Tips for replacing windows in older homes

Toronto has a rich architectural heritage that generations of Torontonians have preserved – sometimes through neglect and sometimes through community activism or with their own wallets. Only a few years ago, neighbourhoods like Corktown were pretty much forgotten by gentrification and development, and many of its older buildings were worn down and dilapidated, but still standing. If gentrification has done one good thing to many older areas of Toronto, it’s been renovating and restoring hundreds of Victorian, Georgian, and Edwardian homes that make up our city’s urban fabric.

But for homeowners whose renovations are starting to age, or new buyers who have their own improvements to make, there’s one particularly sticky renovation issue: windows. Replacing windows can be a tricky procedure for older homes, as they can significantly alter the appearance of heritage architecture.

Some home experts suggest repairing windows before replacing them in heritage homes. That may work for your home, but many Toronto homeowners are renovating to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Energy Star windows have a major impact on your hydro usage, but it means installing replacement windows. At first, it may seem like there are too many issues to consider, but if you follow these tips, you should be able navigate your home renovation.

Don’t Cut Costs

If there is one rule to installing replacement windows in an older home in Toronto, it’s to avoid vinyl windows. These are great, economical options in new construction, but they will clash with older homes. In older Toronto neighbourhoods, wood window frames are the only way to maintain the aesthetic of east end worker’s cottages, Riverdale Arts and Crafts houses, or Cabbagetown bay and gables. They cost a little bit extra, but local companies like Golden Windows manufacture energy efficient windows with wood frames that look great.

Size Matters

A number of older homes in Toronto have windows that would now be considered non-standard sizes and you may need to find a custom window supplier. Sash windows in older homes are often difficult to replace, but custom window suppliers like Golden Windows, which offer a wide variety of types and sizes, are more likely to find the replacement window to fit your home than a standard hardware store.

Keep The Rules in Mind

If your home has heritage designation, it’s important that you follow the rules laid out in the Ontario Heritage Act. For example, you will require a heritage permit if you want to make any alterations that affect the appearance of your home from the street, including windows.

Adding additional windows, such as skylights, is something you can do on the sides and rear of your home, but you won’t be able to add them to the façade. You can, however, replace weather stripping or paint existing windows without a permit.

Before you start your home renovations in an older home in Toronto, understand the rules and find a contractor who knows your neighbourhood. You can also find more tips for heritage home renovations on the Golden Windows Blog, including advice on frame materials, grille styles, and more. Don’t be intimidated by the process; you can maintain your home’s beauty and still make careful, considerate upgrades.

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