Lets explore replacement windows for historic homes. Replacement windows are a hot topic for owners of historic homes and historical boards. Depending on where your property is located there may be different requirements. Most municipalities that have properties on a historical register govern improvements by the approval of a historical board and usually have an architect that reviews submissions and advises the board members on decisions. The process often times involves submitting a proposed change to the historical commission and then attending a hearing where under oath you present the proposed improvements to the board which they in turn vote on. Every township has their own process which can be found out by contacting the township or city offices where the property is located.
Typical Requirements of Replacement Windows for Historic Homes
Some historical boards will allow vinyl windows with GBG (Grids between the glass) and some require wood windows with SDL (Simulated divided lights) for historic homes, while some have very few if any requirements. Some require that the original windows remain intact in which case historical restoration of the window is often required. Always reach out to the historical organizations contact person to inquire about their process prior to ordering and installing windows. This is very important because they sometimes have the ability to block a CO and issue fines if unapproved repairs are performed and often will do so. Also check with your contractor to see if they have experience with historical hearings and if they are wiling to submit and attend the hearing before the board. A competent contractor will prepare the submission, assemble shop drawings, attend the hearing for approval and have experience doing so.
If you want to do the process yourself then first contact the township or city and inquire about who to contact on the historical board. Reach out to that person via email or phone and tell them what it is that you want to do. They’ll usually be able to answer some of your questions on the spot but sometimes they’ll want you to sit before the board prior to providing any guidance. Ask them for the schedule and process. Usually there’s a form to fill out and some information that you’ll need to provide ahead of time, such as product information and architectural shop drawings for the windows if you have them available. Colors are important to many boards and you should have a swatch of different options available for them to review. There is usually a deadline for submittals in order to attend the next scheduled meeting. Once you have it submitted they should contact you that it was received and you will be put on the schedule to present to the board. The night of the meeting there is usually a number of other submittals and you will be announced in order. Once you are up many times that swear you in under oath and you present your proposed changes to the board. If they have an architect consulting he will have your submittal information and may ask you a few questions. If they want any changes made to your proposed plan they will be be discussed at this time. If you are in agreement with the changes, if required, the board will then often have a vote and either approve or deny your request.
Often times if an architectural firm is submitting windows before a historical board they will be proposing wood windows with simulated divided lights, which have muttons on the inside and out with the interior glazing projecting through each mutton. Usually an architectural firm will propose a low maintenance exterior such as aluminum or a fiberglass composite such as Marvin’s Ultrex. The architectural firm will have drawings of the window and a swatch of historical colors, one of which the client has selected. Some window manufacturers, such as Marvin, offer historical wavy glass, which can be specified. Manufacturers windows that meet the above requirements are Marvin Windows, Integrity by Marvin Wood Ultrex series, Pella’s Architectural Series, Anderson 400 Woodwright, and Weathershield Wood Windows. There are others but these are the most popular options.
Navigating the requirements of having a property on the historical register is not without it’s challenges but hopefully with the above information you will be able to be better prepared to get your project moving.
About the author
Ray Lindsey is CEO and founder of All Star Pro Exteriors Inc. All Star Pro Exteriors supplies and installs a variety of brand name quality roofing, siding and windows, including Marvin windows, Integrity by Marvin windows, Harvey BP windows, Sunrise Windows, and others. All Star Pro Exteriors has many years of experience working with historic homes, presenting to Historical Boards and provides service warranties on all of the windows that they supply and install.