Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 3)

The paint went on the window today and it looks pretty good. The semi-gloss sheen does a good job of fitting with the traditional look but in a cleaner way since there is no underlying heavy build-up of paint layers.

There is no question that the work in preparation made the painting very easy. The hardest part of the process was cutting along the wall on the right hand side which was still relatively simple.

The stool is clean and smooth now. The only parts that look at all off are the corners where the window stops come together. You can see a gap there which could be easily filled with some caulking but, since I have to take them off again to refinish the sashes at a later date, I’ll leave them as is for the moment.

Finally, I put the blinds back in place, which is important because it makes the bathroom actually usable for the first time since the renovation began. The girls are thrilled with the new digs. Just a bit of tile work, the shower rod and curtain, and some final accessories before we can call it complete.

Why not buy new windows?

So now that the window is finally complete, some people may be wondering why I would spend this much time working on an “old” window. While there is the aesthetic consideration of having proper wooden double hung windows in a Victorian house, the real reason is as follows.

These are original windows. That means that they have survived, in a functional state, for 130 years and, with some relatively simple work, can reasonably be expected to survive another 100 years. Every part of the window – casing, sashes, and trim – can be repaired or replaced by someone with reasonable wood working skills. The same cannot be said for aluminium or vinyl windows that people, unfortunately, all too often turn to as substitutes. Once a conversion has been made, not only do you impact the visual appeal of the house, but it really becomes cost prohibitive to convert back to proper double hung wooden windows in future.

It is true that working on these windows is a bit of a dying art. Most contractors default to replacements when faced with window challenges. It is a quicker path to a short term improvement in the look of the windows. But even the best of the replacement windows have service lifetimes that are a fraction of the life of a wooden window – and that is only considering the extended lifespan of a restored window. If you include the original 100+ years of service these windows have typically already provided and you dwarf the service life of a replacement even more.

Some books on windows…

On the other hand, it may be difficult to find someone to do the work for you at a price you can afford and you may end up doing it yourself (as is the case with me). Luckily, there are lots of resources available to help out. My favorite so far is “Working Windows – A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows” by Terry Meany. Terry is a font of information and writes in a very enjoyable and, in fact, funny way.

Working Windows: A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows by [Meany, Terry]

Another good source of info is “Repairing Old and Historic Windows” by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. It is full of useful information but much drier and not what I would call an entertaining read. Useful as an adjunct resource but, for the average homeowner, I’d say Terry’s book is the preferred source.

Repairing Old and Historic Windows: A Manual for Architects and Homeowners by [New York Landmarks Conservancy]

So if you are lucky enough to have some original wood windows in your house, I strongly urge you to consider restoration over replacement when the time comes.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 1)

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 2)

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