Replacing windows in a 120 years property

60 Replies

Hey there,

Hope I can learn from all the experienced landlords here...

I just had my inspection completed, for an investment townhome I'm interested in Baltimore, MD.
The house is ~120 years old, and besides the expected wear and tear, it is in a good shape overall

However, most of the windows as "past their EOL" and also, when opened, they do not stay up.
The house inspector told me that this could be a liability issue, if something happens to a tenant/child, due to a window shuts down on them.

Two questions, if I may - 

  1. 1. Does anyone know how much does it cost to replace these old house windows? I think their size is not "Standard"
  2. 2. Should I really be concerned about this "liability" issue?

This is my first investment property, so I'm not sure what to do with this info...

Thanks a lot for any insight!

Just replaced windows in a house built around 1901.  These were not standard sized windows but we were able to find some near their size and "build" around them (the outside of the house is stucco which increased the challenge).  Keep in mind if you are working with a window company to make these the wait time might be significant.  A fellow landlord wanted some in his own house; contacted a fairly well know window group back in June and was told they'd be out sometime this December.  We didn't have that issue since we did not go with a company.  We needed large windows to fit the area and each ran about $180 (we purchased these from a store about 80 miles away that specialized in many sizes of windows so they had enough in stock to meet our needs).

People sue for all sorts of reasons and your home inspector might be right regarding a liability issue.  The other issue is a flip side; sometimes these darn things WON'T open (years of painting might have sealed them shut) and that's a liability issue also.

Finally those old windows are lousy for heat and air loss.  People would walk by the house speaking normally and they could be heard through those darn old windows.  Since you're interested in a townhouse it sounds like there will be others living very close by.  New windows will likely provide a better sound barrier and may make the townhouse look better from the street.

This is the third time we've replaced windows in our investment properties.  I do find that they improve the look of the properties significantly.

I hope this helps a little.

I assume based on the age and area that this is a wood exterior and drywall/plaster interior? If you're doing 3 x 5 DH windows that you buy off the shelf at HD for $280, you can figure on about $500 for labor....so about $800 total (NI drywall and paint) per opening.

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Thanks for the info, @Gail K. , @Bruce Woodruff !

Gail,
Any chance you remember the name of the company?

Bruce,
The house is a mix of bricks and wood (exterior).
The things is that the windows are not standard... e.g. in one of the rooms the window is 66in X 33in

Thanks again, much appreciated

Originally posted by @Tal Shachar :

Bruce,

The house is a mix of bricks and wood (exterior).
The things is that the windows are not standard... e.g. in one of the rooms the window is 66in X 33in

I know, you'd need to alter the opening to make them fit. OR you have to order 'retro-fir' windows that have external fins...they slide into the opening from the outside, but they are a custom fit - add $300-400 per opening and 5-6 weeks to your time table....but then no exterior trim and a little on the inside...

@Tal Shachar I just purchased a 120 year old house and have found that it makes more financial sense for me to reframe the window for a standard size window than to either find a replacement of to rehab the original ones.

In my local market I deal with a company who takes window measurements and has the vinyl windows custom made as well as the install and it includes capping. When I started working with them back in 2017 I was paying $265 a window installed (when I bought five or more windows) and now thanks to all this money printing it's around $380 per window installed. 

Look for a company that includes capping and doesn't nickel and dime you. I got a quote from Window World once and those clowns tried to charge me $90 extra per window for capping amongst other things. 

@Tal Shachar I've done this numerous times and typically put in new windows unless the house already has new(er) windows installed in the last 10 years or so. Typical off the shelf Home Depot or Menards double hung windows work great, get the closest size to the opening you have and just trim it out, easy peasy!  I usually budget $400 per window, depending on labor and materials, these can typically be installed in an hour under normal conditions, add in some labor costs for trim, molding etc. 

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Am...

If you put in your lease agreement there may be issues with the windows, and how the tenants can avoid harm you should be covered legally but you should replace the windows overtime.

