All About Windows

Do you need guidance on repairing your house’s original windows? Are you considering replacing them? Historic Preservation Office staff have lots of information and guidance for you.

Amanda Molson and Anne Brockett, Cleveland Park specialists with the District’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO), met with CPHS members recently to present HPO’s revised guidelines for window repair and replacement in historic districts and shared some of the their accumulated wisdom about replacement and restoration products.  Click here to download the full guidelines.←

Here are the most important take-aways from the presentation:

Amanda and Anne are helpful, friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to answer your questions! They can recommend specific products, provide suggestions for saving your windows and saving you money, help walk you through the permitting process, tell you what doesn’t need a permit, visit your building to offer an on-site evaluation – you name it, just ask! They are the first people you should contact if you are planning any kind of work on your historic district property. Email Amanda or call her at (202) 442-8827.

Did you know that screens and storm windows don’t even require a permit? Storm windows are a great way to extend the life of your historic windows while increasing energy efficiency. The downloadable guidelines linked above provide suggestions on choosing the right storms and screens for your historic home.

HPO staff continually review new products as they come on the market to evaluate their quality and suitability for use in historic properties. For instance, HPO staff are now routinely approving the use of some aluminum-clad or fiberglass replacement window products, rather than requiring wood windows across the board. That is because some of the newer products do an excellent job of simulating the look of wood while providing better quality and longer lifespans than lower-quality modern wood windows. Anne and Amanda have recommendations for specific product lines from major manufacturers like Marvin and Andersen; give them a call to get details and they’ll give you the very latest information.

That said, HPO staff are looking with increased scrutiny at any application to replace original windows in an historic property. They will want to see evidence that your windows are severely deteriorated before approving replacement. If your window can be repaired and weatherized, they will work with you to find the best way to save and restore your windows while improving the energy efficiency of your home.

Large apartment buildings have more leeway in terms of permitted materials and justification for replacement of windows. Staff recognize that the preservation of the building as a whole, in terms of both appearance and integrity of the historic fabric, is sometimes best served by installing lower-maintenance replacement windows. Contact Anne or Amanda for details.

Did you know that it is often possible to have double-paned glass installed in your historic window frames? A company called Bi-Glass specializes in this kind of retrofit. Not all windows have muntins thick enough to accept double panes, but this can be a good solution for larger-paned historic windows.

A directory of tradespeople experienced in historic home restoration work, including windows, is available on the D.C. Preservation League’s website. The listings are a collaborative project of DCPL and HPO. If you’re looking for the right person for your project, start with that database and then check with Anne or Amanda for their latest intelligence.