“The great thing about these older homes is the windows,” said Agatha McGinns. McGinns is a realtor who works in New England. “They’re large, and they let in a lot of light. They really add character to a place.”
Unfortunately, older windows do more than add character to a home. While they’re letting in light – particularly important during short Northern winters — older, leaky single pane windows let in cold air and moisture. This can seriously impact your enjoyment of your historic home.
Replacement windows can help you enhance your historic home’s energy efficiency and comfort levels. In the interest of preserving a home’s historical accuracy, some homeowners opt for window restoration or window inserts rather than full window replacement, but that’s not always an option.
Continual air and moisture penetration, particularly over an extended period, can result in severely damaged window sills, framing, and more. Rotted wood cannot simply be covered over and ignored — no reputable contractor will recommend such an action. Instead, structural repairs need to be done and at that point, you’re looking at full window replacement.
The choice then becomes wood replacement windows or vinyl replacement windows?
Wood replacement windows
If money is no object, wood replacement windows are very attractive. Wood is a natural insulator, and is obviously the closest match to the look of your original, historic windows. Advances in window technology mean that you can couple the best of glass — double or triple pane glass, low e coatings, insulating gas pockets and more — with traditional wood framing.
For the “Wow!” factor alone, wood replacement windows are often the best. You’ll pay top dollar for them, of course — and that’s not an insubstantial consideration when you’re taking into sill replacement and other remedial work that needs to be done to prepare your home for full window replacement.
Additionally, wood replacement windows require regular maintenance. Depending on your location, you can count on annual or semi-annual painting of your wood replacement windows.
Vinyl replacement windows
Vinyl replacement windows are a by far more affordable option than wood replacement windows. Vinyl replacement windows are available in a wide range of styles, ranging from the sturdy and serviceable to the awe-inspiring: you’ll have to do some research to find the look that works best for you.
Vinyl replacement windows offer superlative energy efficiency options. Insulating chambers, within the framing and between double or triple-pane glass windows, help conserve energy. Dollar for dollar, it’s hard to find a better value than vinyl replacement windows.
Finally, there is the maintenance issue. Vinyl replacement windows require no maintenance: you never have to paint them! This feature is so attractive that some wood replacement window manufacturers offer the vinyl-clad option, allowing homeowners to forgo the burden of annually painting their windows. Additionally, tilt-in features make washing the windows a snap: clean windows are attractive windows.
Each homeowner will have to make their own, individual decision regarding replacement windows, especially when they have a historic home. It’s critical to take into account any local regulations or ordinances regarding what type of windows one can have in a historic home. However, vinyl windows often are the most cost-effective way of improving the energy efficiency and comfort level of a home.