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Beyond Aesthetics: Why We Should Really Care About Historic Windows

“Repair or Replace Old Windows: A Visual Look at the Impacts” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Historic windows are an important character-defining feature of old houses. For me, as a preservationist, that alone is enough reason to go to the mat. But there’s more to the story. 


Preserving historic windows is a meaningful way to care for Earth, the economy and the humans who depend on both Earth and the economy for their survival. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that humans need old windows to sustain not only their quality of life but life itself.


Can the same be said for modern replacement windows by anyone who isn’t trying to sell you one? 


With credit to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, here is a summary of “Reasons to Save Old Windows” that doesn’t even mention aesthetics, charm or patina:

  • Americans demolish 200,000+ buildings each year, equalling approximately 124 million tons of debris. Every window removed from a building adds to this problem. 
  • It can take 240 years of energy savings to pay back the cost of installing replacement windows
  • 30% of the time, a replacement window will be replaced within 10 years
  • Adding insulation in your attic can save more energy than replacing your windows
  • Replacement windows that contain vinyl or PVC are toxic to produce and create toxic byproducts
  • Even high-quality new wood windows typically won’t last as long as historic old-growth wood windows
  • A historic wood window, properly maintained, weatherstripped and with a storm window, can be just as energy efficient as a new window
  • It can be easy—and inexpensive—to repair and maintain your wood windows (YouTube is full of DIY videos that demystify the process, especially @thecraftsmanblog)
  • Hiring a skilled tradesperson to repair your windows fuels the local economy (the Windows Preservation Alliance offers a directory and other helpful resources)


A definitive study on historic preservation and the economy is this 2013 report by PlaceEconomics. New research on the importance of historic preservation workforce development is available from the Preservation League of New York State.


AUTHOR KATE WOOD grew up criss-crossing the country in the family’s Volkswagen Bus, visiting house museums, battlefields, Main Streets, and national parks. Today, she is an award-winning preservationist, real estate broker and principal of the full-service historic rehabilitation consulting firm, Worth Preserving. Kate believes in the essential value of old-building stewardship to sustain community character. For her, each property is a cause and each client a fellow advocate. She specializes in matching people with properties, skilled contractors, historic tax credits and other benefits to support top-tier rehabilitation projects. For advice and solutions to help unlock the potential of your old house join My Newsletter.