Why should I repair my existing windows?

The repair and maintenance of your existing windows can save money, energy, and historic resources, in addition to maintaining the historic character of your home.  Properly maintained wood window systems can last for hundreds of years. Before you replace your old windows, please consider the following information.

Do you want to save money on heating and cooling?

Windows account for only 10–20% of heat loss in the average house, but even new windows will contribute to heat loss. The roof is generally the greatest source of energy loss, and the place where a modest investment in insulation will have a far greater payback. By comparing the cost of replacement windows to the expected energy savings, the payback period for replacement windows is often 40-50 years. The lifespan for a typical replacement window is 10-25 years, and when a vinyl window fails, it can’t be repaired as easily as a wood window. Adding storm windows to properly maintained wood windows can also match the energy efficiency of a new window.


Are you concerned about sustainability and your impact on the environment?

Repairing your existing windows is the sustainable choice. Windows built before the 1940s are of higher quality materials and craftsmanship than most new windows available today. By repairing old windows, you keep quality materials out of the waste stream and conserve the embodied energy of the old windows.

The production of vinyl windows creates toxic by-products and uses more resources than repairing existing windows.  Homeowners should also be concerned about the unknown long-term effects of vinyl off gassing.

The investment in window repair is also an investment in the local economy; if you hire a contractor to repair your windows, your money stays in the area instead of going to a national window manufacturer.

Are your windows broken, rotted, rattling or stuck?

Almost every window can be repaired to perfect working order. All parts of old windows were designed to be repaired and replaced as needed. Broken glass can be replaced, rotted rails or muntins can be repaired with epoxy, sash cords can be re-tied or replaced. Many of these repairs will also improve the energy efficiency of the window. Homeowners can easily undertake window repairs after doing some basic research.  Historic Ithaca offers guides to window repair on its website.


Do your windows allow drafts?

Your window may simply need adjustment or basic maintenance. Weatherstripping can reduce drafts from windows; a variety of methods exist, from temporary caulking (such as DAP® SEEL N’ PEEL) to rubber or metal strips. Securing sash locks and installing stop adjuster hardware on sash stops can seal out drafts.  Storm windows will also reduce drafts and increase energy savings. Exterior storms, either wood-framed or triple-track aluminum, save energy and protect the primary sash from weather damage. Window treatments also help keep out winter drafts and summer sun.

Your home will look its best with repaired original windows.

Windows are one of the most significant design features of a building, giving character to both the interior and exterior. Original windows were designed to complement the scale, style, and trim of a building. By replacing windows, you lose the quality wood and millwork, wavy glass, and often reduce the amount of light in the building due to the smaller sash size of replacement windows.

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What are some of your past projects?

Our past projects include:

  • Boardman House
  • Clinton Hall
  • Clinton House
  • Cornell Heights Historic District
  • Cornell University Ag Quad and Arts Quad Districts
  • Cradit-Moore House
  • Danby Town Hall
  • DeWitt Park Historic District
  • Dryden History House
  • Dryden United Methodist Church
  • East Hill Historic District
  • Ellis Hollow Community Church
  • Forest Home Historic District
  • Groton Fellowship Hall
  • Halsey House
  • Ithaca Masonic Temple
  • Newfield Covered Bridge
  • Newfield King Bowstring Arch Bridge
  • Old County Courthouse
  • Old Ithaca High School
  • St.James AME Zion Church
  • St.James Episcopal Church in Slaterville
  • State Theatre of Ithaca
  • Stewart Park Buildings

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Do I need to make an appointment to visit your library?

In order that a member of our staff might be available to assist you, please call us at (607) 273-6633 or email Alphonse Pieper at alphonse@historicithaca.org.

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Is my building historically designated or in a historic district?

Answer coming soon.

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Do you know of any contractors who can fix my old windows?

Where can I find out about funding for historic preservation?

If I own a historic house, do I need Historic Ithaca’s permission to make changes to it?

Answer coming soon!

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How many members do you have?

Historic Ithaca is not a formal membership organization, but there are over 250 “Friends of Historic Ithaca”, donors who have given $25 or more in the past year.

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What’s the difference between Historic Ithaca and the History Center?

Historic Ithaca educates and advocates for historic buildings, sites, and landscapes, and maintains a library and archive of information related to buildings and sites in Tompkins County. The History Center is basically our county-wide historical society. Their focus is on social history and material culture, and they maintain an archive and operate a museum. Of course, we share some common goals and interests, and we frequently work together on projects and special events.

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Is Historic Ithaca associated with Significant Elements?

Yes, Significant Elements is a program of Historic Ithaca (since 1991!)

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Are you located in the same building as Significant Elements?

  • Our three-story warehouse at 212 Center Street houses the Significant Elements architectural salvage store as well as our Work Preserve job training program. Many of our classes and workshops take place in the Conservation Lab classroom located within the building.

210 Center Street, next door to Significant Elements, houses our offices.

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What does Historic Ithaca do?

  • HI’s activities run the gamut from low-cost programming such as the Preservation Basics Series to hands-on workshops, tours, and special events.
  • By speaking out on important preservation and planning issues in the community, HI is the voice for preservation in Tompkins County.
  • HI’s professionally-trained staff assist building owners by referring architects and contractors, providing technical assistance with tax credits and National Register nominations, and by consulting on restoration and rehabilitation work.
  • Historic Ithaca provides job training in the Significant Elements program to low-income youth and adults through partnerships with local social service agencies.  A grant from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency will allow HI to greatly expand this program starting in September 2010.  Participants will gain work experience and training in basic carpentry and restoration skills.

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Don’t old buildings need a lot of costly work to become energy efficient and “green”?

  • Buildings constructed before 1920 are actually more energy efficient than those built between 1920 and 2000, according to 2003 data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
  • Older buildings can be successfully retrofitted with insulation and other features to improve their energy performance.
  • Historic buildings are often located in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods or near access to public transportation.
  • Rehabilitation and restoration of existing buildings keeps demolition and construction debris out of landfills (which accounts for about 25% of municipal waste).
  • Existing buildings have “embodied energy” – the cumulative energy inputs of the growth, harvesting, manufacturing, transportation, and assembly of materials.  Embodied energy is lost when a building is demolished; even a state-of-the-art “green” new building would take about 60 years to recoup this lost energy.

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What is historic preservation?

  • Historic preservation revives and maintains livable, vibrant, sustainable and attractive communities by preserving and revitalizing older and historic buildings.
  • Preservation fosters economic development by fueling reinvestment in existing infrastructure, creating quality skilled jobs, and reinvigorating downtowns.

It helps maintain a “sense of place”—those distinctive qualities that define neighborhoods, cities, and regions.

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