Ask the Remodeler: Replace or refurbish? A look at old windows

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
This window dates to 1965 and has a rotting frame.
This window dates to 1965 and has a rotting frame. handout

Q. I have a number of old double-hung windows (1965) that need serious attention. Does it make sense to repair them so I can maintain aesthetic consistency with the windows that are in OK shape?

H.M.W, Newton Corner

A. We get this question a lot: whether to refurbish the windows or replace them. What we have found is that it is roughly the same cost to put in a high-quality replacement window with all the requisite insulation and painting work as it is to refurbish a window. Replacement windows cost more but go in very quickly, while refurbishing has much less cost but is very labor-intensive.

My advice: Install quality replacements. You can do them in phases, taking care of the ones that are bad now and more next year. Given that your home was built in 1965, I am not sure these are really vintage windows that warrant the cost to refurbish given that they will not perform as well as replacement windows when it comes to ease of use and energy efficiency.

Related story It’s always better to replace old windows. Right?

Q. I live in a first-floor condo in a 30-year-old multiunit building and share common walls. I hear my neighbor’s conversations and TV. In addition, my upstairs neighbor constantly pounds on her floor, which carries directly down into my unit. Can you recommend soundproofing solutions to minimize the noise I hear from both of my neighbors? How much noise reduction can I expect from a soundproofing solution?


A. I am afraid there is not a lot you can do. Sound transmission comes in two ways, sound waves and vibration, and it appears you have both. Short of opening up the walls to put in soundproofing insulation, the only recommendation I can make is to add a layer of sound-proofing wallboard over your existing wallboard. It’s a lot of work. The vibrations coming through the ceiling will be almost impossible to mitigate without opening up the ceiling and putting in vibration-dampening, then installing soundproofing insulation and wallboard — a very daunting challenge. I wish I had a cost-effective solution for you.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at Follow us on FacebookLinkedInInstagram, and Twitter @globehomes.