How to Camouflage Inappropriate Replacement Windows on Your Historic Home

A recent forum post on an old house restoration and renovation website asked what they could do to hide the bright white vinyl replacement windows that the previous owners had installed. They didn't have the money to replace the windows, and the windows were still working fine, but were glaringly inappropriate for their historic home. For situations like this, an affordable solution is to install traditional wood window screens over the windows.

Wood window screens can be built by homeowners with some woodworking skills or hired out for a reasonable cost from a local carpenter. They are historically appropriate on most home styles since they were commonly added even to the earliest homes by later homeowners. The best woods for screen longevity are cedar, cypress, or mahogany, although other woods can be used if primed and painted thoroughly. Paintable water repellent preservatives applied before priming are also useful for extending the life of the newly built screens. Screen frames are typically 1-1/2" to 2" wide and corners can be joined by screws, L-brackets, pegs or historically appropriate bridle joints for more accomplished woodworkers. Screening is applied after painting by stapling to the frame, then the edges are covered by screen molding, which is a narrow rounded trim piece.

When trying to hide inappropriate non-historic windows, full height screens are recommended set flush with the exterior casing or within the brickmold trim. Using charcoal or other dark color screening helps mute the bright white of the vinyl windows behind the screen. Painting the screens a contrasting accent color also draws attention away from the windows behind and adds an attractive element to your home. Forest green, black, deep brown and burgundy were common screen accent colors. Install the screens with stainless face-mounted hangers and your replacement windows will no longer detract from the historic appearance of your home.

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Comment by Lair Tienter on July 27, 2009 at 4:42pm

I had 15 of those ugly things installed last year. I had the windows made for the extreme length I needed. I copied the old ones as far as size so they slipped into the opening without a shim. Once caulked in I took to sanding them with 220 sandpaper. With a little surface sander it was quick and easy. I covered the glass with Press and Seal food wrap. I spray painted them using Krylon Infusion paint. It is a paint made for plastic and vinyl. I let them dry for 4 hours and then slipped them back in the track( which I also painted the same way.) I have no chips or scrapes even where the windows go up and down. I am very happy with the windows and their appearance. I used satin paint and it matches my house colors perfect. No one knows I have vinyl windows since I also wood grained the interior.
Comment by Jo-Anne Peck on July 27, 2009 at 4:50pm
Impressive! You painted the window screen frames or the vinyl windows themselves?
Comment by Lair Tienter on July 27, 2009 at 7:04pm
Everything,Screens, sash,jambs, and brick mold. I used the Glad "Press'n seal" you use like handi-wrap and stuck it to the screen on both sides. I also used it on the glass. I found it to be much cheaper than masking tape and paper. When wood graining I did have a little seepage on the glass but a razor blade made short work of that.
Comment by Jo-Anne Peck on July 27, 2009 at 7:07pm
Your work certainly paid off!


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