Latest House Discovery

Last night, Jennifer’s boss came by and picked her up to take her off to a day-long meeting in Yosemite (apparently she isn’t to be envied; she tells me the day-long meeting will be held in a room without windows, but I think she’s just saying that to make me feel better; I bet their meeting is right at the base of El Capitan along with deer and a bunch of other wildlife — but I digress).  Her boss is not exactly an architect, but he works in the construction industry and he knows old buildings and he knows a lot about architecture.  He took one look at our windows and asked, "Are they double hung?"  We looked at him and said, "Huh?"

More, including pictures, below the fold.

In case you’re as dim as we were, double hung in this context means that not only can the lower sash be raised, the upper sash can be lowered as well, so that your window can be open at the top instead of the bottom.  If you’re feeling particularly rakish, you can open both the top and the bottom a bit, as I did with the window in our office in this picture:

It’s kind of hard to see any details in this image because of the way the light is coming in (not to mention my own crappy photography skills), but you get the idea: the window is open at both the top and the bottom.  There are plenty of advantages to double hung sash windows like this: for one thing, by lowering the upper sashes in one part of a house and raising the lower ones in another and implementing a cleverly place ceiling fan, you can get a great flow of fresh air throughout your house, much better than if you just raised the lower sashes.  For another, we can now open some windows in our house that have no screens and not worry about cats making daring escapes off the window sill.  They’d have to seriously work to get out through the upper part of the window, and we’re reasonably confident that our cats are not that energetic.

These are the older windows that were hung in the original part of our house, not the newer lower level.  These windows are old enough so that they’re counterbalanced with ropes and lead weights instead of spring weights.  In this picture you can see the ropes in the window casing; each sash has its own set of rope and pulleys:

Double hung sash window, with rope

I’ve learned that these sorts of windows were actually quite common in the eastern part of the US and in the UK; however, I was raised in California, so these are quite the novelty to me.  And Jennifer and I think that the previous owner may not have known about the fact that these windows were double hung; if you look at the top of the top sash, you can see where Jennifer cracked the paint when she opened this window, and the rope for the inside sash looks to be in much better repair.  For most of our double hung windows, the lower sashes raise pretty easily, but it took quite a bit of work to lower the upper sash.

You probably can’t tell in these shots, but another great thing about these windows is that we’re pretty sure they have their original glazing.  Remember, this house was built in 1913, and the glass in so many of these windows is warped and beveled and wavy.  The newer windows in this house are all perfectly clear and smooth.

When we had a contractor look at this house a month or so ago to make a list of repairs, he suggested replacing all of these windows, since they’re single paned and thus less energy efficient; the more we look at these windows and discover their nifty properties, the less inclined we are to do that, and to just make some interior storm windows of our own instead.

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