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  Prototype Wood Window Retrofit at Atchison Village
May 22, 2010

Considering replacing your wood windows with aluminum or vinyl? Think again, and read this. If you want more information or want to attend the prototype installation described below, contact me.
On June 14, 2010, a prototype wood window sash retrofit arranged and paid for by Rosie the Riveter Trust will be installed by Wooden Window, Inc. at Atchison Village and tested before and after installation using ASTM E283 - Standard Test Method for Determining Rate of Air Leakage Through Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, and Doors Under Specified Pressure Differences Across the Specimen.
The purpose of the prototype is to

  • Establish the feasibility of wood window restoration and provide a basis for costing out replacement on larger scale.
  • Provide a basis for calculating energy savings.
  • Raise the level of awareness of restoring the original wood windows instead of PVC (vinyl) or aluminum windows.

Rosie the Riveter Trust is underwriting the prototype window replacement as a part of the Trust’s Strategic Plan goals, which include: “Assist in securing funds and support acquisition, preservation, and protection of future park assets. (2-B).”

The residents and management of Atchison Village have been under assault from purveyors of vinyl and aluminum replacement windows for many years. This exercise may pave the way for ultimate replacement of the current aluminum replacement windows with wood sash in the original wood frames that match the material and appearance of the village’s original wood windows.

Below left: Existing aluminum replacement windows at Atchison Village. Below right: One of the few remaining original wood windows. Which is more attractive?

Photo onePhoto two
Atchison Village was entered into the National Register of Historic Places on May 30, 2003. The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The nomination was authorized by the Atchison Village Board of Directors in 2002, and the nomination, prepared by Carey & Co., Historic Preservation Architects, was paid for by the Rosie the Riveter Trust. The nomination form, which includes a detailed historical description of Atchison Village, can be viewed at http://www.rosietheriveter.org/AtchisonNationalRegNom.pdf.
Atchison Village is also an official part of the Rosie the Riveter WW II/Home Front National Historical Park, established by H.R. 4063 / Public Law 106-352, Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park Establishment Act of 2000 (Oct. 24, 2000; 114 Stat. 1370. The legislation was signed by President Clinton in October 2000.
The Richmond Housing Authority was the first housing authority in the country to manage a defense housing project built under the Lanham Act of 1940, and Atchison Village was the first project of the fledgling Richmond Housing Authority. Atchison Village was actually started in 1941, prior to Pearl Harbor, as the Richmond Kaiser shipyards cranked up to build ships for Great Britain via the Lend-Lease Program. Eventually, Richmond developed the largest federally funded housing program in the nation, totaling some 21,000 units. Most were torn down after the war, but Atchison Village, built to higher standards than most of the later projects, survived.
Listing on the National Register of Historic places not only brings prestige to Atchison Village but will open up a number of benefits connected to preservation incentives, including the opportunity to receive grant funding and assistance for a variety of uses, tax credits and more flexible building codes ( see http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=1074 for more information).
A Mini-Historic Structures Report and Preservation Plan was completed for Atchison Village by Page & Turnbull in 2009, but the section on windows stopped short of providing really useful information about the costs, advantages and disadvantages of various window alternatives.. Window replacement has been a topic of intense discussion at Atchison Village for a long time, and the report actually provided little detailed guidance. The report should have been clear that the preferred treatment would be to replace the aluminum windows with wood sash set into the existing frames. With proper procedures and modern weatherstripping, these windows can be retrofitted to have resistance to air leakage as good as any aluminum or PVC replacement windows. Double glazing is also an option. By installing a prototype, the actual time and cost of wood retrofitting can be worked out so that the cost for a more comprehensive replacement can be developed.

Even though they might not be the highest recommended treatment, replacement of the aluminum windows with new aluminum or PVC (vinyl) windows should have been discussed, along with advantages and disadvantages of each, including wood retrofit.

Excerpts from the report follow:

Discussion: The original double-hung wood-sash windows are identified as character-defining features of the residential units. These original windows are to be protected, maintained, and preserved. Reference Preservation Brief #9 The Repair of HistoricWooden Windows for further guidance on repair approaches and methodologies.
Recommendation 1: Identify, Retain and Preserve Historic Wood Windows

  • Conduct a survey to determine where original windows exist and where they have been replaced
  • Develop a methodology for replacing non-original windows based upon condition and anticipated life expectancy

Recommendation 2: Protect and Maintain Historic Wood Windows Original windows should be protected and maintained. Maintenance of these windows includes the following:

  • Annual inspection of wood and glazing, identifying maintenance, and repair needs. The following should be inspected:

1. Delaminating paint;
2. Wood decay;
3. Deteriorated putty at the glazing;
4. Deteriorated and/or lack of weather-stripping;
5. Operation of window;
6. Condition of window hardware.

  • Paint wood elements that show signs of worn finishes and delaminating paint. If peeling paint is present inspect the bare wood for signs of decay. If decay is present, see the following Repair section. If no decay is present, take the following steps for re-application of paint coatings:

1. Protect glazing prior to prep work.
2. Prep the surface by scraping off any loose paint. Be careful not to gouge or damage the wood surface.
3. Lightly sand the surface (reference Preservation Brief #37:Appropriate Methods for Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Homes).
4. Repaint the area using exterior primers and paints. The final coatshould match the existing in color and finish.

  • Remove deteriorated weather-stripping and replace with new.
  • Remove deteriorated glazing putty and replace with new.

