Window Restoration

Project: 24 Thompson St.

IMG_3570 cropped.jpg

The five story townhouse located at 24 Thompson St is the tallest of its kind downtown. It also has 15' tall ceilings. Located in SoHo, this property was a vacant lot before husband and wife design team, Courtney and Bob Novogratz brought this building to life in 2001. 

These names may sound familiar to anyone involved in New York real estate, and beyond, as they are the duo behind Sixx Designs and the Bravo Reality show "9 By Design." They have renovated numerous properties in the city.

As designers, they put their own personalities into their projects, and this one is no exception. They built the townhouse for themselves and one of the elements they incorporated were a pair of rose windows salvaged from a church in France.

IMG_3578.JPG

 

We were initially hired to paint the exterior of the highly ornate window, which is quite intricate in detail, on the fifth floor. As part of the project, we also restored and painted windows on the second, third, and fourth floors.

Once we started, we immediately discovered there was a tremendous amount of rot present in all of the windows. Although the house was less than twenty years old, the windows were in poor conditions due to a lack of sunlight which allowed them to stay wet. This eventually promoted rot.  

IMG_2772.jpg

Traditional Dutch patching was used on nearly every sash, and some of the sills had to be completely replaced. Dutch patching is a method of repair that involves cutting out the rotted section of wood and replacing it with new wood, then sanding to replicate the original profile of the sash. Along with that, an epoxy filler was used to fill in small cracks and preserve the original wood as much as possible. 

As long as windows are properly maintained, there should be little need for such involved restoration work. Keeping them painted contributes greatly towards their preservation, especially with the challenging weather conditions of New York City.

IMG_3571.JPG
Subscribe in a reader

Project: 9A Myrtle Ave.

Frank Lloyd Wright Ben Rebhuhn House.jpg

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Ben Rebhuhn house, located in Great Neck, NY. It was constructed  in 1937 at a cost of $35,000. To put that into perspective, it would be the equivalent of about $600,000 in 2018 dollars. The original owner was a magazine publisher and his wife was a dress designer.

Wright contrived some 400 buildings across the United States. The Rebhuhn house was one of the earliest Usonian homes built in the northeast. The concept behind the Usonian home, which he named for the United States, was to provide shelter for ordinary people. The homes were a single story, constructed on a concrete slab and adjoined to a car port, but never a garage.

Frank Lloyd Wright Ben Rebhuhn House Floorplan 1.jpg

This particular home has a cruciform design, and features a 2 story living room and library, with floor to ceiling windows on either side. A 28’ long couch was built into the living room wall. Another interesting design feature was that the house was built around a tree situated in the middle of the dining area. Constructed of brick with red roofing tiles, it also featured red cypress board and battens inside and out.

In the 1970s, there was a fire in the house . It was restored and the kitchen and dining area were modernized. However, the tree perished in the blaze. It was never replaced.

Frank Lloyd Wright Ben Rebhuhn House Floorplan 2.jpg

When the eighty year old custom crafted windows and doors were in need of restoration,  Right Path Windows and Restoration restored all of the windows and doors throughout the home. There were five sets of French doors and three entry doors, all made of cypress, in which the glass had come loose in the rabbetts. The rails and stiles were all very narrow, as was typical of Wright's designs. This feature made the already meticulous restoration process a bit more intricate.

The windows and doors were all uninstalled, clamped up and reinforced to make them square again, along with resetting all of the original glazing. One of the greatest challenges was to match the stain on the existing woodwork. However, before the new work could begin, a good deal of time and effort went into removing the numerous makeshift fixes that had been cobbled together over the years. Usually, the fastest way to make a repair is to do it right in the first place.

The original bronze interlock weather stripping was refurbished and now properly engages, and it works just was efficiently as it did when it was installed nearly a hundred years ago. The original window furniture was also restored, including the sliding bolts, strikes, and locks. Thus the original doors and windows were returned to their former glory.

Subscribe in a reader

Window Restoration or Replacement Windows: What's Right for You?

window restoration
 Chemical paint stripper can be one of the options to remove paint.

Chemical paint stripper can be one of the options to remove paint.

When deciding whether to restore your windows or to replace them, the answer will lie with what sort of property owner you are. There are two types: the historian and the pragmatist.

The historian will prefer to keep the windows as per the original building. They are willing to go the extra mile to keep their windows intact. And they are also willing to make sacrifices in terms of insulation and glazing units. It becomes a matter of the value of the windows in terms of emotional attachment as well as in financial cost.

To perform a full restoration on a window, a lot of time and labor goes into it. The process involves stripping the paint, rebuilding the frame, inserting dutchman patches and epoxy resins to replace the rotten wood, priming, and then finally painting. It can be a very labor intensive process to do it correctly.

We often recommend making new sashes particularly when there are multiple lites and an increase in glass performance is required. It takes just as long if not longer to restore the sashes. New sashes can be fitted with insulated glass, as well as with wavy insulated restorer glass, thus replicating the look of the original windows.

In addition, new sashes can have new, modern weather stripping. Attempting to restore old metal weather stripping generally does not yield very fruitful results. Although it definitely has its purposes.

When it comes to the window frame, this is where you can reap the true reward of restoration.  We don't need to remove any interior casings, wall panels, or plaster work. When any of these elements are removed and need to be replaced, the amount of money involved can become significant, depending on the trim work details involved.

All in all, the results of restoration and the remaking of sashes can be very rewarding, although very labor intensive.

When doing a full brick to brick window replacement, a lot of those surrounding details can be destroyed. A brick to brick replacement can be a very aggressive process. If that's not an option, then restoration is a highly recommended solution.

If the property is under construction, for example, then a full brick to brick replacement of windows might be a viable option.

 Insert Window

Insert Window

However, for the pragmatist, there are a lot of windows from which to choose. The new windows can be installed as an insert window. This would be a new window with a modern mechanical lifting mechanism.

Replacement windows are a practical option when the cost or time constraints of restoration or fabrication are not options. This also allows for little disturbance of interior casings. And sometimes replacement windows can even be installed from the exterior. A lot of these windows can be accepted by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The drawback, in our opinion, is that the mechanical balance has metal and plastic parts that deteriorate quickly when used with new growth pine. 

If you would like to learn more, give us a call.

What's lost in terms of appearance is gained in convenience. It all comes down to a matter of personal preference.

Subscribe in a reader

Project: Beechmont Dr.

Located on Merchants' Row, aptly named for the Bloomingdale, Macy, Saks and Gimbels families who had country estates located here, this stately home was built in 1927 for Earl Sams, the founder of the J.C. Penney department store.

Subscribe in a reader

Project: 920 Fifth Ave.

Right Path Windows & Restoration restored wooden sash windows in this Italian palazzo-style building. It was designed by noted architect J. E. R. Carpenter and was built in 1922. He lived in the building until his death, as did legendary actress Gloria Swanson. The windows of the penthouse on the corner of 73rd St. overlooking Central Park were in need of restoration

Subscribe in a reader

Project: 59 Highland Ave.

This historic home was built in 1897, and it remained in the hands of the same family until 1995. Since then it has seen only two owners, both of whom have made renovations and restorations that were true to the home's original character.

Subscribe in a reader