Do You Restore or Repair?

Christina Lewellen
August 10, 2011
THE TALK... | Methods & Techniques, Segments, Markets & Trends
This week, we share with you news that a group of window restoration specialists is working to raise the profile of their unique niche within the window and door industry. They are developing standards for restoring and preserving historic fenestration products, older wood and steel windows in particular.
These specialists, who enjoy the support historic preservation groups and others, also hope to gather performance data for restored and weatherized windows. They want to help establish restoration and repair as a viable and often the best alternative, even when historic accuracy is not the only priority. 
Learning about this effort, we thought it would be interesting to see how many regular window and door dealers–those selling and/or installing new windows–are involved in repairing and restoring older windows too. That's our poll question of the week. 
And, we'd like to hear from you. Does restoration of windows and doors complement your replacement work? Or do you see repair and restoration work as potential lost sales? Is this an area in which you see an opportunity to diversify? Do you expect this area of the business to continue to grow? Please send me an email or post a comment to share your experience.


Survey Results for 08/10/2011:


Do you repair or restore old window? (Dealers only, please)

No, we prefer to focus on replacement.




Yes, but we don't actively promote it.




Yes, and we actively promote these services.




No, but we've considered adding such services.




This week we see most of our participants asserting that they'll be sticking with traditional replacement for the foreseeable future. Still, a notable segment of responding dealers are either involved in repair and restoration of older windows, or at least considering adding these types of services.

Certainly, this type of fenestration work is most relevant to homes noted on historic dwelling registries or within certain historical zones. And since we all know how zoning can vary from municipality to municipality, that means that restoration work and its demand in the marketplace will depend on the rules and regulations for that area.

There are a few comments below, and I'll add one more I received from a reader doing some restoration work in Texas:

"We save all the old wood sashes that we replace and, in many cases, make new jambs, retrofit a concealed balancer system and install them in homes.  What has happened in the past is that [for] the homes not registered as a "historical home," the windows will fail the energy inspection, regardless of preservation efforts.  If the home is registered as "historic," then we are grandfathered in except with safety glass codes. ... We feel there is a market for this kind of work (including steel casements, very popular right now) it just depends on the local enforcement of energy codes.  However, we continue our efforts to maximize restoration and the preservation of the old architectural detail and beauty that has proved windows and doors can change the historical value of a home."


Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at

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I am confused by your points. If preservation is mandatory, there is the viable option of repairing and restoring the old window up to code. Lead-based paint can be removed safely and gently without using chemicals or harsh sanding which can damage the antique wood surfaces. The new technology of infrared paint removing ( strips deteriorated paint and varnish completely off wooden surfaces for repainting. Modern epoxies can be used to fill rotten wood holes on the original windows. Even the antique glass can be reglazed for a tighter seal. And finally, there are many storm windows that can be installed on the inside or exterior of old windows providing even more energy savings yet little obstruction to the beauty of the original windows. Win-win-win on modern building codes, energy efficiency, and preserving historic property.

Window restoration could be feasible where the building code has not changed. In  South Florida for example would be impossible because of the building code updates where even the walls must be reinforced before installing the new window. The performance of the building enclosures is really demanding to be just fixed by a restoration. The challege is mostly how to make the window look like the original by using new materials and technology. That is what we are facing in all retrofits where the historic preservation is mandatory.

This is a very interesting topic.