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Homeowners can undertake their own housing upgrades
Installing newer windows can save heating, cooling costs
Home Depot Millworks department supervisor Abe Nissen shows customer Jason Cohen a double-pane window Thursday afternoon. A homeowner could install the window if he or she needed an upgrade. Double-pane windows can save money in heating because they are more energy efficient.

With cold snow rattling the state, residents of some of the area’s older homes may have noticed a bit of a draft around their windows.

Older homes often have single-pane windows that don’t provide much insulation against the cold. In order to improve insulation, homeowners may consider replacing the old windows with a more modern double-hung variety.

Though the project is not inexpensive, Brian Forrest, assistant manager at The Home Depot in Gainesville, said he replaced his 1983 home’s 12 windows last year and saved more than $300 on his annual energy costs.

Forrest used a window sash replacement kit allowing him to swap the old windows for new double-paned windows with relative ease. The kits come with detailed instructions to make it fairly easy for homeowners to manage on their own.

“It’s really convenient for folks who don’t have the skill in the carpentry work when they’re taking out whole entire windows,” Forrest said.

The kits replace the interior of the window without requiring homeowners to remove the entire frame. Some kits allow homeowners to position new windows where they can tilt inward, making cleaning easier.

“It was the best thing I ever did to that house, to date,” Forrest said. “Because now I can clean the window from the inside easier and I don’t have to have a great deal of carpentry skills. If one got broken, then I wouldn’t have to replace a single (window) sash without having to take out the guides on a single pane window.”

Much older homes employ different mechanisms to open, including a pulley and counterweight.

Depending on the “era” of the window, homeowners may need to custom order replacements according to each window’s dimension, Forrest said.

“It can be a little more difficult because there are a few different ways of operating back then, but I would say it’s something a homeowner could accomplish with just a few tools,” Forrest said.

Gainesville-based carpenter Chris Lund said replacing or repairing an old pulley-style window is a fairly straightforward process, but he recommends do-it-yourselfers become comfortable with the steps before attempting.

“It’s definitely the kind of project that if you’re not comfortable with, don’t even try,” Lund said.

Homes older than 50 years were frequently built with a counterweight pulley window. Cotton ropes set on small pulleys were tied to the ends of counterweights that are inside the window frame.

“A lot of times what you’ll typically see is a rope that’s been painted over,” Lund said. “When you see that, it means the ropes are too rigid and the completely-cotton ropes are so old they disintegrated right above the weights and then the weight falls inside the wall.”

Lund said many of the older nonfunctioning windows are often painted over and impossible to open, which can become a safety hazard, especially in the event of a fire when windows could be used to escape.

To open these painted windows, Lund recommends using a 5-in-1 tool to gently separate the overlapping paint from the window.

“One of the biggest issues I think is, you can plan on any window that age having a lead-based paint on it, which is going to be a big concern for people,” Lund said. “Once you start chiseling that stuff apart, you’re going to have paint start to chip off. All of that old original window paint would have been oil based as well. So that paint essentially pops off in big chips. So you’ve got to make sure all of that is cleaned up.”