Occasionally there are good reasons to replace old windows.  But most can be repaired, restored, and tuned-up so that they operate smoothly and keep the cold air out, allowing you to maintain the original look of your home.

But What About Energy Savings?

In this article, you can see the evidence for yourself. The authors tested new windows and historic windows were tested against one another for air infiltration. Their results: “The results as shown in the report show that there was virtually no difference between the performance of the restored old windows and the new windows.” The replacement window companies make big claims about giant savings. The science tells a much different story.  If you want a second opinion, ask any certified home energy auditor.

But Isn’t It Cheaper to Just Replace My Windows?


It is true that you may find deals on very inexpensive and poorly made vinyl windows, but they typically last only about 10 years and never look good or operate well.  Compared to a high quality replacement window, a restored window is almost always less expensive.

I Want to Go “Green.”  Shouldn’t I Invest in High-tech Double or Triple-glazed Windows?

Absolutely Not.

While it is true that you might get a minuscule amount of savings from a new window on your current heating bill, even in the best case scenario this savings is completely wiped out by the embodied energy in a new window, the disposal of the old window and, most of all, the fact that the new window is likely to last only 20 or 30 years at which point it will need to be replaced again.  That’s why they call them “replacement windows.”  The energy pay-back time on a new window far exceeds its life span, in some cases by over a hundred years.  Restoration is almost always the “greenest” approach.

Why do you like old windows so much?

The design of old houses was performed with careful attention to all the details, including the details you can see in your original windows.  Old windows just plain look better.  Many of the windows we work on have been performing well for 100 years and can work well for another 100.  One of the misleading buzzwords in the construction industry is “maintenance free.”  At  Thoughtful Craftsmen, “we like to say “maintenance free means non-maintainable.”  New windows are slick, but can almost never be repaired.  When they stop working, when a seal breaks, the glass gets cracked, or the hardware wears out, they end up in a landfill.  As long as wood, glass, paint, and putty are available (and they are at any hardware store) an old window can be maintained and restored more or less forever.

What does window tuning involve?

In its most basic form it involves installing new sash cords, scraping off excess paint, and adjusting the hardware so the window operates easily and closes tightly.  We also repair, replace, or add weatherstripping, replace broken glass or cracking glazing putty.  In some cases windows need to be re-glued or have rotten portions replaced or repaired with a special wood restoration epoxy.

Do you only tune windows in warm weather?


We tune windows year round.  Often the sash is only out of the frame for a few hours, in which case the storm window is usually sufficient.  If not, we can put up plastic or even rigid foam insulation to keep your house warm.

What about storm windows?

We can address your storm windows either at the same time or as separate operation.  We typically install two types of storm windows on old homes.  If you don’t mind changing them over every spring and fall, and you have some storms or screens that still work well, we sometimes provide a matching fixed glass storm window or screen.  The other option is a wood combination storm window made by Marvin window company.  From the street, they look identical to the old-fashioned wood storm windows (they are accepted both by the Milwaukee Historical Preservation Commission and the State Historical Society).  But each one has a built in screen and a piece of glass that slides smoothly up and down for seasonal ventilation.  While a combination storm window costs more than a fixed storm or fixed screen, it will cost less than a storm and screen pair.

How do I get on your schedule?

The first step is for us to come by and inspect your windows and discuss our process a little more fully.  Then if you want to get on our schedule you can just say the word.  Many customers start out by having us tune just a few windows and then have us do more after they see the results.  You don’t have to commit to any specific number to get us started.

How do I decide if window restoration is necessary?

  • Are moldings falling off your windows? 
  • Are your storm windows deteriorating? 
  • Do your windows operate easily?
  • Do you want improved window efficiency? 

We repair, restore and tune-up 80 to 130 year old windows everyday. Contact us to make an appointment!