Fighting Off Old Man Winter

At some point during our first winter in the house ice started forming on the inside of our windows.  Kristin and I are both very good at ignoring problems and we had done a very good job of ignoring the cold temperatures for at least a month, but at this point we decided that something needed to be done about our centuries old single pane windows.

Our immediate solution was to put up plastic. For those that have not had the pleasure, I’ll warn you this can be a frustrating experience. Start with the cost. Each kit is relatively cheap, but our front windows are three feet by six feet which is too large for the standard window kit. We needed to use the larger size intended for patio doors which is a little bit more money and unfortunately is still just a little too short to cover two windows. Needing to buy a single kit for every window and with nine windows to cover, we’re suddenly looking at about $100. Uhhg. We instead decided to cover the four windows in our living space upstairs and let the downstairs just get cold.

Next is the installation. Imagine putting a bumper sticker on your car, and struggling to get it perfectly straight.  Then imagine it’s a 3 foot by 6 foot bumper sticker.  Then imagine it’s made of plastic food wrap. Then imagine the adhesive won’t stick in the corners because the 60 year old paint starts flaking off underneath. Etc. Eventually, you’ll get the plastic on, and if you’re experienced and patient you can probably get the finished product to be nearly invisible after spending some time shrinking it up with a hair dryer. Most likely there will be small wrinkles in each corner and one large wrinkle across the middle.

Having windows covered in Saran wrap seemed fine in college, but now, in a house that I own, I really couldn’t stand the plastic sealed windows.  They’re wrinkly, they’re hard to see out of, they puff in and out continuously making an irritating crinkly sound, and when you remove them in the spring, the tape either leaves a sticky residue on your window trim or pulls the paint off. I’m not sure that Kristin actually cared nearly as much as I did, but for these reasons we decided to investigate more permanent solutions.

We had a few options:

  • Exterior storm windows
  • Interior storm windows
  • Replace our existing windows with new, more modern windows
  • Refurbish our existing windows

We eliminated replacement windows immediately due to the excessive cost of getting new custom wooden windows with double pane glass and a curved upper sash. The historic board would have us do nothing less. The local historic board (which does have the legal authority to restrict exterior alterations) officially prefers exterior storm windows. In fact I believe they encourage exterior storm windows in order to help protect the original windows. Kristin and I both find this position absurd. What is the point of having beautifully styled historic wooden windows if they are covered on the outside by an ugly aluminum frame and a dirty piece of glass? Why bother protecting windows that no one will ever see clearly? For this reason, we decided to look for interior storm windows and plan in the future to also refurbish our existing windows. (Be on the lookout for a post on how to refurbish your old wooden windows sometime within the next 2-3 years :-) )

check out that sexy magnetic interior storm window


We talked to a company in town about custom interior storm windows. They sounded very nice but if I remember correctly, the cheapest option was going to be about $400 per window. Instead, I found a company online called Climate Seal that sold interior magnetic storms and was willing to sell me just the raw materials. They had a flexible framing system that would compensate for the high thermal expansion of the plastic window material and by putting them together myself I was able to cut the cost down to under $200 each. Of that cost, a little more than half went to the plastic window material itself. Next week’s post will detail the construction process for anyone interested in building their own interior storm windows. Until then please enjoy this picture of the finished product installed on one of our front windows.

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