Friday, August 20, 2010

Replacement Windows Look Like Crap!

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

A friend provided this link to me via Facebook several days ago (and this one). Anyone thinking about replacing windows instead of refurbishing, READ THESE FIRST!!!

Replacing original windows with the Crestline vinyl abominations shown above is certain to get you on the NXNS wall of shame. (And the property in that photo just happens to belong to noted slumlord Bashir Moghul.)

I've done extensive photo tours of various noted slumlords: Danna D III, Gregge Johnson, Mahmood Khan, and Paul Koenig/Pamiko, to name a few. And one of the things that always got to me was how cruddy the windows looked. Preservationists will have our own take on why original windows are often better. And from an environmental standpoint, isn't it greener to NOT put this stuff in a landfill? Especially if a refurbished original window will last much, MUCH longer than a new one?

Furthermore, there seems to be a direct correlation between crummy windows, slummy properties, and bad owners/occupants. Now, I highly doubt I'm going to have some slumlord read this post and see the light. So here's why NoMi homeowners ought to keep and refurbish your original windows whenever possible:

Continually painted wood can last as long as 200 years. Vinyl lasts 10-20.

Older windows were MADE to be repaired. Oldhouseguy says, "They can be taken apart to insert new rails or muntins (cross pieces separating the panes). Broken parts can be remade or whole sashes duplicated fairly cheaply. Rotted wood can be repaired to look like new with easy-to-use epoxy fillers. In many cases, these windows have been in service for over a hundred years with much of their deterioration resulting directly from a lack of maintenance."

Older windows are made of a quality of wood we likely won't see again - ever. "That virgin forest wood is close-grained and resinous. Today’s young lumber cannot match the longevity of the historic wood. To trash your old windows is to trash a superior material that can no longer be bought. A replacement window will need replacement before the old one would have needed simple maintenance."

An original window with a storm window is often more energy-efficient than newer double-glazed windows.

The replacement windows being peddled are most often highly inappropriate for the historic nature of your house. There is a direct correlation between the historic integrity of a house and its market value.

Reusing historic windows eliminates the need for removal and disposal of existing windows, as well as the environmental costs of manufacturing and transporting new ones. The "greenest" window is the one already in use.

Restoration is nearly twice as labor-intensive as new construction, meaning more money goes directly to people instead of product costs.

An associate of mine has recommended Minnesota Window Restoration as a good place to start when considering refurbishing your windows. Another friend has had a good experience with Greg Rosenow of TLC Renovations.

Refurbish, don't replace!


  1. Over 90% of a windows surface is glass. The resistance to heat loss (R value) of glass has not changed since Victorian times. Single pane glass has an R value of 1. Double Strength glass is an R2. If you replace all the primary windows of your home and the secondary storm windows with Double Strength glass the most you will ever attain is an R4. (Yes, there are Triple Glazed Gas Filled products available that claim better, if you can afford them – and I guarantee we have none of these in Nomi).

    So, if replacing glass is not the answer to better energy efficiency how do window manufacturers justify the changes? Since new windows are made with the same glass materials as the old windows, to justify window replacements the Window Manufacturers industry promotes U-Value rather than R- value.

    "Windows lose and gain heat by conduction, convection, radiation and air leakage. This heat transfer is expressed with U-values, or U-factors. U-values are the mathematical inverse of R-values. So an R-value of 2 equals a U-value of 1/2, or 0.5. Unlike R-values, lower U-value indicates higher insulating value."

    Check the charts and see what the U-Value is for Aluminum and Plastic?

    Here is the US Department of Energy's calculations for recommended R values for housing in our area in Minneapolis.

    Attic - R49, Walls - R22, Floor - E25, Crawl Space - R19, Basement - R19

    Here is the typical heat loss for a residential home. Windows usually account for 10% of a homes heat loss. So doing the math, if you can quadruple the energy efficiency of all of your windows that will give you a 2.5% overall energy savings for your home. You can probably find dozens of ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home that will make a lot less impact on your bottom line.

    What you are buying is the labor to assemble new seals and fittings wrapped around a cheap new modern frame that doesn’t have the efficiency of your current windows. What is the very best Hi Tech frame that produces the greatest U-Value? A WOOD frame almost as good as the old growth product you think you need to replace. So doing a cost benefit analysis are you better off to replace all your windows or just maintain them?

