Monday, January 19, 2015

Adventures in Window Restoration (Part 1)

One of the things that sold me on our home was the four original stain glass windows in the living room.  It was only during our final walk through, once the layers and layers of window coverings were removed, did we discover that there were also seven leaded glass windows adorning the front living room windows.  Bonus!

While we are certainly beyond fortunate that these windows were not torn out with glass block and vinyl replacement windows put in their place (like so many other bungalows in this area) the truth is that none of the art glass windows were in best of shape.  Several of the windows had chipped or broken panes and others were bowing and flexing at the lead joints.  I was so afraid that if we didn't fix these, they would continue deteriorate to a point of no return. 

Through my research, I learned that lead glass windows typically need to be restored at the 80-90 year point.  Our windows are actually zinc, not lead, which is a good thing.  True lead glass windows actually need to have all of the lead joints replaced at about the 80-90 year mark as the lead breaks down over time.  The zinc, however, holds up much longer. That being said, the cement or putty that secures the glass in the lead joints, usually needs to be replaced at this point whether the windows are lead or zinc.  So, we set out to find some reputable vendors who specialize in art glass restoration.  Spoiler alert - there aren't that many in the business these days!  We are lucky enough to have a handful of vendors in the Chicago area who do this type of work.  After calling around to a few places, we ended up getting only one quote and going with it.  A few places wouldn't return my phone calls or emails, so they were out.  Another company told me that if the lead joints that were flexing "felt solid" that windows were "probably fine" - not really a gamble I was willing to take!

The company that we landed on was Drehbol Art Glass and they were located in the neighborhood, just a few blocks from our house.  For those of you in the Chicago area who need this type of service, I highly recommend this company.  They are located at 5108 West Irving Park Road and can be reached by phone at (773) 286-2566.  There were several reasons why we selected this company for our windows.  First and foremost, they returned my call promptly and actually seemed like they wanted my business!  Such a simple thing really...but it's amazing how many companies don't get this.  Also, they are family owned and have been in business since 1919.  I also found it very cool that it's highly likely Drehbol Art Glass actually made our windows to begin with as they made a lot of the art glass for the bungalows constructed in this area in the 20's and 30's.  They were very patient with us and answered any questions that we had about the process.

It took about 2 months to get eight windows restored and it was certainly an investment!  Going into this, I wasn't sure what to expect price-wise.  I figured it could be anywhere from $500.00-$5,000.00+ to get these windows restored.  It ended up being right in the middle at a cost of about $300.00 per window.  Our windows were in fair shape; just a few broken pieces, but otherwise intact.  They also needed to be recemented or puttied.  Basically, they had to pick out all whatever old cement was left in the cammes and then put all new cement in, which is a very tedious and time consuming project. Windows that are in worse shape I would imagine could cost up to twice as much to restore. When we picked the windows up, it was absolutely amazed at how well they turned out!  It was worth every penny and they just put the living room over the top.  

We are very happy to put this project behind us, despite lightening our pocketbook a bit.  This certainly isn't the last of our fun in window-land.  We have a few kinks to work out that came up when reinstalling them (more on that later)  Also, I plan on sharing my experiences restoring and reglazing all of the lower sashes in the living room which is proving to be good time!

J + M


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