I had a decision to make about our windows. Did I want to do the restoration myself or pay for replacements? With everything else that needed to be fixed on the house, I'll admit it, replacement windows were awfully tempting. However, as I mentioned in this post, I'm cheap and picky about details. So, I had to figure out the best deal.
I did the lead abatement and repairs on seven of our forty windows in 2005 before we had Grace. This gave me a fair idea of what it would take to restore a window, as well as some baseline costs. I posted about those adventures here, here, here , and here. And we had a few sashes which had been sliced in half by the previous owners recreated by a local window maker.
The bottom line? It cost me much less to restore versus replace the windows, and I will be able to recoup my investment in a shorter period of time.
When I started this whole project, I had never restored a wood window or done any glazing. Ever. I had a book (Working Windows by Terrence Meany) and I followed the windows crew around as they coaxed open windows that hadn't been opened in years. It was a great learning experience and it gave me a lot of confidence to try it myself.
I had also intended to restore just over 25 of the windows and replace the rest, but it ended up that I pressed on and did all 40 windows.
How did I calculate the costs?
Here are some assumptions that I worked with:
I don't have to take a loan to pay for this work (otherwise I would add in the interest that I would pay over the life of the loan as an additional cost. Whichever windows I choose, they will last without fail until I have recouped my investment in them. Otherwise, I will never be able to recoup my costs! So, the cheapest vinyl options are out.
Potential yearly energy savings:
Our heating cost for the first full year in the house (2004) was $2100.
In addressing the windows issue, let's say I would be able to reduce our heat usage by 25% or $525 yearly (that is super optimistic).
Restoration costs for 40 windows with storm windows:
Approximately $220 per window or $8800
- offsite lead abatement of 52 sashes and 25 storms (11 storms were fine),
- replacing 4 storms,
- creation of 7 sash replacements from cypress wood,
- integral weatherstripping,
- reglazing some windows,
- insulating around the jambs and in the weight pockets, and
- having someone else replace all ropes with chains.
If I had replaced the ropes myself and hadn't had to recreate the cut-up sashes, my average restoration cost per window would have plummeted to an average cost of $165-170 per window plus storm, or between $6600-6800, with a majority of that cost being the offsite lead abatement.)
Window replacement costs:
Window replacement prices were very varied, ranging anywhere from $300 per window to over $1000 per window, installed. Let's choose a $400 window near the bottom of the range for comparison. That would be $16,000 for replacement.
How fast would I recoup my investment?
If I restored my windows at a 25% energy savings, I would begin to recoup my investment after 16+ years. ($8800 divided by $525 is 16.7)
If I had been able to restore them without recreating any sashes? I would have recouped my investment after 12+ years! ($6800 divided by $525 is 12.9)
If I replaced my window with $400 windows, I would begin to recoup my investment after 30 years given the assumption that the replacement windows would operate without fail for 30 years.
If I chose to restore, I would have to repaint the wood windows every ten years or so. If I chose to restore, I could repair anything that fails on the wood windows myself. If I chose the replacement windows, I would have to do the extra insulation around the jambs myself. If I chose replacement windows, I wouldn't have to paint the windows. Just clean the vinyl. If I chose replacement windows, I may have to refit the exterior and/or interior trim.
I'm cheap and picky. I have more time than money. I elected to restore the windows.
How long will my restored windows last? Well, the windows I have right now were installed in 1914. They have lasted for 93 years so far. Restored? Perhaps they will last for 93 more, who knows?
Is everyone going to make the choice to restore versus replace? Probably not. But if even five more people make a more informed choice about whether to restore or replace, I'll be happy.
If four people decide to invest in a higher quality replacement window instead of using a cheap vinyl replacement, that would be very cool.
If three people who want to replace decide to tackle the restoration of their windows at the front of the house instead of replacing the windows on all four sides? I would be thrilled.
And if I inspire just one person out there to attempt the restoration of one of their wood windows and they gain all sorts of confidence from that experience? I will consider all of the hours writing for this blog justified.