Don’t know if it’s getting old that I post about replacement windows but it has become epidemic.
Serving on the “Landmarks Commission” in my commmunity we’ve seen a doubling of COA’s (certificate of appropriateness) this last year over the year prior for taking out repairable windows for “replacement” windows.
By the time a homeowner has made the decision to replace their windows, submitted their COA and come to the commission their minds are already set and they’ve resigned themselves that they’re going to be spending all that money to replace their windows. After all, the window manufacturers, retailers and installers have all made very compelling arguments for why they should do so. And to boot there are “home energy” subsidy/incentives.
It’s “Green” and saves energy so I’ll save money in the long run on heating expense right? It’ll increase my homes value, right? I’ll bite the bullet and spend the money. It must be the right thing to do. Right?
Well without the benefit of knowing that there are lower-cost alternatives and what the down side is for taking out their repairable, “green-er” and potentially equally efficient windows (combined with sound storm windows) they’re making the best decision they can. And therein lies the challenge. There is very little counterbalance to the prevailing marketing message that replacement windows are the best choice. Consumers simply don’t know what the down-side is, what there options are or how to decide.
- There is a new website, savethewindow.org recently launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that attempts to set the record straight on what the hidden costs are of “replacement windows”. They do a great job of telling the story. They had a video. It seems to have gone missing. Here though are others.
- This is the single most compelling outline for how to decide… Should I, or should I not replace my windows. “Repair or Replace Old Windows – A visual look at the Impacts” (It’s a PDF download)
I would though like to add a couple points and observations of my own though. Note, I’ve completely ripped off the pics from the NT’s document “Repair or Replace Old Windows” above to illustrate my own points. So photo credits to them.
- It’s going to impact my homes resale value.
If you have a distinctive, well maintained older home you’re not going to out-new the new construction on the edges of town. I propose that you’re better off playing to the strength of your home and that is the period charm and character of your old house… and that includes your windows. Chances are a new buyer, if they’re interested in “Old Houses” likely have an appreciation for the character original windows add. Clunky, replacement windows can actually diminish the character of your distinctive old house and, I propose, impact your homes marketability.
(Side note: I call these “Little Orphan Annie” houses. It’s easy to find bad examples in clearly distressed neighborhoods. These owners have few options. Homes as this though where they clearly have money to spend… why would they denude a home like this. Ask yourself. A potential home buyer, if they were interested in a distinctive old houses in the first place, would they choose this or another where that same money (or less) was put into repairing what makes homes like these distinctive. If the potential buyer wants “new & generic” there are better new & generic without the bother of old house home ownership.)
- I’m increasing the resale value of my home right?
Often times not. You’ll find that you can’t afford to replace distinctive, high quality windows with anything like what was there originally. It’s just too @%#$ expensive to try and replicate with new windows.
As a result what happens is they swap in down-graded approximations. Add one more nail to the coffin of what had once been a distinctive old house with charm to one that has been denuded and reduced to remudeled ordinaryness.
Old house enthusiasts who can already discern and appreciation the aesthetic of original period windows are likely not interested in rip-n-replace in the first place. It’s more likely that those who don’t see or value the aesthetic of original windows that are quickest to pull them out. These folks are likely better persuaded by the pragmatic economics of replacements.
Actually this is the easier point to make. There is a growing number of independent, 3rd party evaluations on the actual energy savings and cost savings of repaired original windows with a storm over replacement windows. Many of these studies are coming from the utility companies themselves who are debunking the replacement window cost savings smoke-n-mirrors. I’ve blogged on this elsewhere but these citations have expanded since this post.
Saving Windows: Saving Money
Evaluating the energy performance of window replacement and retrofit
Our other posts on home energy and replacement windows
So, ok. We’ve been through the Cash for Clunkers program. Stay tuned for…
Cash For Caulkers
Or… leveraging economic stimulus funding for old house home owners.
