need advice/pep talk on repairing old windows

Hello. I have been obsessing about my windows since I moved into my house 3 years ago, and I think I've finally worked up the gumption to do something about them.
The house is 125 years old, and all of our windows are big, beautiful, double-hung, leaky, inefficient, rotting old things. I've read This Old House website and "Repairing Old and Historical Windows" until my eyes bled, purchased a "Silent Paint Remover" to deal with lead paint, and read every site I could find on the web.
Now. It is time. This will be the year. I am primed with loads of knowledge, and motivated by a winter of record heating bills.
Before moving forward, though I would like advice on some things:
1) Storm windows. I hate them. Are they necessary? I am assuming that, if I do the job properly, I won't have any air leaks to worry about, so I won't need storms.
2) Screens. If I don't have exterior storms, are there any alternatives for screens? I'm not so much worried about bugs getting in as cats going out (and down 3 stories) while the windows are open in good weather.
3) Ancillary repairs. While I'm at it, are there any other repairs I should consider?
4) Professional help. While all of the individual steps seem doable (pulling off the molding, sashes, removing paint, re-glazing, reconstituting bad wood, etc.) is there any part that would be best to contract out? I plan on only doing one window at a time, starting with the least important window.
5) General advice. Any would be appreciated.
I'm kind of fanatical about doing this myself, and doing it without significantly altering the mechanics and aesthetics of our windows (we're in a historical district, so I can't, and wouldn't want to install vinyl replacements). It seems like the windows are definitely repairable, and it might not be as big of a deal as I'm making it out to be. However, I just wanted to put this out there and see what people thing.
Thanks for reading! Joseph
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Get a qualified carpenter to install wooden Kolbe Co windows. Best windows made!
You don't need storm windows.
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I'd seriously consider buying new double pane double-hung wooden windows, perhaps custom made so that they look identical to existing. Just the double glazing will outperform (save energy money) over your existing; they will work more smoothly, probably have less visual distortion than the old float glass (though some think that a desirable feature) and will fit more tightly. If you've got to replace a lot of wood on your existing it will be a monster job and you'll probably break a lot of panes in the process.
But your plan to try just one first makes a lot of sense.
Oscar_Lives wrote:

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Bennett Price wrote:

My windows need replacing. Also, the cords on the weights are breaking, 1930's built home. Especially in the second floor level air flows in around the weight pulleys! I had to use duct tape over the pulley wheels. New windows could cost a bundle. There are good storm windows that slide up for the screens.
Any recommendations? udarrell
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udarrell wrote:

Here is what I am doing with our 1920's house. First, aluminum storms are and have been installed at every window.
For one window at a time, inside window frame pieces are removed, and the bottom sash is removed. Top sash is removed when it needs better positioning, lots of glass work, or is easy to take out. Then appropriate paint stripping and eventually staining and sealing is done.
The upper sash weights are removed, weather stripping is retained and improved as needed, and the upper sash is reinstalled by screwing it in place with two brass screws, one on each side. After all, with aluminum storms, the upper sash never needs to be opened.
The weight cavities around the windows are half filled with two 1" thick blue foam board pieces, using a little liquid nails and stuffing fiberglas into cracks.
Eventually, the bottom sash and its weights are reinstalled and the window is put back together. Staining/sealing is finished. Hardware is reinstalled or added as needed; in some cases the window handles are replaced, etc.
Along the way, plastering and repairing of various kinds is required. Typically the lath at the edges of the weight cavities is trimmed and replastered. This makes it much easier to get the foam into the cavity. Bondo has been used where some sills needed repair, but I do not know how that will hold up long term.
These repaired windows are beautiful, though not perfect, and are very tightly weather sealed. I can no longer feel drafts around the windows or through the weight pulleys.
These are just some ideas. Ours is still an old house, and what I am doing is expensive in time, but not so much in money. --Phil
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In Charleston SC, contractor friend replaced a house full of Kolbe windows 18 months ago. If O.P. does replace sash, he may have problems with square of openings - my experience. TB
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Are you in an historic area ? Here such areas do not permit replacement of windows.
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Are you in an historic area ? Here such areas do not permit replacement of windows.
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I lived years ago in an apartment in an old house and thought of doing the same, even though I was only renting. Had lattice windows with wavy glass, bubbles- I loved them- never got around to it- hoping you do it for me! I do think it will be quite time consuming- doing one to start, giving you chance to learn the process seems wise. I gather there are epoxies to replace rotted pieces of wood, but you probably already know a lot of this. Why not try to talk to a shop that does this kind of work in historic districts so you can get more concrete directions and advice, see the process if they're kind enough to let you- decide if you really want to take it on. As for storms, you'd still need them if in cold climate.
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from buffalo ny: in the who-what-where-when-why-how department: who is allowed to do the work for that dollar amount in your town? what is allowed? where are you? when is the permit deadline? this is a huge project, and window sashes may not be the only damage you'll need to fix within reach from a three story ladder [?] you'll want insulated double glass to see out in winter instead of storm windows and frost on the single glass. if it is required that you replace with single glass, then unfortunately yes for insulation you will usually require storm windows [what climate?]. they are heavy and lots of work see your local architect for best advice along with your permit office to see what is allowed. on a double hung replacement vinyl insulated double glass window here in buffalo i use half screens that allow you to slide the screen up and down in the track for the bugs. screens are required by law in our city. don't overlook insulation and weatherstripping.
Joseph O'Brien wrote:

