My house is about fifty years old and some of the windows are deteriorating. I thought I would just get new windows installed until I learned the price, and, I just did not like the look of the new windows. New windows are not necessarily trouble-free. A quick scan of the Internet turned up a surprising number of complaints after just a few years. I decided to repair them instead.
I was inspired a few years ago by an unknown Lansdowne homeowner who was repairing his windows on a magnificent home on the corner of Bryn Mawr and Windermere, near the house where the Turner girls, a few grades below us, used to live. I was with Dave Hall who was exploring his old neighborhood while he was visiting for our 50th class reunion. The homeowner, only about in his 40s, said it was tedious work, but he enjoyed preserving things worth preserving. I took the accompanying photo of his house.
So, here are some tips that might inspire you to do the same:
If the ends of the window frames are constantly rotting, both Lowe’s and Home Depot now sell PVC molding in standard shapes that never rots. They are paintable and cost only a little more than wood.
If the outside sills are rotted, they can be covered up with a section of aluminum drip edging used on roofs. The edging has a fancy right-angle bend and is the right dimension. It is easily cut to length with a hack saw. I did not even nail them down, but simply pressed them onto beads of caulk applied to the wood sill already there. The caulk keeps out the water and holds them tightly in place. I painted them to match the frame.
The longer you wait to re-glaze the windows, the easier it will be to chip off the old glazing. I only took off the pieces that came off easily. They used to say to take off all of the old glazing with a heat gun and chisel, but the modern vinyl glazing compounds stick tightly even to the old remains. I did the same to other windows about fifteen years ago, and they are still fine.
They also used to recommend priming the wood before glazing, but I did not. That was to keep the bare wood from drawing the linseed oil out of the old-style glazing putty and is not relevant to today’s vinyl glazing compounds.
Get one of the special glazing tools that has one end shaped to the proper size and angle to smooth out the glazing. Every paint store has them and they are worth any price they ask. The tool end even has a small slot for the excess putty to ooze out.
I volunteer at the Peirce-du Pont House at Longwood Gardens. Parts of the house goes back to 1730, and modern, smooth glazing would look out-of-place there. I see whoever did the renovation used the simple, old-fashioned method: they rolled the glazing putty in their palms until it was a long strand, then they crudely pressed it onto the glass-wood corner with their thumb and painted over it. Crude, yes, but it looks proper on an old window. Stop by sometime when I’m there, and I’ll show you, or check it out yourself on a window at ground level. The workman had a fat thumb, wider than mine, but it didn’t matter.