Your old wooden windows are 25? 50? 100 years old? Worn, damaged and covered with a peeling paint, they completely lost their former look. Is the glass of your window damaged? Or is it the casing or the sash? It may be tempting to replace them with white PVC windows for the modern look but if your goal is a good return on investment by saving on energy costs, you might be surprised to learn that you will have to wait 100 years or even 250 years before seeing the colour of your money, much more than the average life of these new windows1!
(1) Harris, J. and Blasnik, M. (2007) Reference design guide for highly energy efficient residential construction. 64 pages. (https://library.cee1.org/system/files/library/1755/935.pdf)
Whether it is a louvered, a sash or a awning window, when we know that it is possible to almost reach the energy efficiency of a new window, allowing some repairs and extra pieces for a fraction of the cost, no wonder that the restoration of your wooden windows can become, all of a sudden, more attractive!
To decide if the right solution is to replace or restore your wooden window, you will need to answer these questions:
- Is the integrity of the window compromised (Is it completely rotten)?
- Does the window have water infiltrations?
- Is the glass broken?
- Does the window have air infiltrations?
- Is there too much heat entering through the window during the summer?
- Did the appearance of the window lose its shine?
If you answered "Yes" to all of these questions, it is likely that a replacement of your wooden window is required. Otherwise, if you’ve got some time and the required manual skill, a multitude of solutions are available for you to restore your wooden windows at a lower cost.
STEP 1: EVALUATE THE GENERAL CONDITION OF YOUR WOODEN WINDOWS
Before starting any repair whatsoever, it is important to check the general condition of your windows. A restoration project will be very different from another one if your window is badly insulated, the glass is broken or if the sach is completely rotted.
If the glass is broken, it must be replaced. Normally, this operation is quite simple but requires the use of suction discs. If lead paint has been used, consider calling a specialists or take the necessary precautions. It is important not to use a sander but to use a paint remover as the generated dust of this type of paint is very toxic.
If the frame or sash is damaged, these should be assessed. Damage to wood, such as deep scratch, cracks and rot, compromises the integrity of the structure. In some milder cases, you can repair the damaged parts with wood pulp or epoxy products, while in some more severe cases you will need to replace some pieces of wood. If you need to replace a section of the window, be sure to take a piece of wood of the same nature and an equivalent age. Ask a contractor who specializes in window replacement for wood pieces.
If the frame and sash assembly is open, take advantage of it to add top and bottom apron flashings with check throat to prevent water to reach the structure of the façade and avoid future water infiltrations.
Since the joints between the window and the housing structure are the most vulnerable part, make sure you have the required skills or that you’ve got some help when installing the frame and sash. If in doubt, call a professional in wooden window restoration.
STEP 2: IMPROVE THE INSULATING PROPERTIES OF YOUR WOODEN WINDOWS
Once you have made sure your windows are in good condition, the second step will be to make sure they also provide you comfort and insulation.
Is caulking still effective? It must be in good condition, neither worn nor cracked. If you can feel drafts or notice movement of your blinds and curtains, you will need to replace it. In addition to the caulking for the fixed parts of the window, it is important to look at the state of the wheatherstripping on the movable parts. Again, these must be in good condition, neither worn nor flattened. The return on investment for the replacement of wheatherstripping is on average 3 to 5 years.
The installation of a low-emissivity membrane inside and a well-installed wooden storm window will achieve the insulation of a new window to the double glazing. If you install them yourself, it will cost you about $25 for the low-emissivity membrane and $150 for the storm window to cover a surface of 30 x 60 inches. On top of reducing the electricity bill in winter, the coupled low-emissivity membrane and storm window will help protect your wooden windows from bad weather, water infiltration, UV rays and will extend their lifetime.
STEP 3: APPLY A FINISH TO YOUR WOODEN WINDOWS
Finally, when you are satisfied with the condition of the structure and the energy efficiency of your wooden windows, it is time to apply on them a good finishing product. To prevent water infiltration, it is important to ensure that your finish is water repellent. It must also be resistant to UV rays. This role is accomplished by the pigments in the finish.
New window restoration using an eco-friendly oil finishing product
It is important to use a brush and apply your finish in 3 coats. The waiting time between each layer varies depending on the type of product chosen. If you are used to paint but exasperated about its continual peeling, consider using non-film-forming products such as an eco-friendly linseed oil based products. More and more companies are relying on this type of product and some companies like Fene-Tech use them exclusively in the manufacture of all their wooden windows.
Enthralled by the different types of finishing products? If you are unsure about using paint, stain or eco-friendly oil for the finishing of your wooden windows, weigh up your options with our comparison guide. You will also get expert advices on the preparation and application of finishes on your wooden surfaces.