I received the following from Adrian Fine who is a director at the Center for State and Local Policy at the National Trust. It would seem that historic home owners may be misinformed about ineligibility of storm windows for tax credit. Not surprisingly, it is usually a window replacement contractor who tells them this.
So here’s the deal….
Question: Do storm windows/doors qualify for the $1,500 tax credit.
Despite some confusion and misleading information, storm windows and doors do qualify for the tax credit. This chart from the U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Star clearly lists storm windows/doors as eligible products for the tax credit.
Question: Are all storm windows/doors eligible?
As stated earlier, the 2009/2010 provisions established a higher standard than in 2007 and all eligible storm windows/doors (purchased from June 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010) must have a U-value of 0.30 or lower and solar heat gain coefficient of 0.30 or lower. Here’s where the main problem lies regarding questions on eligibility. While it is common for new windows to offer specific qualifications regarding performance, it is a difficult to assess for storm windows/doors. Measuring the U-value and solar heat gain of storm windows/doors depends on the performance of the existing window in combination with a storm window, which will always be a case-by-case basis. This can only be tested after storm windows/doors are installed and will vary greatly from building to building.
While some storm window/door manufacturers are marketing their products in conjunction with the tax credit, others are not because the performance standard is difficult to substantiate for all cases. Some are listing classes of exterior windows (single pane, clear glass, double pane, low-E coating, etc.) that a product may be combined with to be eligible in specific climate zones (for a map, go to http://resourcecenter.pnl.gov/cocoon/morf/ResourceCenter/dbimages/full/973.jpg).
Question: What do I need to claim the tax credit?
Answer: Manufacturer’s Certification Statement
A Manufacturer’s Certification Statement is a signed statement from the manufacturer certifying that the product or component qualifies for the tax credit. Taxpayers must keep a copy of the certification statement for their records, but do not have to submit a copy with their tax return. Some manufacturers are providing these Certificates on their website. Other manufacturers are not, taking a more conservation approach and not issuing these certificates since it’s difficult to substantiate on a case-by-case basis. Though there are others, two storm window/door manufacturers that do provide certificates are Gorell (http://www.gorell.com/pages/energy_tax_incentive_act.htm) and Kaufmann (http://www.kaufmannwindow.com/2009energytaxcredit.htm).
As always, please check with your tax advisor for advice.
**Also, for more information on the stimulus funding, and constantly-expanding case studies, check out the Perfect Storm webpage(s) on PreservationNation
For more information visit the National Trust website > The Perfect Storm
Or contact Adrian directly at: Adrian_Fine@nthp.org
Old House Unveilings – What a concept!
While I’ve blogged on the concept before it’s likely a completely foreign concept to many people. Perhaps most.
I’ve talked about communities like Elgin Illinois where they’ve been doing this for years. I’ve mentioned Rock Island Ill too, where Elgin got the idea from and where they’ve been doing this for about 17 years now. They’ve gotten to the point where they don’t do it so much any more as they’re running out of candidate home to unveil.
I just heard about an old house unveiling in another community, Hannibal Mo, home of Mark Twain, population ~ 17k.
What’s an old house unveiling? It has some similarities to an old fashioned barn raising whereby neighbors and the community come together to uncover an old house that’s been cloaked for years by unoriginal siding.
This example in Hannibal MO while recently uncovered is still incomplete in its restoration. All the same you can see where this is going. And you can likely see the potential the owners are striving to regain.
I would imagine that such an undertaking and the fear of the unknown would give most people pause. Quoting Bob Yapp, historic preservation consultant…
Which is not to say there’s not a lot of work to be done. More, that it’s not as scary as you might imagine and not more then a motivated home owner with some vision (and some wallet) can manage. As far as wallet goes though, such an undertaking is not without its benefits. Again as Mr. Yapp was told on his TV show, “About Your House with Bob Yapp”…
I imagine some might see this as counter intuitive. And again Mr. Yapp on Old House Unveilings...
