Storm Windows: A Cold Weather Solution

Storm windows are a conscientious renovator's answer to maintaining historical authenticity, changing seasons and chilly nights. The article includes information on glazing and wood, fasteners and storm window alternatives.

| September/October 1987

Storm windows are a renovator's answer to cold weather, changing seasons and chilly nights. Storm windows are a simple solution to the aesthetics/expense dilemma, and the same frames can screen out summer's pesky bugs. 

Storm Windows: A Cold Weather Solution

Windows often present a dilemma to people involved in renovating older houses. Beautiful though they may be, multiple-light, double-hung windows are simply at odds with comfort and energy efficiency. No one likes to sit near an expanse of glass on a frigid evening and feel the heat being sucked away.

Storm windows are the traditional solution to winter weatherization in a home with single-glazed windows — for good reasons. Add another layer of glazing (a catchall term that covers glass and its plastic imitators), and the heat loss from a window is virtually halved. Air leakage will also be reduced, further improving overall performance. Storm windows are convenient, as well. They can easily be removed in the spring and replaced with screens to let air in and keep bugs out.

With the advent of more-efficient windows, though, the storm window business all but collapsed. The only readily available products are aluminum framed, and mount to the face of the exterior window casings. If you find this solution aesthetically unacceptable, there's only one other option: custom storm windows, made by a mill works or by you.

Storm windows like the ones mentioned in this article have served five years now on a staff' member's turn-of-the-century farmhouse. Over the period, the design has been improved bit by bit to become as simple to build as possible while maintaining strength and appearance. This sorting-out period has shown us where to economize and where to buy the best.

Glazing and Wood

Even though it's the most expensive glazing, we use Plexiglas or another transparent, rigid plastic. Over the years, plastic films deteriorate in sunlight or end up punctured by tree limbs, errant Frisbees or berserk birds. And if one of those hazards doesn't spell the end of a glass pane, annual removal and storage eventually will. The only precaution we've learned concerning working with rigid plastic is to be sure to leave a 1/8 inch leeway on all sides of the panel so that it has room to move in the frame as it expands and contracts with temperature change.

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