    So, why is the Federal Government offering tax incentives to get you to replace your windows? "It's the Economy stupid." Windows are too bulky and fragile to import. This is one of the few domestic industries we still have and there is a huge lobbying effort underway by the window industry to get political support under the Energy initiative. Don't be drawn in by the rebates and tax credits. That's great for the Government, but does nothing for the local economy.

    If this windows are less efficient, not as sustainable, and ugly as hell why do all the absentee landlords put in these cheap ugly windows? Because you’re paying for them through government incentive programs.

  2. Anon 9:12 - I've heard that allegation bandied about before, that various government programs and/or tax breaks are subsidizing the window "industry." Can you or anyone else provide direct evidence to any federal, state, county, or city program that does so? If--IF--our tax dollars are directly subsidizing the slummification (a word I just made up) of our neighborhoods, that needs to be called out and ended.


    I like Obama and think his heart is in the right place - but this is the way our government works,

  4. I know the National Trust was pushing for amending guidelines so that window restoration would receive parody with window replacement as far as tax credits go for energy efficient improvements. That was well over a year ago and I haven't tracked what exactly the outcome was. My house had the majority of the windows replaced. The two that are originals are the ones that not only look the best but I have been able to refurbish myself. The "replaced" windows suck and I'll probably have to replace them again in the coming years.

  5. I'll say this much as well: I care about aesthetics, preservation, and historical aspects of housing primarily as a means to an end of building a positive community.

    If you could show me that tearing out the historical aspects of housing was the best way to attract quality owners (owner-occupants, landlords, and investors) as well as community investment, then you might have something here. Instead, I see a correlation between ill-advised, ugly work, and low-quality owners and occupants of many of these properties.

  6. I think they look fine. But I must admit I didn't see a before picture.
    I think you just don't like them because they are on a Moghul building. If some old lady across the street replaced her windows with the same I bet it wouldn't make your blog.
    What ever Moghul does, good or bad, you'll always trash him.
    I think you have lost your ability to see things objectively.

  7. Anon 8:42, go back and read the last post I did on JNS about Bashir. I reported a positive development at one of his properties near where I live, and stated my hopes that such actions continue. I would much rather see bad actors such as Moghul and Khan turn themselves and their properties around. I don't think that will happen though.

    And one can be objective and critical at the same time. Moghul's track record certainly validates such criticism.

    Finally, click on the picture itself. Doing so will take you to an enlarged version. You can see that not only did Moghul use an inferior product that will need replacement in several years and won't attract quality tenants or owners in the meantime, He also used plywood to close off larger window spaces. How wasteful is THAT?

    A follow-up post showing especially this practice by many of the slumlords mentioned above is forthcoming.

  8. Here are a couple case studies linking historic preservation to residential home values--

  9. While I respect your right to bitch and complain about his choice of materials. I would respectfully submit that it really is none of your business.

  10. Hawkman wrote:
    "He also used plywood to close off larger window spaces. How wasteful is THAT?"

    Is it possible that the plywood was used to raise the height of the windows so that they complied with the statute to keep kids from falling out?
    I don't know, I'm just asking a reasonable question.
    There might be a valid reason for the plywood with the diamond accents.
    As I look at that property I see nothing wrong with it. It looks well maintained from the outside according your picture.
    And as for the quality of the window product. I guess we'll know in a few years. I got my combination windows from Menard's 10 years ago for $19.99-$29.99 each, I did my whole house. While they might have looked cheap, they have worked well, and will last until I'm long gone.

  11. The City of Minneapolis actually makes people with historic homes put in "egress" windows in bedrooms for fire exit purposes. The idea is you have to have so many feet of space to "exit" a window - so if you replace all your double hung windows, you could lose one to a crank out to make for an easier exit "if" there is a house fire.

    This drives me insane! You drive around the neighborhood and you see beautiful homes with crank out windows! Let me tell you something - if the house is on fire - I'm getting out regardless of the size of the window!

    Are you going to do a post about the trashing of stucco homes with exterior insulation "holes" - that one is on my list too. Thanks!

  12. I want to refurbish my wood windows. Do you know of a reputable vendor for this?

  13. Anon 8:21, I listed two such people/companies that might do this at the end of the original post. These were based off of friends' and associates' experience.

    If there are other readers who have their own recommendations, well, that's what the comment function is for.

  14. Could you please post the names of these vendors? I contacted one but they said they only worked on double hung and not casement.


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