Indeed there have been some individuals who’ve uncovered their homes here in Beloit. With a little encouragement and community support perhaps there may be more. Not only is the change dramatic for the individual home. It can likewise be a catalyst for that street. The neighborhood benefits which is why the community turns out.
- - Old House unveiling in Rock Island IL.
- - Old House unveiling in Elgin IL.
- - Old House unveiling in Hannibal MO. (click on photos to enlarge)
Well yeah, it needs a lot of work but it’s an interesting old house that still retains a lot of it’s original dignity and character. It’s never been gutted. It’s never been duplex-ed. You can tell it was a fine home when built. It has real potential and it seems the new owner is up to the task.
We’ve met the new neighbor and welcomed them to the neighborhood. Ironic as they’ve been in town longer then we. If you’ve driven by you’ll see they’ve already done a lot to improve the curb appeal of this home. It’s a benefit for themeselves of course but it’s also a welcomed improvement for the entire block also.
Yet one more previously neglected old house gets a new owner, renewed appreciation and renewed investment. It benefits all of us. Further testiment to the positive direction the neighborhood is taking.
Work has begun on yet another downtown Beloit facade. Have you seen it?
It’s exciting to see the ongoing renovation of downtown Beloit. The Zilley building circa 1912 is just the latest in a series.
The Downtown Beloit Association (DBA) offers design assistance, as well as facade and sign grant programs to encourage successful, historically sensitive design. (italics ours)
From the DBA “News on the Street” – fall 2008
Does anybody know anything about the history of the Zilley building or who the Zilley’s were? Curious.
For more information on these grant programs, please contact Kathleen Braatz – kathleen (at) downtownbeloit (dot) com
“Nobody makes that anymore.”
“Nobody does that anymore.”
While it may not be at the local mass market “big box” store, very often it IS available and with numerable options. It’s frequently more a matter of knowing where to look or who to ask.
I’ve a couple personal favorites:
- - The Old House Journal Restoration Product Directory — once upon a time only available via their print catalog. You can now reference this online. If you’ve an old house you need to know about this resoure.
- - Clem Labine’s Traditional Building — He was the original creator of the OHJ. Personal note… I actually have copies of his early “magazine” from when it was still in a black and white, stapled and hole-punched form.
Recently there were two different inquiries on where to find capitals for some porch columns. These are generally available locally but with limited options mostly fitting a few standardized dimensions. Tapping either source above would likely overwhelm with the available options… including many with prices comparable. To that you factor repair relative to replacement in terms of price, quality of replacement and what’s being sent to the land fill.
For example, we recently purchased a mortised lock set for a screen door from Van Dyke’s. The type of item not found in a “big box”. When done our 80 year old screen doors will be good for many more decades. Wonder what the life expectancy is and various costs are on a “green” replacement screen door.
The above links and more on the evolving Beloit NPA Links page.
And we’ll be welcoming some new neighbors!
Just heard yesterday that the Preserve Beloit home at 617 Harrison has sold and folks are moving in!
This is great news from multiple perspectives. If you don’t know the story this was a “problem” house on the block. At one time perhaps even the worst on the block. It was in bad shape and there were those who wanted to see it demolished. Who knows what we could have ended up with as far as infill?
Thankfully Preserve Beloit LLC (a Hendricks co.) in partnership with the First National Bank & Trust Co. were willing to invest in our neighborhood and turn this house around. Virtually all of the original woodwork, doors and trim was saved and restored making for beautiful interiors and classic period charm. Thank you to Preserve Beloit LLC and First National Bank & Trust Co. for having the sensitivity not to gut it and engage in wholesale rip-n-replace.
We’ve been inside this home and they’ve done a wonderful job for the new home owners. Importantly, they’ve also done us all a favor having provided a wonderful service to the neighborhood and Beloit’s historic district. They took on a tough project any individual “flipper” would have either avoided or done with considerably lower standards IMO.
