Home>Discussions>DOORS & WINDOWS>Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
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antiquebuff
Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
antiquebuff

Hi All,

I just bought a gorgeous house built in the 1920s. It sits facing a lake in a gorgeous St. Paul, MN neighbourhood. When we were getting the house inspected, the inspector pointed out that most of the glass panes on the rope and pulley style windows were original from the time the house was built. He also pointed out that this form of window system is extremely energy inefficient. Is this true? If so, are there any DIY ways to make it efficient? I would hate to tear out this fully functional window to replace with those cheap crappy ones available today. Thoughts??? Thanks...

A. Spruce
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
A. Spruce

Yes, it is true that single pane, sash windows are inefficient. The weight pockets and pulleys create spaces for drafts. A wood sash sitting loose in a wood frame leaks air around it. Bad window glazing is another leak point.

What can you do? Depends on how much you want to spend. You can have these panes retrofit with double pane glass and the frames sealed. This would be the upper end of the spectrum, the low end would be buying weather strip felt and tacking it along the sash/frame connections to slow drafts. Swapping the weights and pulleys for springs will allow you to fill the weight pockets with insulation. Again, what you do depends on what you want to spend and the desired outcome.

antiquebuff
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
antiquebuff

Thanks for your post Spruce. As for replacing the rope and pulley with springs, I feel like that would be taking away something...For the replacement with double pane window, it would mean taking off the original 1920 window panes.... Don't know what I will do yet but thanks for your advice!

A. Spruce
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
A. Spruce

1 - You will have to find a window restoration company in your area to discuss the options with them. They will be able to tell you if the weight pockets have to go or if they rebuild the entire frame to seal it up.
2 - The glass itself is not the problem, it is that there is only one panel of it, two panes creates an insulated panel that reduces energy transfer. Odds are you could have the new dual panes made up of the old pane OR use modern made glass that looks like the original.

dj1
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
dj1

You have to decide between - keeping the 1920 look and having energy inefficient windows or upgrade to modern windows that meet your code.

Quote: "I would hate to tear out this fully functional window to replace with those cheap crappy ones available today. Thoughts??? Thanks..."

I think I see the answer in this sentence, however, I have to disagree with you about "today's cheap crappy windows".

New windows are proven to cut energy costs, and if you live in MN, that's a fact you can't ignore.

Sombreuil_mongrel
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
Sombreuil_mongrel

You can put blue painter's tape over the pulleys for the winter, but you can't open the window if you have a nice January thaw afternoon without disturbing the tape. Interior storm windows addresses both the single glazing and the leaky weight pockets.
Casey

antiquebuff
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
antiquebuff

Great, thank you all! I saw this episode on this old house where the guy put a piece of rectangular foam between the rope and pulley to clog up the area for the winter. Easy placement, easy removal. Thanks! Will have a closer look when I get to finally move in. Appreciate all your advise!

ordjen
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
ordjen

Am I the only contributor here who grew up in the frigid North? Homes of this age frequently had wooden storms that fit over the entire outer frame. Metal hooks above the window header were a common sight. the wooden storms, and screens in summer, would hook onto these and swing snugly into the exterior window frame. It was a rite of spring to climb a ladder to remove the storms and put the screens up for the summer!

Once in place, old fashioned wooden storms were actually fairly energy efficient. They trapped a lot of air between the storm and the primary window. Ultimately, stagnant air is the actual insulator in any type of insulation. Wooden storms kept the driving winds of winter away from the primary window, thus reducing drafts.

Over the years, I have seen hybrids of wooden frame storms with sliding glass panels in plastic channels. These tried to lessen the tacked on look of aluminum type storms. However, a good aluminum storm window is an effective buffer against winter's cold. Good storms can be had for less than $200 per unit.

One thing for sure, at the cost of replacing windows with good primary windows, you won't regain their cost in your lifetime in energy savings!

The author states studies that show "when a storm window was added to a restored single pane wood window, the window/storm window combination performed better than the new thermal double pane window".

