[Greenbuilding] Exterior insulation retrofit

JOHN SALMEN terrain at shaw.ca
Fri May 6 19:28:47 PDT 2011

I might agree that the conservation of the old windows might be the best
thing to do but to do that well is not at less cost and there are a lot of
considerations. Most windows built up to the early 40's will outlast
anything built today in terms of filling an opening and letting in light.
Realistically though to make them energy efficient involves removing and
reinstalling with proper seals and providing some form of additional glazing
with an airspace. I've been involved in both restoring and reproducing wood
windows for restorations and there is a lot of labour and materials involved
to do that decently. Just the cost of custom storm is comparable to
replacing the entire unit.

In terms of sentiment I am particularly fond of retaining any window with
older rolled glass (pre 30's) as it has a nice uneven quality in dispersing
light and a few nice bubbles. In terms of sentiment though the manufacture
of old windows from the turn of the century on is not 'old crafsmanship'
that needs to be revered or celebrated in any way. it was industrial in the
worst sense of working conditions. Both the glass and millwork factories
were not great places to work and forests suffered as well. If you add 100
yrs of lead paint to the mix there is very little to celebrate other than
the fact that it is still a window that lets in light (and a lot of air and
exterior temperature). It is nice that it is old and has some nice design
features - but it is still a contaminated artefact.

If you are going to spend your dollars on restoration or replacement then
you need to consider socially where your dollars are going and where they
are going to do the best good with the least harm. The manufacture of
windows is still generally a local operation in most areas for a lot of
window/door operations. They purchase 'stock' extrusions in vinyl or
fibreglass as well as assembly equipment and employ local people to put the
stuff together. It is part of a local service economy and ironically needs
to be supported as well. Working conditions have improved somewhat in the
last 100 years so you have to consider for the workpeople involved which
option has less harm (restoring versus new manufacture).

For me part of being environmental (a big part) is being socially
responsible with the budget or project costs. For me that means shopping
locally for both labour and materials. If I can get a locally made window
with good components at less cost than restoring then I might throw out the
old windows (recycle). If a local company needs work to retain staff I might
go in that direction - if there are young people that need labour work and
training I might go in that direction....

There are no easy answers or really 'good' products out there - there is a
basic range of greenish products with comparable cost. The products are all
basically similar it is really a question of where you want to invest your
renovation/building dollars. 

-----Original Message-----
From: greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org
[mailto:greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] On Behalf Of Bob
Sent: May-06-11 5:56 PM
To: Green Building
Subject: Re: [Greenbuilding] Exterior insulation retrofit

This method is probably a lot cheaper than new windows, besides being more 
conservative of materials.  And you can then do something like interior 
insulated window shutters which do more for the energy conservation aspect 
than even the best window. If I had our house reno to do over, I would have 
not replaced the windows. At least our old windows did not go into the 
landfill, but instead were recycled and gradually over time because cold 
frames and replacement windows elsewhere.

Bob Waldrop, Oklahoma City'

-----Original Message----- 
From: Anne Judge
Well, I know a bunch of people (on the oldhouseweb forum, so they do have a 
point of view!) who would tell you the greenest thing you can do is restore 
your old window, install good weatherstripping on them, and add really 
good-quality storms.  I believe your house was 1920s?  So the wood is 
old-growth and with care will last for another century or two, and the 
weatherstripping and storm additions will make it (I've read) nearly as 
tight as a modern window unit - with the advantage of continuing to be 

I know others here prefer modern technology, but the sight of a bunch of 
windows (and old doors, and plaster and lath) in a dumpster, and new 
material coming in, really bothers me.  For me it's the history as well as 
the waste - I'm more traditional Yankee than modern green.

Disappearing back to lurkdom now . . .


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