We live in a 1922-built home with original wooden windows and wavy-paned glass. Our mullions are actually mullions and our storm windows likely save this delicate glass from shattering under strong winds. The front of our home is largely casement windows protected by storm windows that don't open; they're securely affixed to the house but come off with a little ingenuity, we've learned. Our home's previous owners—I would say those who have dwelled here since the 1950s—hadn't realized the windows come apart for cleaning...
...We didn't realize this either until last week. The storm window system on the first floor is from the 1940s; it's miraculously more sensible and easier to disassemble than the more modern system that exists on higher floors.
When we moved into the house, the windows barely opened. My husband spent days working at them with a paint scraper, Vaseline and WD-40. We didn't have the cash to replace the windows then (we still don't now) but we couldn't imagine a home that didn't breathe.
Energy issues aside—we understand they are terribly inefficient and we hope to update them someday—we needed to take action. In the harsh winter light there were times you could barely see through the dirty cobweb infested space between the glass panes and the storm windows. It was barely possible to open them, so we never thought it was possible to thoroughly clean them. And, yes, we've cleaned their interiors and exteriors several times, but of course this was no use.
We're learning as we go, don't judge. It was short sighted of us, but we've seen the light.
Last week we hired two companies—Tri County Screens and Home Improvements by Vic Leone—to give our old windows a second chance, and what a difference their work has made. The windows are clear and the warm spring light brilliantly reaches our interiors as does the greens and whites of our street's flowering trees. The ornamental Japanese maple now accents the living room in a way I've not seen before. The outside has come in just in time for spring.
Moral of this post: Even if you live in an old home where things seem so broken and unrepairable, try and try again. Call a handyman or professional for advice. It's amazing what new screen material and warm soapy water achieved in our home.
(Images: Landis Carey)