by Westbrook in Seattle
The two part Article and videos below are from a historic window restoration project Westbrook Restorations did a number of years ago on the historic Moana Apts of the Capital Hill Neighborhood in Seattle. I wrote this two part article about historic wood windows in Seattles history originally for the Dunn Lumber Company website containing a lot of information for professionals and homeowners. Thanks to Dunn Lumber for financing and sharing this valuable information. The Article explains what it takes to restore wood windows and what to expect if you are one of my clients. It shows a great general idea of the detailed work and level of knowledgable practice it takes to restore historic wood windows properly. I love historic window systems, and this kind of restorative work gives me great satisfaction in using a practiced carpentry skill set that reaches back in history. I don’t think modern windows necessarily provide a better value than historic windows. There is a pretty high carbon footprint in manufacturing and replacing most modern windows, especially since they have an extremely short life span. Also Historic windows, if restored properly will add antiquity monetary value to your home or building. Heat loss can be reduced significantly with storm windows and proper spring bronze weatherstripping. So, if you have a home or building that has original wood windows from historic, vintage and even mid century modern, consider period replicating, restoring, and maintaining them. It might just be the best solution after all. Enjoy the Articles/Videos!
When it comes to evaluating historic windows, the first thing I like to do is assess the amount of decay on each window system, and determine how much of the window should be removed for repair. Can we repair the window just by removing the sash, or do we need to remove the entire system including the jambs? Removing the whole window will require the craftsperson to extract the more expensive interior and exterior trim, so it’s best to do that only when necessary. Be sure to preserve all window parts and pieces; this is critical for understanding the exact sizing of each window, matching new components, and determining if there have been modifications made over the years. In many cases, historic window modifications are performed incorrectly, which require an eventual fix. Setting up dust controls in the living space is also critical as it keeps dust down while being compliant with lead contamination regulations.
Removing historic windows is a surgical process requiring precision on-site, in transfer, and in the shop. You’ll need a disciplined level of organization and a gentle touch! With that, it’s important to remember that agitation should be kept to a minimum, because plaster and mouldings are fragile, as are many of the window components. It’s best to gain knowledge about how installation was performed in the first place. From there, you can use your knowledge (along with a myriad of pry bars and specialty saws) to keep damage at a minimum. Paying careful attention to the original assembly during extraction will give you a better knowledge of how the windows were installed in the first place, and understanding how the 1900s-era craftsmen installed the windows will help you in your extraction and re-assembly after repair. Once extracted, I like to use a numbering system assigned to each piece. I also use a HEPA vacuum to clean as we work, because, again, this is more like surgery than demolition.
How long will these historic double-hung windows last? With proper restoration, we’ll have to wait another 100 years to find out.