Don't scrap those sashes

OLYMPIA - Owners of older and historic homes in South Sound should think twice before scrapping their wood-trimmed windows and replacing them with vinyl-trimmed ones, green-building advocates and historic preservationists say.

In most cases, the wood-trimmed windows in historic homes can be repaired, preserved and protected in ways that make them energy-efficient while preserving the architectural integrity of the home, said Jennifer Kenny, a city of Olympia associate planner.

Kenny and the Olympia Heritage Commission are working with property owners and contractors to encourage environmentally sustainable home-weatherization projects without sacrificing historic wood-trimmed windows in older homes.

“Vinyl windows are highly discouraged on historic homes,” Kenny said. “But here in Olympia, we’re seeing a rash of historic windows being replaced.”

One of the contractors working to save wood-trimmed windows is Dave King, a fourth-generation woodworker and the owner of Eco Wood Works in Tumwater.

One of the services King offers is the repair and weatherization of wood-trimmed windows and installation of storm windows made with recycled and salvaged wood.

“A lot of homeowners are misinformed; they don’t know that their windows can be saved,” said King, 45.

Lorie Hewitt and Dave Bradley own the Parrot House, built in 1904 in the South Capitol neighborhood and registered with the city as an Olympia Heritage Site.

They recently took steps to conserve energy in the home. They replaced a worn-out furnace and added insulation under the home – two steps that were recommended before they tackled the windows, said King, a longtime member of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild.

Then they turned to King to repair some of their wood-trimmed windows and add wood-trimmed storm windows that save energy and match the architecture of the home.

“It seems like the architecture of the home should be kept intact,” Hewitt said of the home energy conservation projects. “At the same time, we didn’t want to be cold.”

Hewitt is pleased with the results.

“I know our heating bills are way cheaper – at least 15 percent,” Hewitt said. “I’m feeling much more weather-proofed for the winter.”

King said a well-preserved and maintained wood-trimmed window will outlast a vinyl window.

Window manufacturers are pushing vinyl windows as the energy quick fix, but the windows require a great deal of energy to produce, Kenny said.

The wood-trimmed storm windows that King installs are comparable in cost to what one of his customers might otherwise pay for a vinyl window.

However, the storm windows don’t qualify for a Puget Sound Energy energy-efficiency rebate the way a vinyl-trimmed window might.

And homeowners would have to verify the precise insulating value of their custom-made storm windows to qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $1,500 – which, King said, would be difficult to do.

King said his primary goal is to educate homeowners and builders on all their historic home- improvement and preservation options.

“I want them to make more informed decisions before they pull the trigger on replacing their windows,” he said.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444