San Diego has many historic neighborhoods with lovely older homes containing original wood windows. While those original windows are one of the features that help make historic homes distinct and special, they can also account for much of the energy inefficiency in older homes. That being said, owners of historic homes in San Diego should not automatically assume that replacing their original windows with new windows is the best option.
Wooden windows in historic homes are almost all made from old growth trees, and are built to last. Still, it is normal for anything 75+ years old to need some repair.
Restoration of original windows should be the first option for San Diego homeowners who want to preserve their home’s design integrity. And in some registered historic districts, they may be required to keep their original windows. Window restoration is not only more cost-effective than replacement, but it also results in less waste going to the landfill.
When the restoration work is done by a qualified professional, energy efficiency can be greatly improved. A window restoration company can repair any wood that has rotted or been damaged. They can strip and repaint the frames, apply new putty, and add new weatherstripping. When complete, the restored windows will no longer rattle, stick or feel drafty.
If you are handy and willing to use some elbow grease, much of the work that goes into restoring windows in historic homes can be done on your own, without having to hire a professional. However, you will want to test for lead paint before you begin to see if you need to take extra precautions when restoring your windows. You can test it yourself using a testing kit (like the LeadCheck Swabs made by 3M) or you can find a certified inspector by calling the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323). To read more about renovating a home that may contain lead, consult the EPA brochure, Renovate Right.
If you choose to hire someone to complete the restoration, you can contact the Los Angeles field office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which serves all of Southern California, including San Diego. They can connect you with window professionals that are committed to good preservation practices and maintaining the integrity of historic homes.