Those of us who have owned a historical home either in the past or currently know the character, charm, and striking beauty these homes possess. We also know about the peculiarities you learn to deal with when owning such a home. The historic windows are one of the most challenging aspects of an older home for many people.

You may wonder, “What are the best windows for historic homes?” and “Can I change my windows as I please?”  Historic towns are serious about historically accurate renovations, which include replacement windows. Typically, that concerns the material window frames are made of and their style. The windows also need the same windowpane patterns as the period-specific original windows. The great news is that replacement windows can stay true to the historic elements in your house, and you can honor historic requirements while installing new windows.

Replacing Old Windows

Most historic homeowners will choose replacement solid wood windows such as pine or mahogany. However, if your home has historic character, and the rules allow it, consider the best of both worlds by installing windows with authentic wood inside and durable, low-maintenance vinyl outside.

Low Maintenance Divided Lites

The best windows for historic homes can help preserve the property's charm and appeal.

You can have true divided lites (grids) or simulated divided lites. True divided lite windows are made of small glass panes separated by muntins (dividers) or grilles. Simulated divided lite windows have just one piece of glass with removable muntins attached to the interior and exterior of the glass. The grilles are removable, so they are super easy to clean. This yields a divided lite look without having divided window panes, lowering your maintenance needs significantly.

Authentic Hardware

The hardware you choose for your historic home’s new windows should match your house’s existing hardware and have a finish that coordinates perfectly with your home’s interior.

Energy Efficiency

Historic homeowners can enjoy the genuine look of period-specific windows while gaining the energy-efficient features of today’s windows. Double- or triple-pane glass, Low-E coatings, and argon gas filling between windows all lower your energy usage and will translate into lower utility bills each month, a welcomed sight for a historic homeowner. Windows with Low-E coatings cost up to 15% more than other windows yet decrease energy loss by 30% or more, making them worthwhile. Look for the ENERGY STAR rating on your new windows, and you’ll be positioned to save regularly on energy usage.

Historically Accurate Replacement Windows

If your historic windows have become difficult to open, have broken or cracked panes of glass, or rotting frames, you might discover that restoring and repairing them is out of your price range, especially if you would wish to add storm windows on top of them for energy efficiency and protection.

However, before swapping out the old windows for new ones, it is very important to consider the value the historic windows added to your home. New windows are designed for new homes, and the windows that came with your home were specifically crafted with that structure in mind, offering the façade cohesive integrity that’d be lost if you haphazardly put whatever was accessible at a big box store into the window areas.

There are different types of windows for historic homes.

If you decide to replace the windows, you must work with a qualified professional who can help you install new ones with a historically accurate appearance, which will finish the upgrade you intended but maintain the economical integrity of your investment in a historic home.

Historically accurate replacement windows include the energy efficiency benefits of modern innovations in making windows while maintaining the classic look of windows from before, especially using woods such as mahogany, pine, and fir.

Even though the sash comprises one solid pane of glass, the mullions compartmentalize it, giving your window a traditional appearance. For the finishing touch, the window can be treated with a finish that suits the existing frame and complements the house’s appearance.

What Are the Best Windows for Historic Homes?

Classic window styles like casement, bay, double-hung, single-hung, and custom windows work well in historic homes.

Double-hung Windows

The most popular window type, with classic beauty that fits historic homes, double-hung windows deliver outstanding aesthetics. Their timeless look will complement your house perfectly, and their function will delight you. Their top sash can be lowered while their bottom sash is raised, creating the perfect opportunity for air to circulate in and out of your space. These classic windows are readily available, with multiple finish options to match your interior, and they are a perfect solution for historic homes.

Single-hung Windows

Styled the same as double-hung windows, yet with fewer movable parts, single-hung windows open only from the bottom up. They deliver a simple solution and period-specific features that will fit in seamlessly with your historic home. They are known for their longevity, low maintenance, and minimal need for repairs due to their simple makeup. Single-hung windows come in various finishes to match your historic house’s interior.

