Period-Inappropriate Windows


CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT underway at my building in Cobble Hill — our former family home, now rented out to another family. I’m replacing three top-floor windows at the rear of the house — two in the master bedroom and one in a smaller bedroom next door.

Should be straightforward, right? Of course it’s not, because when we raised the roof in those two rooms, back in 1987 — it was originally attic crawl space you couldn’t stand up in — we created arched windows. Replacing them now requires either new, custom-fabricated all-in-one units or modified millwork so that the original fixed fanlights, which are fine and which I still like, can stay in place.

These arched windows are not accurate for the 1850s date of the house, but they’re in the back, so Landmarks was never an issue. And they sure looked pretty — before they started falling apart, that is. They’re not insulated, all wood, and perhaps they were never primed properly. They’ve virtually rotted, with panes falling out.

The rotting windows are six-over-six; at the time, I thought that was the proper historic configuration. Now I understand it’s likely they were two-over-two, and that’s what’s going in instead. That will line up properly with the mullions in the existing fanlight, which the previous sash never did (a neophyte’s design mistake). And instead of replacing the whole arch with a single unit, I’m having the fanlights at the top modified to accommodate new Marvin windows, which will be insulated, with ‘true divided lights’ (real instead of fake mullions) — aluminum clad on the outside, wood on the inside.

I’m using one of two contractors I met with, both recommended by Dykes Lumber, a local building-supply company: the one who showed up on time, took careful measurements, followed up as promised with an emailed proposal, and generally inspired confidence. The other guy was rushed, answered calls on his pager, took a few digital pictures but no notes or measurements, and gave me an on-the-spot rough estimate. It happened to coincide almost exactly with the one I received from contractor #1 a couple of days later, but his general demeanor made me not want to hire him.

I didn’t call any of the other names I had collected from neighbors and online resources. I’m going with my gut on this one. And even though the whole deal is going to cost six grand [frowny face], it feels good to be doing right by the house this time.

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