Recommendation 3: Repair Historic Wood Windows The following guidelines and methods should be followed for repairs of window elements:

  • Treat split, checked, and decayed areas with an antifungal chemical coating;
  • Fill cracks and holes with putty; and
  • Consolidate areas of wood decay with epoxy patching compound.

Recommendation 4: Replace Historic Wood WindowsThe following guidelines and methods should be followed for replacement of window elements:

  • Limited replacement in-kind is an acceptable treatment for extensively deteriorated elements of the window construction.
  • Replacement pieces should match the historic feature in material, dimension and profile.
  • Reglazing with insulated glass may be considered if the original sash can be altered to accept thicker glazing.
  • Consider installing low-e film to the existing glazing.


Maintain Existing Aluminum-Sash Windows and Preserve Historic Wood Frames (Affects Character Defining Feature)
Discussion: The aluminum-sash windows are not identified as character-defining features. However, the wood frames are part of the original double-hung wood-sash window systems, which are identified as character-defining features. As discussed in the Existing Conditions section, the aluminum-sash windows cause a number of negative effects. The general recommendation for the aluminum sash is replacement, but, it is recognized that replacing all windows may not be feasible at this time. The wood frames and sills are to be protected, maintained, and preserved. Reference the previous section for recommendation on the preservation and maintenance of historic frames and sills. The following are recommended steps for maintaining the aluminum-sash windows until such time as they can be replaced in phases.
Recommendation 1: Maintain Aluminum-Sash WindowsIn the short term, the aluminum-sash windows should be maintained and repaired on an as-needed basis. The following guidelines and methods should be followed:

  • Annual inspection of windows, identifying maintenance, and repair needs. The following should be inspected:

1. Delaminating paint of the wood frame and sill;
2. Wood decay of the frame and sill;
3. Deteriorated and/or lack of weather-stripping;
4. Ensure that weep holes are open and free from blockage; and
5. Inspect sealant joint between the window and the exterior siding.

  • Inspect sash edges and track for debris or damage. If the tracks and edges are obstructed, take the following steps:

1. Vacuum the track or side jambs thoroughly.
2. Wipe with a sponge, mild soap and water.
3. Rinse and let dry.
4. Using a dry cloth, wipe the track and side jambs with a silicone spray. Do not apply spray to weather-stripping.
5. Slide sash up and down to check operation.
6. Clean aluminum surface with mild soap and water with a sponge or soft bristled brush. Take care not to scratch the finished surface.

  • If weep holes are blocked with debris ensure they are clear of blockage by taking the following steps:

1. Vacuum the track and wipe thoroughly with a sponge and water.
2. At the interior pour approximately 1 cup of water into the track. If the water drains out to the exterior, the weep holes are clear. If water remains or drains slowly, continue with the remaining steps.
3. Locate the weep holes and insert a small wire into the hole (an unfolded paper clip would work well).
4. Repeat step 3 until holes are clear and water runs through the weep hole to the exterior.
5. Replace deteriorated sealant and weather-stripping as needed. This will ensure that windows are water tight and air tight, reducing risk of deterioration and energy loss.

 Replace Existing Aluminum-Sash Windows and Preserve Historic Wood Frames (Affects Character Defining Feature)
Discussion: Because of the problems related to the installation and detailing of the aluminum-sash units, the long term recommendation is to replace the aluminum sash windows. The following guidelines and methods should be followed:

  • The wood frame and sill should be retained, if permitted based on their existing condition.
  • For maintenance and repair of the wood frame and sill, follow the same recommendations for maintenance, inspection, and repairs as outlined in the Preserve Historic Wood Windows section.
  • A new replacement window should consider the following:

1. Install a double-hung, wood-sash window that replicates or closely matches the original window in material, dimension and profile.
Historic drawings or surviving prototypes should be consulted for replication.
2. Install a replacement window that is compatible with the historic character and style of the building. A single hung window that can be installed into the existing wood frame is recommended. The replacement window should include either faux or true divided lites, in the same pattern as the historic windows. Further details for acceptable window replacements should be identified in the neighborhood design guidelines.

  • Creating new openings and/or enlarging existing openings should not be permitted.

Do an energy audit to determine where and how heat is being lost. PG&E offers an online energy audit, the SmartEnergy Analyzer. It can be found online at http://www.pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/analyzer/en/.
Other organizations and businesses that perform on-site audits are listed at the end of this section.Insulate your attic and walls. The vast majority of heat loss in homes Is through the attic or uninsulated walls..PG&E offers rebates of up to $150 per 1,000 square feet for insulating attics and walls. Repair windows instead of replacing them. The energy needed to manufacture a new energy-efficient window is more than the energy saved by the new window over its entire lifecycle, and historic windows have a proven track record of durability and performance.5 Historic windows that have been properly repaired may have nearly the same insulation ability as new weatherized windows.


There are lots of sources of information about repairing existing wood windows instead of replacing them, including dispelling myths that vinyl is better, cheaper and more durable than wood. In our relatively mild climate, air leakage around windows is more of an energy drain than single glazing, and sealing, insulating and replacing old appliances can save far more energy than replacing wood windows with vinyl or aluminum.


The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows, http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/tps/briefs/brief09.htm

For more information regarding Wooden Windows, Inc., contact Jeff Bent, Commercial Sales Manager, Wooden Window, Inc., 849 29th Street, Oakland, CA 94608, office: 510.893.1157 x 208, fax: 510.834.3662, Cell 925.324.7070, email: jeff@woodenwindow.com, www.woodenwindow.com