THANK YOU to Preserve Beloit LLC and First National Bank & Trust Co. You’re great Neighbors to have.
It’s refreshing to see the fine job they’ve done with this distinctive period home. It makes a huge difference and makes for a beautiful home. Take a look at the pics on the realtor’s listing. Amazing! Check out the woodwork, lighting and hardware. They’ve really done a wonderful job with this classic and dignified “old house”. If you’re moving to the area and have an appreciation for fine old homes and want/need move-in ready you should check this one out.
Though we had not been inside we knew the prior owners and understand the house needed some work. We’ve seen a number of sad homes where the “updating” was done by those with little understanding or appreciation for the original charm or period style of the home. Those homes have been stripped of their base, window/door, crown trim and other woodwork and replaced with anemic, under-scaled home center generics. They’ve pulled out the doors, hardware and lighting and replaced with generics. They’ve cheapened the home and made it bland IMO. Once removed it is very expensive to replace and often cost prohibitive. <exit soap box>
This home is very much still intact and beautiful. Worth a look.
- - Realtor’s Listing Here.
- - This home is not within any of the current historic districts.
- - Walkability Score: 77 out of 100, “Very Walkable”.
Just saw some great videos produced by the Kansas SHPO (State Historic Preservation Offices).
For decades, consumers have been led to believe that replacing their old wood windows with new vinyl, metal or clad windows will improve their home. Replacement windows have been marketed as energy efficient, and therefore environmentally friendly, and economical, by saving the homeowner money over the lifespan of the window. In reality, properly repaired wood windows can be equally energy efficient, are more environmentally friendly, are a better financial investment, and preserve one of the most important character-defining features of a historic home.
Wood Window Introduction:
Anatomy of a Window:
Sash Cord Repair:
Heat rises. Most heat loss is through the roof, not the windows. Remaining heat loss from windows is largely due to drafty windows that can be repaired, NOT from radiation from the glass as those selling it would have us believe. Yes, insulated glass radiates less heat loss but at what cost? What’s the incremental savings from heat radiation? Not much. Old house homeowners are spending a dollar to save a dime. They’re buying into an immense and unified marketing message from manufacturers, retailer and installers… Why repair your windows when you can buy what we’re selling? They’re being snookered.
For professionals interested in learning this skill or homeowners interested in do-it-yourself there is training available.
Belvedere School – Window Restoration College
For those who’d rather hire a professional who knows how to repair old windows…
Watch this space. I’ve got some leads I’m chasing down. I’ll also be updating this to our Old House Services page.
Window Restoration Contractors:
Mulligan Restoration Inc.
128 W. River St.
Rockton, IL. 61072
Phone and fax (815)964-4210
For many smaller projects, it is more cost effective to use a local contractor. The skills to restore windows that need basic maintenance (painting and weather stripping) are not that difficult for a trained carpenter. However, if the sash are seriously deteriorated and need epoxy repairs and custom replacement parts, it is better to use a specialist.
Window Repair Resources:
This is a very well illustrated and well written guide to essential window repairs.
Save Your Wood Windows by John Leek
Preservation Brief 9: “The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows” by the National Park Service:
Lead Paint Safety:
Virtually all old wood windows have lead paint. It is not necessary or required to have a lead abatement contractor do this work unless your project has federal funding from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The following downloadable publication (Lead Paint Safety: A Field Guide for Painting, Maintenance and Home Renovation) covers most of the practical methods of doing renovation work and working lead-safe:
~ Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Among my favorite things to see in historic neighborhoods undergoing renewal are work trucks, workmen, scaffolding and dumpsters. Its what I look for. And they’re all here at 640 Park.
A lot of people had given up on this once grand home. It’s been the worst house on this block for a long time and there were those who could only see one solution, demolition. Worst house on the block? Not for long. I’m lovin’ seeing it being worked on. It’s good for the entire neighborhood.