If it’s an old house with wood windows you could also have issues with lead paint. Also there are some old row houses considered historic that can be fussy about replacements. I’m not in your area but have done replacement windows multiple times. I use a glass company that custom measures each window and retrofits. Vinyl, low e a whole house is in and out in a day. Minimal trim work needed and included. Usually about 6 weeks from measure to install. But my last job was pre COVID so who knows now. I was paying about 500 a window all in pre COVID but I’d imagine along with timeline the pricing is higher too. 

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Originally posted by @Tal Shachar :

Hey there,

Hope I can learn from all the experienced landlords here...

I just had my inspection completed, for an investment townhome I'm interested in Baltimore, MD.
The house is ~120 years old, and besides the expected wear and tear, it is in a good shape overall

However, most of the windows as "past their EOL" and also, when opened, they do not stay up.
The house inspector told me that this could be a liability issue, if something happens to a tenant/child, due to a window shuts down on them.

Two questions, if I may - 

  1. 1. Does anyone know how much does it cost to replace these old house windows? I think their size is not "Standard"
  2. 2. Should I really be concerned about this "liability" issue?

This is my first investment property, so I'm not sure what to do with this info...

Thanks a lot for any insight!

 I've done a bunch of flips that were about 100 years old and I always just resized them to put in standard windows. You might have ingress/egress issues (height above the floor) to deal with, so check that out too. Mine were flips tho', not rentals, so that might factor into your decisions. The 2nd floor is always more challenging than the 1st floor but renting a lift gets you past the height issue.

The main reasons I replace with standard sizes, I can check for water intrusion, I can insulate better, I can replace with dual pane, the windows are easier to open in an emergency, they are easier to replace in the future when a baseball goes through them, they look better and they increase value. They really are pretty easy to replace and I hire a handyman to do the job. Window companies make a lot of money, which is admirable, but not out of my pocket. ;-)

On older Victorian era homes, often the windows came very low to the floor. This can be a hazard to children if the glass isn't tempered. (it usually isn't). I've seen lots of properties where these long openings (almost door length) have been framed out to put the bottom of the window at a more normal height above the floor but unless it's done well, it looks bad. Framing a window opening to a standard size is common and can be a good solution but on a brick exterior it can look cobbled. Unless, you need to raise the window lower edge height, I'd recommend getting windows that fit your opening. In this area, the lead time is approaching 6 months on replacement windows so certainly plan well ahead. If you're going to have the windows professionally installed, custom window sizes won't add that much to the cost. Another option is to do nothing and may be reasonable depending on your situation.

If the window coming down on a child is an issue, perhaps the sash cords are broken. These can be replaced. (new ropes) which balances the window so it won't "fall". 

@Tal Shachar   While you can do a lot to older windows replacing ropes and ensuring weights are in place to open and close your issue will be liability due to lead paint.  So plan to replace or if you can refurb if it is historic but that will run alot more. 

Most windows you can order custom size without much difference  in price and unless you are residing/retrimming it is likely what you save by using standard size you make in trim work but do the calculations.   Find a good regional company.  

I will tell you if you find windows to be slightly different from one another in a really old building you may find the rough opening is the same.  Lesson learned...

Size and features impacts price so while people can give you their experience a lot depends on what you install.  vinyl, wood, is it in wood frame construction or stone. Expect about $400-500 install

@Tal Shachar

I have had good luck with using Sash Springs. Replacement is always best but these work good depending on your application. It gets the window working and keeps it up and in place. There simple, inexpensive and easy to install. This may be a option while you so more research on the windows and with material cost where there are right now might be worth considering. If you add one or two of these depending on how many you need on the size of window you can always replace broken glass switch to tempered etc. for much less then replacement. These have been a life saver to me for a quick same-day repair or even to get through a rental inspection or make ready while waiting on ordered windows (lead times are horrible right now).

@Tal Shachar also not sure if Menards is in your area or not but in addition to off the shelf Jen Weld windows which I've used many times https://www.menards.com/main/d...   They also let you custom order the same windows with down to 1/8" with no, no minimal, additional costs , pre-covid the timeline was 3 weeks but I'm not sure what it is at the moment however    https://www.menards.com/main/m...