Abracadabra! Windows…resurrected!

The Cross House has like a zillion windows. OK, maybe not that many. Maybe there are actually only a billion. OK. Maybe not that many. But surely there are thousands. At least it feels like thousands.

Luckily, the windows are all original. Praise the Lord that nobody in the 1970s decided to tear out the windows and replace them with vinyl —and you know how those would look today.

I will later do a post on the evils of replacement windows, suffice to say for now that it is almost ALWAYS better to retain your ancient windows and restore them rather than opt for replacements. For example, vinyl windows have an effective life-span of like a dozen years. They do not tell you that when you hand over a check.

That said, I can understand why people regularly tear out old windows. I mean, just look at what I inherited:



ABOVE: One of the curved-glass windows of the round tower. I know! TERRIFYING! Absolutely, shockingly, and without-a-doubt TERRIFYING. No sane person would do anything other than toss such a window (and ALL my windows look like this) into the dumpster and run to the nearest home improvement store to place an order, STAT, for nice, new, shiny windows. NOTE: I am not sane.



ABOVE: The terror continues.


I have a very odd brain. When I look at windows in this condition I have two reactions:

  • RUN! RUN for your life! There is no way — no way, man! — that this piece of rotted crap can ever be made to look even half-way decent! RUN!
  • Then there is this very small voice in my head. It whispers: Hey, what if you just scraped a little on one corner? What does the wood look like under?

So, letting that quiet voice guide me — after all, what is the harm? I am just going to scrape a little bit. Just a little bit — I scrape just a little bit.

Oh. Cool. The wood is not scary under. Actually, it looks…great.

So then I wonder: what if I scraped just a bit more? Just a bit.

At this point I am doomed.

However, do you hear the drum roll? For this is the result, below. Be prepared to gasp (scroll way down; I am delaying your seeing the After image):





















ABOVE: Every time I look at a restored window my heart skips a few beats. It seems a miracle that something so awful could be made to look so good. Truly, a miracle. And a thrill! A delight! A joy! Wow.




  1. Betsy on October 16, 2014 at 1:54 am

    Gasp -Astounding. How long did it take ?

    Original wood, stripped, sanded and then re-painted ?

    If, so, dang !!

    • Ross on October 16, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Gasp is right, Betsy! Gasp!!!!!

      Yep, the AFTER image is the same window, and retaining all its original bits. It was all there under the decaying layers of paint, ancient caulk and glazing, and glue.

      People usually mistake these decaying layers for decaying wood. But give me OLD wood (old-growth wood) any day over new wood. The old stuff will last another century. The new stuff? Maybe twenty years?

      Oh, and the restoration costs approximate the replacement cost for a new, higher-quality window (except the new window will not last as long as the restored original window). If you can do such work yourself, the cost is cheap. Such work is not hard but does take some time, and requires a personality who enjoys such, well, fussy work.

  2. Chad's Crooked House on October 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Way to make me jealous… but in the 70’s they’d be aluminum, not vinyl. I’ll have a photo up soon. The last of those in my house is sitting out back until I break the glass and turn the frames into scrap.

    • Ross on October 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Welcome Chad! I have really been enjoying your own old house adventures.

  3. Denali Dragonfly "Grace" on February 28, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    I’m so glad you let that quiet voice guide you because it is a genius. I totally agree, I love the black and I hate white. In fact the white trim on my house has bugged me for years. Now that the house is mine, the white has to go. G:-)

    • Ross on February 28, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Do you know what the original color was?

  4. Michael Mackin on February 20, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    I’m surprised that the original glass in still there! I’m wondering the cost of replacing the curved glass with the same type that was used back then. (modern glass doesn’t look the same)

  5. Gail M. on February 20, 2016 at 9:14 pm


  6. Seth Hoffman on October 10, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Great job on the windows! We were fortunate to have every one of our original wood sashes remaining too. I’ve restored them all, and even my wife likes operating them better than typical modern windows.

    It’s a shame so many people fall for the vinyl window salesmens’ pitch, especially since the return on investment is so poor, even compared to leaky old windows that need repair.

  7. Lisa Phillips on October 24, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Amazing transformation! The window looks as good as new. Great job! Where in world would you get a curved window to replace it if you hadn’t fixed the old one?

  8. Francesca Gove Orr on January 26, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Scrape with what!?!? I am in a never ending battle with the old paint and glazing on my windows! Do you strip them first?

  9. Jaime on January 22, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Had to respond! My 1907 Queen Anne in Oklahoma has a two story tower of curved windows. Because the sashes are curved and the tight radius of the curve you can not take a window out to repair it unless you do it from the outside of the house and take almost all the trim off! The owners before us broke a window and then broke the sash trying to get it back in. It was the bottom sash. They replaced the curved glass with plexi and I can’t tell the difference. No budget for curved glass! My aunt does the payroll for a shop in Dallas, TX that specializes in curved glass. They have to make a mold for you but it’s yours forever. Lol. Unfortunately each of our windows is a tiny bit different than the others so it couldn’t be reused much. She says the mold is the expensive part!

  10. Colin S Boss on August 4, 2018 at 7:55 am

    That is truly astounding. All that hard work is worth it. I now totally regret binning (trashing in American!) my original sash windows for the allure of Upvc ! Currently investigating the cost of wooden replacement sashes after being inspired by this posting.

  11. Diana Poulin on April 11, 2020 at 11:09 am

    You are so right about restoring the windows, it’s a big job, but very rewarding. Replacing the windows would have change the house, it would not have been the same and then is the cost, we were told $1,000.00 a window many years ago. Then my husband took a class about how to repair and make more efficient windows. Glad to say , we have the original Picasso windows.

  12. Shelly on December 22, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    Beautiful work, man!

  13. Michael Mackin on December 23, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Ross, Kudos to you for your diligence in restoring these windows. The work you are doing looks great and I’m sure the satisfaction of a job well done feels nice!

    • Ross on December 23, 2020 at 2:06 pm

      Thank you, Michael!

      Almost all the windows in the house are now restored. Only some in the basement need attending to!

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