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Sounds like you've done your homework. A work surface at comfortable working height and good light are needed. When you re glaze - I hope with original glass - paint or otherwise protect the rabbeted stops that hold the glass. You might want to stock half a dozen panes cut to size as replacements. What is no known as "art glass" in Charleston is expensive, so I added a few pieces mixed with more modern glass.
Tight fit and ability to move the sash in the opening tend to work against each other, since old frames can be out of square. You may end up looking for extra glazing or for - expensive - replacements. Please keep the N.G. informed of your progress. TB
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It's a great idea to repair the old windows. Don't listen to the people who are saying replacement. I'm planning to repair my old windows, too. Are you going to use the original glass and balance system?
In my case (Berkeley, CA), I'm going to replace the single strength glass with laminated glass, for greater sound insulation without the increased thickness of double paned glass. I figure I can fit in an extra 1/8" or deepen the rabbets if necessary, but there's no way to fit in an extra 3/8". I'm not particularly attached to wavy glass.
As for the balances, I want to loose the weights and pulleys and insulate the weight pockets, but I'm not sure if I'm going to use tape balances, or a channel balance in a groove on the frame, or perhaps even jambliners with integral balances, if they aren't too ugly.
BTW, if you are interested in a contracting out option, consider the contractors at bi-glass.com. I'd be very tempted to use them if they were in my area.
Cheers, Wayne
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Joseph O'Brien wrote:

I congratulate you for having the fortitute to go ahead and start this job. I have been doing the same thing. I did every window in our old house (1929), and I am part way through rehabbing the windows in our new house (1925).
The job is entirely do-able by a commited DIY-er. You shouldn't need a contractor for doing any particular part of the restoration unless you want to save time and are willing to pay a lot of money. However, one word of caution: you will probably have a hard time finding someone who will want to restore your windows rather than just swoop in and install replacement windows. The reason is time: it take a LOT of time to do a decent job. I estimate I spend about 15 hours per window, up to 25 hours if I completely strip and refinish the interior and exterior casings.
Here is my window restoration process:
1. Disassemble the entire window, which means that you remove the stops, remove the lower sash, remove the parting stops, remove the upper sash, open up the access to the counterweight cavities and remove the counterweights (in that order).
2. Strip paint from everything down to bare wood. Sand lightly to remove any remaining paint, but don't sand too much or you will reduce the size of the various pieces and the window won't make a tight fit any more.
3. Now see how much repairing is necessary. This may include scraping out loose glazing compound and added new, replacing whole panes of glass that are cracked or broken, cutting out and replacing rotted wood and/or filling rotted holes with epoxy, filling little dents with wood filler, etc, etc.
4. Fit the window in it's opening properly. The house has probably sagged and the openings are now trapezoidal instead of rectangular. Unless you are willing to really tear things apart and re-square the jambs, what I do it to simply cut and plane the sashes into a trapezoidal shape to fit the opening. This may entail planing the bottom sash on a diagonal to fit, and then gluing a strip onto the upper sash to take up the space that was lost in the lower sash, and planing that to fit.
5. Prime everything with a linseed oil based primer. (Also known as a "long oil" primer or "slow drying" primer.)
6. Paint the interior and exterior, or else clear finsh the interior if that is what you are doing. In this case, use an exterior grade clear finish on the interior because this will have UV obsorbers that will protect the parts of the window that are exposed to the sun, even though they are on the inside.
7. Reassemble the whole thing along with new sash cords. Now is a good time to weight your sashes and see if you have the correct weights. I was surprized to find numerous windows in my house that have the wrong weights, but we didn't know they were wrong because you couldn't move most of the sahes due to the many layers of paint.
8. As you are reassembling, I put in spring bronze weatherstripping like this:
http://www.kilianhardware.com/114sprinbron.html
I would keep the storm windows, because with original wood windows, even if you achieve a good fit, and everything is weather stripped, it still isn't as tight as a newly manufactured window. And with single pane glass, it always helps to have a storm.
Ken
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Ken's overall procedure is good. Here are some step-by-step methods:
See this discussion at the Forum:
http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t 5
The least glass breakage we have is using steam, see this Forum discussion:
http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t 3
which shows a special steam head for softening window putty, follow some of the links there to see putty removed with steam.
Sash joint repairs:
http://www.historichomeworks.com/hhw/workshop/workshop.htm
http://www.historichomeworks.com/hhw/education/ginger/ginger.html
and more to read on window repairs:
http://www.historichomeworks.com/hhw/reports/reports.htm
check the sample pages.
Good luck with your windows. If you have question as you work leave them at the window section in the Forum:
http://historichomeworks.com/forum/index.php
John by hammer and hand great works do stand by pen and thought best words are wrought
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Wow! Thanks to everyone who replied with such helpful information. I will keep the group posted with anything I learn in the process. If I have time, I'll set up a website showing my progress. Perhaps that will be helpful to others.
Thanks again!
1) I noticed on most of my windows, the piece of wood covering snipped-for-privacy@historichomeworks.com wrote:

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