Replacing Wooden windows

Repairing wood windows

The Old House Web

Text: Kendall Holmes
Photos: Deb Holmes

While the repair of old windows may not be one of my favorite jobs, it's not one I dislike - and that's a good thing, as our home's 50- plus windows were all in need of attention when we bought the place.

Previous owners had neglected routine upkeep, such as paint and putty. Many windows had broken sash cords as well. And and a fair number of them had cracked panes of glass.

Equally bad - especially given our home's location in chilly central Maine - those previous owners had fallen out of the habit of hanging our home's wooden storm windows each fall. Instead, they had installed a few aluminum storms here and there.

But for the most part, they simply relied on drafty single-pane wood windows (and huge volumes of heating oil) to try to keep out the long winter's chill.

Needless to say, I've gotten plenty of experience in repairing old windows.

In this story, I'll take you through the process of repairing a wooden storm window which has peeling paint and broken glass. Most of what I'll show you here also applies to repairing a neglected sash from a double-hung window.

The window I'll be working on was among a stack of battered storms that were in our barn when we purchased the house. All of the glass in the window was broken, and the window frame itself was weathered and worn. My first impulse was to toss this window, and replace it with an aluminum storm. But as I poked around, I could see that the wood was still firm - and that it would clean up just fine.

And so, with three or four hours of work spread out over several evenings - and for an investment of about $50 in supplies - I was able to bring this window back from its grave. In its restored condition, it should last many decades, providing that future owners take care of it.

So let's get started.

Materials you'll need

Here are the tools and supplies you'll want to have on hand for this project:

  • A tape measure, to measure the size glass you'll need;
  • Work gloves, to protect your hands while removing old glass;
  • Goggles or safety glasses, to protect your eyes;
  • A wide, flat-head screwdriver;
  • A sharp, 3/4" chisel;
  • A paint scraper, plus a file to keep it sharp;
  • A stiff putty knife;
  • Glazing compound;
  • Glazing points, also known as push points (These are small metal fasteners used to hold window glass in place.);
  • A paint brush;
  • Exterior primer and exterior trim paint.

You'll also need window glass - but more on that in a minute.

And if the window you'll be working on has any loose paint, you should wear a quality dust mask or respirator when scraping, to keep lead dust out of your lungs.

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