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What You Need to Know About Replacing Windows in an Historic Home

Our Minneapolis replacement window company specializes in windows and exterior doors for historic homes. As a result, we’ve developed a lot of expertise in this field.  And we’re fortunate to have the help of some pretty great window and door companies like Marvin that manufacture products that fill the need in this remodeling niche.  The first thing you should be aware of is that often replacing your windows isn’t the best idea, and we may recommend another option to increase energy efficiency and cut down on drafts.  Whenever possible, we try to preserve the existing windows because the lumber used in constructing your original windows simply can’t be found anymore.  So while you may be able to find windows that come close to what you have, we will work with you to try and preserve the original ones. But sometimes that just isn’t possible, and we need to come up with a solution that will work for you, your home, and whatever regulatory agency controls or needs to approve work you do on your home.

photo courtesy of Marvin – photo by Alyssa Lee Photography

Own an Historic Home?  Expect to Need Approval of a Panel or Commission

Who do you need to work with?  That depends on where your home is located, and on what historic registry it is listed.  That may be a commission, an owners’ association, or even the National Parks Service (NPS) if your home is on the National Register of Historic Places.For example, the City of St. Paul has nine separate historic districts, and they are overseen by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission.

(For example, the Tudor home shown in this photo is located in the Lake of the Isles district in Minneapolis.  Experts from Marvin worked with the architect to design the perfect window and door solution for this home that retained the look of the original but with up-to-date energy efficiency and convenience.  You can learn more about the details of the project by clicking here.)

Local entities may follow the NPS standards, but in some cases they may be even more stringent.   ‘Preservation’ is the key word here, because the aim is to maintain historic properties in a state as close to the original as possible.  Repairs are generally favored over replacements, and window repair is usually less expensive than replacement.  But it’s been our experience that the review panels don’t have hard and fast rules and will consider each case on its merits.  Energy efficiency and comfort in a home are taken into consideration, and there are ways to achieve that while retaining historically accurate details.  For the most part, you should expect that your new windows:

Are the same size, shape and appearance as the ones being replaced.  Enlarging a window opening or changing the shape of the opening is usually not permitted.  And the word ‘appearance’ is very important, because today’s casement windows are far more energy-efficient than the old double- or single hung windows, but you can now get casements with grids for the divided light look that appear from the exterior to be double hung windows. 

Exterior appearance – especially the front of a home – gets the most attention.  You may find that a side of your house that doesn’t face the street – say the back – might be allowed to have some changes made that wouldn’t be approved for the front.  For you, this may mean another type of window, like replacing multiple double-hung windows with a picture window to bring in more light.

One thing that you should know is that you won’t be on your own in the approval process.  We are used to working with historic district review panels on behalf of our customers, and we can do the same thing for you.  If you own an historic home (or even an older one you’re seeking to preserve or restore) please contact us for help with your window and door needs.



Window Outfitters is a premier Window Replacement, doors, siding contractor and installer. As Contractor in the St Paul, Minneapolis, (Twin Cities) Minnesota (MN) metro, we proudly serve, but are not limited to, the following areas: Minneapolis Energy Efficient Vinyl Windows, Replacement Window Contractors Minnesota, Burnsville, Apple Valley, Lakeville, Savage, Bloomington, Edina, Richfield, Eagan, St Paul, Hastings, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, Farmington MN, Chaska, Shakopee, Chanhassen, Victoria, Mendota Heights Anderson Windows Minneapolis, Marvin Windows Minneapolis.