Historic Windows: Why Replace Them If You Can Save Them?

Aug 19, 2011

Keith Dmytryck, owner and operator of Innovation Construction Co. Design & Build, shares some thoughts on industry standards:

There's a lot to love about window technology in this century. We've come to expect design choices and energy efficiency as options from the leading manufacturers. In fact, since around the 1950s, the building and construction industry has enjoyed ever increasing profit margins as the market demanded newer and varied product lines in response to the "march of progress."

In the 1960s, consumer marketing reached a somewhat fevered pitch of "newer is better" -- a fortunately short-lived blind rush to raze or discard anything "old" in favor of everything "modern." But newer wasn't always better. While responsible companies kept on producing the high quality they always had, the public's attention was being hijacked by hard sell merchandising that duped most Americans into buying disposable products marketed as "new and improved," they were hoodwinked into believing that their houses were maintenance-free and that the modern way to live was with air conditioning. So, with relief at their good fortune to be  free of "old-fashioned" ways, many homeowners set aside maintenance schedules and, trusting the advertised infallibility of their modern "improvements," painted their windows shut to keep in the air conditioning. This was especially tragic for many lovely historic windows. Once sealed up and forgotten, they began to inevitably rot and crumble away. When clients call me to check out these situations, my feelings are always mixed. Of course, I like to get the work – but the professional in me is appalled that any representative of my industry would have encouraged this.

All these deteriorating windows were bad news for consumers, but good news for opportunistic companies. In the early 1980s, some of the big window manufacturers realized they could cash in on the problem by making disposable windows, perpetuating the cycle of replacement. They could churn out cheap packaged units that had the "look" of fine windows, but were flimsy -- one might say "window-like" -- replicas of the real deal. Unlike the holdout craftsmen who refused to lower their standards of quality, these manufacturers had the bottom line as their standard and would knock out goods that were shoddy but shiny with low fabrication cost that led to a tidy profit margin. The plan didn't end there. They knew that in one or two decades their products would need to be replaced. The replacement window market, previously an as-needed situation, was being manipulated into a self-perpetuating window replacement industry. (I'd like to go back and say, "Call me! Please! I'll install quality windows and do it right so they last. Some of us have a little pride in our work.") It was a dream come true for the irresponsible and the greedy. The greedfest was good to unscrupulous businesses whose only goal was increasing profits. But it made things tough for those companies that refused to sell out their integrity. And it made big trouble for older and historic buildings.

Fortunately, by the early 1990s consumer awareness arrived at the forefront. People became more attuned to the impact their actions had on their surroundings. Restoring and saving of old buildings became a mainstream concern, along with preservation of the environment through Green building practices. As part of this movement to restore and preserve, the window replacement market finally got its groove back. Good craftsmanship and high quality materials (that were most often energy efficient with low environmental impact) were once again rewarded. Sometimes.

As one of the craftsmen who stuck to his principles rather than picking off "victims" along with the industry sharks, I am pleased to see the market shift toward responsible building. But, not unexpectedly, there is still plenty of window work that's not up to speed. There are still window "specialists" who have to go back and redo work they did not that long ago. I see this situation firsthand too often. People often call me in for projects to solve window problems incurred within the last few years. It's painful to have to tell clients that the "expert" job they paid for so recently has basically become a rebuilding project. But they call me for an honest assessment, which I provide, along with a professional job that will not require reworking anytime soon!

For the past 30 years, Innovation Construction Co. has been a window restoration expert: repairing, restoring and weatherizing historic windows as well as training workers so these jobs continue to be done right. I am proud to be among the professionals who hold integrity and vision above expedience. But the disturbing number of times people have to call me in to fix shoddy window projects that, with a properly trained crew, could easily have been done well clearly indicates the glaring lack of standards that catalog proven methods for repairing and restoring historic windows. These standards need to be uniform and include researched data on environmental impact and energy efficiency. They can't be haphazard and they can't be put off for another time. We don't have the luxury of waiting for a standard to develop hit or miss. The replacement window industry is currently being harmed by the fly-by-nighters presenting themselves as professionals – and who do even more harm to millions of perfectly functional historic old windows, literally destroying them in the guise of restoration.

The result is a tragedy for many reasons: aesthetic, historical, and environmental. As a Green Certified Builder, I can help you decide what green materials and processes are for you; when you call me to discuss your restoration, just mention your interest in green building and I'll come prepared to show you the options. Call me for a thorough (and free) assessment and you'll only have to call me once.  I'll get it done right the first time. You won't have to call me again in a few years, because the windows I install will still be doing what they're supposed to do: protecting your home environment, conserving your energy, and enhancing the beauty of your home.

I stand on my reputation and guarantee my work. But if you don't call me, please contact a reputable, proven professional. Don't be fooled by glib salesmen who lack the expertise to give your property the skilled attention it deserves. Act now or lose your historic windows forever.

Innovation Construction Co. is an A+ BBB-Rated home improvement contractor, GREEN CERTIFIED, member of NARI and the Greater Plymouth Builders Association, and A Rated on Angie's List. We are a local business with pride of workmanship and the experience and expertise to be your one-stop builder and remodeler.

For a free consultation please visit our website www.innovationconst.com, call 508-291-4907, or email Keith at sales@innovationconst.com.

Check out our remodeling reviews on Angie's List.

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Chuckle of the Week

Blonde replaced house windows

 Last year I replaced all the windows in my house with those expensive ones they recommended during my "free assessment."

Yesterday, I got a call from the contractor who installed them.

He was complaining that the windows had been installed a whole year ago and I had not paid for them yet.

Now just because I am blonde doesn't mean that I am automatically stupid.

So I told him just exactly what his fast-talking sales guy had told ME last year, that

"In just ONE YEAR these
windows would pay for themselves!"

Helllooooo? (I told him). It's been a year!

There was only silence at the other end of the line, so finally I just hung up.

He hasn't called back. Probably too embarrassed about forgetting the guarantee they made me.

Bet he won't underestimate a blonde anymore. Heh.