Further, other studies show that window replacement payback periods could be over 200 years!

Here is a website that talks about wooden window repair and the advantages of old fashioned wooden storms:
WWW.starcraftcustombuilders.com/windows.htm#.V4MVvr3ZbBZ

HandyAndyInMtAiry
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
HandyAndyInMtAiry

I am the owner of a large Victorian House. I have rebuild almost all of the doors and windows. Someone installed the felt tack strips, and they do nothing other than put holes in the stool and the stop.

I ordered new brass pulleys, brass weather strips for the vertical sides of the windows and for the meeting rails and sills. I replaced all the cord in each window. I stripped each of windows, removed the old glaze on both sides of the glass. Sanded each stile and rail. Our windows do not have mutins, so that made the work easier. I found a great paint stripper that is non-toxic and we setup a work station inside in one of the top floor bedrooms. After re-glazing, priming and painting the window frame, installing all the brass weather stripping, new sash cord, cleaning out the cavity where the weights live. Ensuring the opening is square and then re-installing the windows, and the wood work, the stops, repaired any sill that showed damage, etc.... We replaced all the original hardware with new brass locks and pulls. The windows look and operate like brand new, better than when they were build 125 years ago. We estimated the cost of each window to be approx $75 in material and two to three hours of time each. It took my wife and I, and occasionally the assistance of the young man next door to help carry the windows, a total of 6 or 7 weekends. We have 64 windows in our house, and 6 doors that lead to the outside.

After rebuilding each window, we noticed a big difference the amount of air loss and air intrusion. We orders new Internal storm windows for the inside. They fit snugly over the existing. Easy on and off, and very easy storage after I build a few cases that store the window covering. I ask visitors and friends what they thought, and most of them could not tell there were window coverings on the inside. We are starting on all of the screens this coming fall. Although we will end up making most of the frames, there were only a couple that were still in tact.

My point is this. The original windows can be just as efficient and still keep the original look and architecture to your house with just a little bit of maintenance. We figured that with a little cleaning, oiling the brass and touch up paint, they will last about 50 years before the next rebuild. They have already lasted 125 years when we moved in to the house, and they were not in that bad of condition. Owning an older home does require some maintenance that the newer houses do not. But everything in the new houses will never last nearly as long, or look as rich and nice as the older ones.

We never once thought about replacing any of the original windows, doors or trim, and we never will consider that.

Handy Andy in Mt, Airy NC.

ordjen
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
ordjen

A few years ago, I painted an 1883 Victorian which had about 60 huge double hung windows. I was really surprised that how good a shape they were in. None had any bad joints or rot. We were able to free up every sash so that they would bypass, as they were originally intended to do. Most of the windows had had aluminum storms applied over the years, not aesthetically the best, but they do improve the overall efficiency and protect the primary window itself.

From the standpoint of preserving the exterior aesthetics, I can see that an inside storm insert would be desireable, although I don't think it protects the window nearly as much as on old fashioned exterior wooden storm. An overall exterior storm also protects against direct blasts of air against the primary window, thus lessening air infiltration.

Fencepost
Re: Are ropes and pulley vintage doors really energy inefficient?
Fencepost

External storm windows provide the added benefit of significantly extending the life of a properly rebuilt wood-frame, single-pane, double-hung sash window. Most of the weathering happens in the winter when the exterior is constantly attacked by rain and doesn't get a chance to dry out. Additional weathering happens from the inside when moisture condenses on the inside of the cold glass and runs down onto the wood frame causing paint failure and rot. A properly built and installed storm window (which certainly can be made of wood) prevents both problems.

The reason most people don't like storm windows is that they are inconvenient. You have to deal with them twice a year (on the whole house) and when they are installed, you can't easily open a window to get fresh air.

Some people don't like the appearance, but a good wood-frame storm window doesn't look nearly as bad as an aluminum one. Aluminum-frame windows simply do not look good.

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