Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wave and Smile

We love this view. Most of the windows in our house have the original "wavy" glass, which is a feature that we were completely clueless about until after we moved in. During the open houses and walk-throughs, we were too worried about the windows being painted shut, the (we thought) highly dangerous boiler system, the mini-golf carpet in the living room, the (yes, I'll mention it again) cat-pee smell, and multitudinous other things. We knew the windows were old, but we didn't really notice the glass.

We also didn't really know much about old houses in general. We knew that we loved what we had seen of old houses, and that we hated living in our cul-de-sac suburban hell where every house looked the same. And of course we knew that College Hill had the best Halloween in town. But otherwise, we were old-house newbies.

The first day when we moved in, we noticed the glass. And we went crazy. Or at least, I did. We didn't know why the glass was so wavy, but we knew it was one of the coolest things we'd ever seen, and it was something we had never seen in any of the cookie-cutter houses we'd been in all our lives.

A week or so after we moved in, people started telling us how smart it would be to replace those old wooden windows with brand-new high-efficiency double-paned windows. We replied that we liked the old windows with the wavy glass. Most people said "Oh, well, okay."

But some didn't.

Some kept pressing, telling us that we didn't understand how nice these new windows would look. We replied that we didn't care how the new windows would look, because they wouldn't look more original than the original windows look. That seemed rather self-evident to us.

But they kept going. And I'm not talking about one or two people here. I'm talking about several individuals on different occasions. We had to get brand-new replacement windows, or we were idiots. We maintained our position that we really liked the wavy glass and the old windows, and for the most part I ended up ranting that if we were going to replace the windows we might as well replace the lathe-and-plaster with sheetrock, and replace the original wooden doors with new hollow-core doors, and replace the steam heating system with a furnace, and eventually we would have completely replaced our old house that we loved with a new house that was just like the one we moved out of because we wanted to live in an old house!

Unfortunately, most people seemed to think my sarcastic rant was basic common sense. Of course you should replace everything, they seemed to think. No one actually said that during the uncomfortable silence that usually followed my rants, but they probably were thinking it...

Of course, after reading more house blogs and forums, we realized just how lucky we are that none of the previous owners have replaced the windows. The wavy glass is coveted by many.

Now, we are restoring and installing the storm windows, slowly, and it seems to be helping the insulation considerably. The back of the house, which was freezing last January even after adding the plastic window insulation, is now completely tolerable. We've been impressed by how much the old wooden storms from the garage have helped, and now we know why: it turns out that many people think that the old windows with wood storms have a better R-value than new replacement windows.

Ha! We knew that. Of course we knew that.

Okay, we didn't know that and it completely surprised us. The fact is that we would keep the old wavy-glass windows no matter what. We are prepared to pay a little extra for the historical value. But it sounds plausible, and it is great ammo against those new-window-nazis.


Jen said...

The wavy glass in our house, ThirteenEleven, is one of the main reason's I love it so...well love the idea on how it will be one day.
We've had those folks here that want everything replaced too, and tell us aren't we getting new windows, they look at me funny when I say NO!!!, absolutely not.
Yes, we've had to replace walls with sheetrock where we re-build the rotton walls, and place new oak floor down where it was beyond repair from termite damage, but the windows Stay. Period. A couple have been replaced by P.O.'s with none wavy glass. Oh well.

Greg said...

Yep, some of my best views are out a wavy glass window.

What is it with the mantra so many chant about replacing old windows? Where did every one get this idea?

Anonymous said...

Windows? Your damn lucky! I've been bricked in now for thirteen years!

Anonymous said...

hey jimmy, your glass is wavy because over time, a very long time glass will "settle" in the frame. glass is somewhat of a liquid and over time will actually flow downward in the frame. if you were to take out the glass you would find the bottom would be thicker than the top.


Christopher Busta-Peck said...

Another thing you might consider with regard to insulating your windows are sash springs instead of sash pulleys. They fit in the same place where your sash pulleys currently are, but remove the need for the weights, so that the huge, often leaky box that the weights transit in can be filled with insulation.

I know that they don't quite look the same, but in my opinion, it's good enough. Your mileage may vary, as may your heating bill.

I don't have them, but that's only because my house has steel casement windows.