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Why You Should Think Twice about Replacing Your Historic Windows

Graeme Clarke June 05, 2018 Heritage Windows

Worried your period windows are falling apart or don’t work properly? Are you looking for ways to improve window performance and thinking of getting historic replacement windows?


You’re not alone.


When you are dealing with windows that are a century old – or more – there’s going to be room for improvement. You may even be dealing with Victorian double hung windows that no longer open easily because they’ve been painted so many times over the years that they’re sealed shut!


Not to mention the common problems heritage property owners have with their windows – poor thermal insulation, drafts and little protection from the never-ending sounds of modern life going on outside.


If you never want to wake up to the sounds of the local tram system again, would love to see your home heating and cooling costs go down, and you want 1930s style replacement windows or other classic period windows that look like new – without losing any of the charm or character of the originals – there is a solution.


A lot of homeowners today think they are stuck with full restoration of their windows for a Victorian or Edwardian house. Or, they settle with refurbishment and DIY work, fixing damage and updating the windows with basic thermal and acoustic techniques like secondary windows and sealing, which don’t allow your windows to function as they should.


The fact is, window technology has advanced – a lot – in the past few years. As a result, there’s a lot of varying information out there on what’s possible for historic window replacement and what’s not.


There is also a varying degree of service, depending on how far along a company has gone in terms of research and development – and how much experience they may have with window replacement for heritage buildings.


Where does that leave the everyday historic homeowner who needs help with their windows?


Unfortunately, most consumers end up not getting the right information. It’s not easy to find. That’s why we’ve put together the facts on what can be done for historic windows.



You Don’t Have to Replace Your Historic Windows to Boost Performance


The first thing you need to know is that you don’t have to throw out those beautiful heritage windows. The timber used to make the frames and sashes of historic windows is generally of an extremely high quality – something you rarely see being used today.


Don’t toss out what makes your windows so valuable in the first place!


You’ve probably heard of the advantages of double glazed windows – the better energy efficiency, a more comfortable, quieter, safer home. Instead of ripping out your historical relics and putting in modern replacements for your historic windows, you can have your windows retrofitted.


With our patented retrofit double glazing process, the existing timber joinery remains. At Thermawood, we remove the old single glazing by removing the glass and a small portion of the sash, creating a rebate and a 15 degree slope on the bottom of the frame before installing your double glazing unit. This allows you to keep the old style and the gorgeous timber joinery, yet still have all the thermal, acoustic and enhanced security benefits of a new double glazed window with the addition of our patented dry glazing drainage system.



Not All Double Glazing Systems Are Ideal for Historic Windows


With retrofit double glazing, you’ll have a new insulated glass unit within your old frame. But, double glazing has an Achilles heel you need to be aware of.




Over time, water that forms on your window glass can pool around the rebate of your window. This can eventually damage the window and cause the double glazing to fail. What happens is the seal around the unit becomes damaged and water gets inside of the two panes of glass, which means you no longer have an airtight space between your window glass to give you all those powerful thermal and acoustic insulation benefits.


It usually takes a few years for this to happen. But, when you have a 10-year warranty on your double glazing, if a failed system crops up in the 11th or 12th year, you’re not going to be happy.


With decades of experience in the industry specialising in double glazing systems, we developed a patented drainage system to stop water from ever damaging your retrofitted historic windows. Using 3-D printing, we created an effective system that causes moisture to drain or evaporate right away.




No water damage to your timber windows. No mould growth. No broken insulated glass unit – as long as you use a dry retrofit double glazing system.



Your Windows Can Work Like New without Historic Replacement Windows



The best part about a system that is centred on historic window preservation is that there’s a solution for pretty much any problem. Having worked on thousands of historic buildings, in general, approval is required on a per property basis for Grade 1 and State listed properties, Thermawood has even been approved by Heritage to work on Grade 1 and State-Listed Properties in every case – we’ve seen it all before.


Double hung windows that have been stuck for decades. Broken hardware. Movement over the years around the windows – a common problem with old casement windows – so there are small gaps where draughts can get through.



When we work on your windows, we can fix almost any issue. We’ll carefully remove the old layers of paint so you can actually see what the original wood looks like, and operate your sashes easily. We’ll repair any damaged wood, replace broken hardware with heritage-quality pieces, and when needed, carefully remove features that need professional refurbishment, like your Victorian leadlights. We can then integrate them into the double glazing unit so they’ll remain flawlessly preserved for another century.



Think Preservation Not Replacement


You don’t need period replacement windows to improve your window’s performance. Nor do you need to toss them out because they won’t work properly. Those old windows are worth restoring and enhancing. Because with the right window system, they’ll last another era.




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