Restore a Wood Window Sash
When repairs are in order, a steam box, an easel, and two-part epoxy are your best friends.
There’s a debate among preservationists and energy nerds, traditionalist and modernist, about what to do with old single-pane, divided-lite, weighted window sashes. They have lots of character and history, but also a big energy penalty compared to replacement options.
I won’t try to convince you to restore your old windows. But if you do need to repair a window sash, or a whole house worth of window sashes, I can help you get it done right and with as little frustration as possible. I learned a lot of lessons while tackling the restoration of a historic municipal building that is to become a museum for the city of Yankton, S.D., my hometown—a project for which I repaired, reglazed, and restored hundreds of wood sashes and their window frames. The work prepared me well for the job you see here, which was restoring the windows in my own 1920s bungalow.
Repairs take time
Restoring a 100-year-old window sash so it will last another 100 years means removing the old glazing putty and glass, stripping the frame back to bare wood to make any necessary repairs, priming, reinstalling the glass and glazing, and finally, applying a couple coats of paint. Though no one part of this process takes too long, there is a lot of downtime.
For example, I use a steam box to soften the glazing putty, which allows me to easily remove the glass without breaking it (though I’ve learned to expect to break about 20% of the glass on a bigger job). The steam will also soften the paint, but don’t be tempted to try to scrape it off along with the glazing. The steam will not only soften the glazing and paint, but the wood itself, making it more susceptible to damage from the…