Bay Windows Restoration
Or house was built in the Italianate Victorian style. That means it was built after the Federalist period when houses were less ornate, but before the era of the Queen Anne Victorian, which are the large, rambling, detailed to the point of almost baroque, and super difficult to maintain (usually) wooden homes. Hats off to the people who are working on those though - like Amy at Vivacious Victorian. Italianate homes are really interesting to me because they are like a transitionary style between these two styles. In our house, for example, like a Federalist house, there are straight lines, well proportioned and large rooms, and many areas of restrained simplicity. But there are also the really fun things from Queen Anne homes like; arches, decorative corbels and bay windows. Bay windows tend to be one of the more difficult parts of an old home to maintain because they jut out and are more vulnerable to weather. There is often a secondary roof over the lower level of bays that doesn't protect as well as a real roof. When we bought our house the bay windows were the first thing that needed attention. In fact they were in such bad shape that we couldn't even move in.
Here you can see from the outside what terrible shape they were in. There were broken panes, broken trim and in some cases entire panes were missing. The house had been sitting for who knows how long with a big hole for rain, squirrels - maybe even raccoons to enter! How Grey Gardens..
The small metal roof ledge coming out over the first floor windows was rusted through in parts. It threatened to let water damage in downstairs if it wasn't addressed quickly.
And that doesn't even let you know what horrible shape they were in from the inside.. really really bad, as in almost deal breaker bad.
We considered working on these with the same method we had used on the other windows in the house -- which was just scrape, seal and then paint. For the bays though, we quickly realized that we needed to hire a professional. Both because we were in over our heads with a dirty job and because proper abatement procedures needed to be used.
Now at this point, many people had started to advise that we get new windows; something simple and vinyl that would be more energy efficient. If we wanted something really top notch, perhaps something from Anderson windows. I was assured that people in the industry knew what they were doing and that a choice of nice new double paned windows could be made that would blend with the house. I didn't even consider it for a moment! HA - Over my dead body would there be new windows in this house! As I've said before - the old windows were pretty much the biggest selling point to me. The old windows belong to the house - and they will never leave while I am living here. Every time I look through that bubbly old glass I know I made the right decision.
I was reading a lot of blogs a the time about how to make old windows energy efficient, how to restore them properly, and why it is so good to save them. Here is one of my favorite resources - The Old House Guy. Now I don't know The Old House Guy, but at this point I feel like I do. He lives in New Jersey, he has painstakingly renovated a Queen Anne Victorian and he is serious about architecture. Here is his about page. He has written at least ten to fifteen pages on his blog about windows alone - and he writes of them in almost poetic terms. Here is one of my favorite of his quotes:
"Curb appeal is important and your windows – the eyes and soul of the house – are the most prominent feature that can make or break your home’s appearance.
Understand that replacing windows will give your house an entirely different look and feel because most vinyl and even wood replacement windows defy the principles of aesthetics."
He then goes on for another ten pages about how to understand the aesthetics principals behind proper classical architectural styles - haha! MY MAN. I love how he calls windows the "Eyes and soul of the house" and then later he says "Windows are the eyes of the house and poor window casing styles are like shaving your eyebrows or not having eyelashes". HaHa!! Read more about what he has to say about windows and you will never again look at windows in the same way. He's a cranky one - but I think he is right.I learned a lot from him. In fact, come to think of it, I think we should visit Ken next time we are in the Tri-State area.
We had our friend Dave Huffman from Hoosier Home Maintenance and, the owner of Door Knocker Antiques, come to remove the windows and restore them properly. He did an amazing job. Here you can see that the ropes for the sash were removed, un gunked and then replaced.
Below you can see that both window sashes were completely removed.
Here are our after photos:
Notice how you can pull the top sash of the window down? I love that. I know you can do it with some modern windows too - but I just love the feeling of lowering the old window on the ropes that are perfectly weighted for the job. It sort of feels like you are operating a sail boat or something .. don't know why, guess it's the rope action! What they came up with for window technology in 1864 still works just fine today - and believe it or not it even has energy efficiency in mind. The panes may be single - but there are potentially three or four layers of protection against the elements. There are the interior shutters, the single pane of glass, the modern (and unfortunately ugly ) storm windows on the outside, and then the last layer of protection, outer shutters ( which are missing from our house :( ). These layers are for keeping warm, but you also can do a lot for temperature control to cool the house with the action of lowering the windows. In the summer you might be able to get by without AC if you let the hot air from the top of the room flow out through the top of the window.
View on a moonless night..
Here is the newly restored outside of the bay windows! We didn't get a chance to re-paint the corbels and other trim its original forest green color. We have been debating about wether to do that or not - I kind of like its pure simple white look - like a giant two-tiered wedding cake.
And again from the outside - what a proud house with it's newly restored and properly functioning bay windows.