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Weathered Storms

Replacing original wood storm windows


My wife and I need to replace some of the original wood-framed storm windows on our 1911 Dutch Colonial house. What sort of wood should I use that won't rot quickly? And if I don't find the time to build them, what sort of contractor should I call?
— Guy, Simsbury, CT


Norm Abram replies: Too bad you can't get more of whatever wood the builders used in 1911 — that must have been great stuff. Of course, wood that lasts that long also owes a lot to whoever took care of it. Properly maintained, in fact, most of the woods that are typically used outdoors can last for hundreds of years. But even the best wood will suffer badly if it's neglected.
Given the unusual longevity of your storms, I suspect that the frames might have been quartersawn, a way of cutting wood that results in boards that are dimensionally stable — just the thing for storm-window frames. The wood in your storms was probably white pine or a local hardwood, but these days, I'd use either cypress or straight-grained red cedar, both of which are naturally rot-resistant and not too heavy. If you really want to do this right, use mortise-and-tenon joints at the corners, along with an exterior-grade woodworking glue.
If this isn't a project you want to tackle yourself, a local millwork shop can make them for you. Then, before the glass is installed, coat them liberally with a water-repellent wood preservative, a couple of coats of oil-based primer, and two or three coats of a top-quality acrylic-latex paint. If the paint is taken care of, those windows should last as long as the originals did.


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