Wood Window Screens for Historic Homes

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Wood window screens are an integral part of the historic character of many historic homes; however, due to disrepair or installation of replacement windows, it is a detail often missing. Installing wood window screens on historic homes is generally a two-part project for a historic homeowner: first the windows that have been painted shut need to be made operable, then the screens have to be made (or repaired) and installed.

Releasing a stuck window is not rocket science, but it generally requires some muscle and patience. A web search for “windows painted shut” brings up countless websites with step-by-step instructions for loosening stuck windows, including HGTV and This Old House (they offer a video). Professional help can be called in if you are not particularly handy or have windows needing more extensive work such as needing to reattach the counter weights (although this is also within most homeowners skill level once they get past the intimidation factor).

Once the windows are made operable, repairing or building new screens is a simple carpentry project, but can be time consuming due to the quantity of windows on most historic homes. Window screens are usually simple wood frames (about 1-1/2 to 2″ wide) either the full height of the window or half height for some single-hung windows. For casement windows that open outward, screens can be made that install on the building interior.

Screening options include fiberglass and aluminum in black, charcoal and silver finishes. Of these, unfinished aluminum most closely resembles the galvanized screen used historically, but provides less visibility than darker screen options. The screen is first attached to perimeter of the frame with staples, then a narrow trim piece, called screen mold, is nailed over the screen edge. Screen hardware consists of metal hangers that attach to the exterior window frame or casing and a hook and eye installed at the base of the screen on the building interior.

Traditionally painted black, forest green, or another dark accent color, authentic window screens enhance the look of a historic house while improving function.

Posted on February 10, 2009 6:40 pm