Have you received a notice on your computer that the version of Windows you have is no longer supported? I know I have. I’ve been getting that notice for years and I know it’s true since my bedroom windows remind me every winter when the wind blows that support ended for those windows about 1945, during the Truman administration, right after the war.

My old farmhouse has antediluvian double-hung windows that I’m sure looked fairly new in 1930 as the Great Depression got under way. Luckily, they received coat after coat of lead paint to preserve them until the economy recovered enough to buy more efficient windows in about the year 2016. But of course I did not buy new windows. Instead I performed an experiment to see how good those old windows would be if they were restored to like-new condition.

I chose four windows and, with my two assistants, removed the sashes and reconditioned the frames. No, a sash is not a cummerbund that the windows wear but the moving parts with the glass that goes up and down. At least they are supposed to be moving parts but with ten improperly applied coats of paint, the distinction between moving and non-moving parts is academic at best.

We stripped the sashes down to the bare wood, removed the glass, sanded, filled, primed, sanded, reinserted the glass with new glazing, primed again, sanded and finally put on two coats of modern paint, without the lead.

Oh but we didn’t stop there. We next attacked the storm windows. These are the windows your grandfather, no … your great-grandfather, would store in the garage (a time when we all had space in the garage to store storm windows) and then, every autumn, dutifully get on a ladder and secure them over each window of the house to provide a pitiful sort of double protection against the winter. So many men fell off ladders doing this that the season was nicknamed “fall.”

 


We administered the same insane restoration treatment to the storms that we did to the permanent windows. Then I sat back and observed. Now I would like to report the results of my grand rebuilding experiment.

The old windows look magnificent. They would almost qualify for a perfect restoration status in one of those old, historic villages you can visit where people pretend to live as people really lived before we had to run around looking for an outlet to charge our many devices. And, oh, but those old windows are romantic. Looking through that wavy glass you can almost see a horse-drawn carriage with driver go by, buggy whip in hand.

But looks and nostalgia aside, the new-old windows are disturbingly terrible. They do a decent job keeping out the larger insects, but as far as Old Man Winter goes, how shall I put this in today’s vernacular … oh yes, the old-style windows suck. They are carefully designed and crafted junk that suck the heat right out of the house. Visuals aside, they are flawed and inadequate portals for light that act as giant refrigerator plates right there inside your living space.

In case you’ve been hunkered down by the woodstove for the last couple decades unable to get out from under your blankets, let me tell you that modern windows are really amazing. Designed with new materials by engineers who understand the physics of letting in light but blocking any heat transfer, they are easy to open, close and maintain. Getting new windows installed in your old house is like moving into a new house — only that it’s your old house, but warmer.

Yes, it’s expensive, but the money spent is recouped by cutting down drastically on the two liquids that keep you warm in the winter: fuel oil and Allen’s Coffee Brandy.

Just as Microsoft Windows users will have to migrate to newer versions, all of us old house people are going to have to upgrade to modern windows. Otherwise we will essentially be living in a windows museum where unruly schoolchildren may drop in on field trips to see how nasty it was to live in the good old days.

And, yes, I agree, it’s time to retire that Windows ’98 machine of mine. I just don’t know what I’m going to tell the million and a half residents of SimCity that call it their home. “Attention all Sims: since you all need new Windows, this city will be closing” just seems a little cold.