I liked the original windows in this house. They were at least 60 years old, possibly closer to a century, and most of them still looked and functioned like new. These were probably very economical windows at the time, too. But, they had to go. The single-pane glass was incredibly inefficient. Previous owners had put aluminum awning over all of the windows in an effort to stay cool in the summer. And, when I bought the house in the winter, the owners were using clear-plastic storm windows to try to keep their gas bills down.
I saved all of the original windows and doors. I have a special project in which I’ll be recycling them this coming winter.
The new windows are triple-pane, UV coated, vinyl-clad, and double-hung like the old ones. They do very well in the winter, very little heat loss, no condensation. When I installed them, I took the opportunity to add additional insulation above and below them. The house overall is very air tight. The old windows and doors accounted for the great majority of heat loss in the winter.
A secondary goal with the new windows and doors was to, without compromising energy efficiency, increase the light coming into the house. Removing the awnings made a huge difference. But I also added two more windows downstairs, and the two new doors also function as large windows (see below). Lighter flooring and wall color also had a positive effect.
The third window cleans up the appearance of the front. Check out the Siding section to see the new upper story window I added later for appearance sake.
The new windows were made to fit the original holes in most cases.
The new window frames are white vinyl, which I chose for low maintenance and economy. Luckily they also go with the eventual color scheme of the house. I also kept the original design of three panes over one from the old house, although, in the new ones, the “panes” are decorative bars sandwiched between the glass for easy cleaning. All of the windows and doors were made locally by Thermal-Gard, and purchased just blocks away from my house through Burke & Sons.
My dad helped me hang most of the windows and doors. We had to build boxes for them, which allowed the new-construction windows to sit in the often-uneven holes. Between all that wood and glass, they got pretty heavy, and it was much easier for two people to hang them — would’ve sucked to drop one! Here’s Dad marking the location of the new “front” door.
I tried a circular saw with a masonry bit to get through the thick plaster on the inside, but in the end, the recip saw was the weapon of choice. I burnt through two or three blades just to do this door. The house is plank-frame construction. Heavy, 1 1/2″-thick planks across every inch of the interior and exterior walls. Building like this today would be prohibitively expensive, but it makes for an unbelievably solid little house. It also took away some of the structural concerns that would arise in cutting additional doors and windows. The walls act like virtual floor-to-ceiling headers, creating cantilevered support across the new openings.
You can already see how much more light comes in. That dark doorway to the right is to the kitchen, I later added another window to that room, in addition to tearing off the old porch roof. It’s a much happier place to be now.
Here it is. Put another just like it as the “back” door. I write it in quotes because both doors are actually on the same side of the house. You can see this better in the Siding section. I could only get these in double-pane, but they keep the cold out pretty well. The louvers are between the glass panes, so I never have to dust them. I want to keep the house fairly simple, even rustic, but the slightly modern doors were a compromise. I liked the clean look of them and really liked the giant windows. In the end, I think it’ll all work fine and make sense for my budget remodel.