Casement Windows

Timeless and customizable, casement windows are a good choice for historic homes. Their single sash opens with a crank, delivering optimal ventilation to your interior. They open outward, “catch” the breezes and usher them inside. Their glass is not divided by panels, and they deliver fabulous views of the outdoors. Their airtight seal when they are closed gives you greater energy efficiency than other window styles. They can’t be opened from the outside, so keeping them locked offers excellent security for your historic home, deterring intruders.

Bay Windows

Bay windows are used in historic homes.

Known for the distinct beauty they add to a room, bay windows deliver expanded views to your kitchen, family room, living room, or master bedroom. Bay windows create a bump-out that adds visual interest to your interior and exterior. Their panoramic glass delivers fabulous views of the outdoors and makes way for an abundance of light to be ushered inside. They often consist of a fixed picture window with operable windows on either side to bring fresh air to your historic home.

How Can I Make My Old Windows Look Nicer?

Along with bringing natural light into a home, windows act as the building’s eyes, allowing the residents to look out into the world. Because of this important role they hold in the history of a house, many homeowners choose to preserve the original residential windows while creating a modern, updated home around them.


Installing weatherstripping between the two sashes can reduce cold air infiltration from outside. Weatherstripping can be applied along the edges of any window (or door) and is inexpensive to reduce noise and draft from coming in.

Window Inserts

Another solution—albeit more visible—is to install window inserts. Window inserts are acrylic windows that fit inside existing windows, almost as interior storm windows. They may change the interior profile of the trim but can be easily uninstalled during the summer months if desired, and they don’t affect the exterior appearance of the windows.

Storm Windows

On the other hand, exterior storm windows are another common and very effective option—because of the airspace between the two panes of glass. They can even outperform a new double-glazed metal window. Old doesn’t have to mean inefficient.

Dealing With Damage to the Wood Framing

Another common issue with older windows is damage to wood framing members that can occur from rot or termites. While these problems will most likely require the removal of some original material, it doesn’t mean you need to replace an entire window. Partial replacement of wood members is always an option.

Preserve the Original Wood Whenever Possible

There are ways to preserve the new windows in a historic home.

Generally speaking, it’s best to keep as much old wood as possible since old-growth lumber—i.e., lumber manufactured before World War II—is more resistant to rot than the lumber found on the market today. So, be sparing in your operation. It’s also nice to try to keep as much historic fabric as possible for history’s sake.

Deal With Broken Window Panes

A similar selective removal and replacement approach can be applied to original or historic windows with broken window panes. Individual panes can be easily cut to size and inserted into existing window sashes or muntins by removing old putty or caulk, inserting the new panes, and re-puttying or caulking.

Pay Attention to Consistency

Be careful, however, to pay attention to the aesthetic properties of the older glass to ensure that you don’t end up with a patchwork of clearly old or new individual glass panes. These can include small bubbles, slight waviness in the surface of the glass, or perhaps a greenish tint. This is where reusing or recycling old glass is a great option.

Prevention and Protection

What’s the best way to keep your windows as original as possible? Regular maintenance! Regular painting of wood framing members, annual inspections of rot or termite damage, and checking for weather damage can help you ensure that your original windows stay in great condition as long as possible.

Repairs of original windows, especially stained glass, should be made using in-kind glass, meaning that the new glass matches the original in color, texture, and opacity.

Consult With the Experts!

Be bold and ask local historic preservation experts within your area for insights on replacement windows that’ll honor your home’s historic feel. Window installers specializing in historic window replacement and restoration can also help.

Remember, restoring your historic home can easily and effectively include replacement windows that match your home’s architecture’s authentic look and feel. There’s no need to compromise beauty and authenticity for energy efficiency and functionality. You can have both.

Remember, too, that experts such as our crew here at Universal Windows Direct are experienced and trained in helping homeowners select the right windows to mirror their home’s historic appearance. We do the work with care and precision so your home keeps its historic feel in every way, and you can enjoy your house with modern comforts and authentic historic beauty.

7721 Central Park Drive - Unit B
Woodway, TX 76712
(254) 301-7760