www.myoldhousefix.com - My Old House Fix
Posted 01/21/2018 in WINDOWS

The Best Wood Storm Window? Really?

The Best Wood Storm Window? Really?

Today let's talk windows for old houses, but not just any windows -  Wood Storm Windows...or rather the lack of them these days! So, what's the BEST option if you want to convert BACK to Wood Storm Windows to get that classic charm and look? And why did Wood Storm/Screen Windows become virtually EXTINCT ? 

 Did you know there is a "FIX"? 

Storm Windows - whether wood or aluminum…we seem to either love them, or hate them! And if you have ever picked up a fully assembled Storm Window then I don’t have to tell you that, spoiler alert…they are HEAVY. Add climbing a ladder into the mix, and it’s no wonder these Old House relics went straight into the dumpster – along with the charm of these important, “character defining” features.
But all is not lost, thankfully there is a BETTER logistical solution! So stay tuned as we will cover… 


  • Why Consider Wood Storm Windows?
  • Why Traditional Wood Storm Windows are Virtually Extinct
  • The Fix - A Better Wood Storm Window
  • Elements of an All-Season Wood Storm Window
  • Wood Storm Window Logistics and Planning
  • Wood Storm Window Sizing and Construction
  • Wood Storm Windows - Finish and Hardware
  • Wood Storm Window Resources

Why Consider Wood Storm Windows?

Wood Storm Windows are a very important aspect of an Old Home. Aside from the added charm (did I mention "wavy" glass?) and curb appeal, they also work as a "system" along with your historic wood windows to protect them from the harsh outdoor elements. Wood storms are much cheaper and simple by nature, therefore they were intended to be the "sacrificial" part in the system. It makes perfect sense! Its much cheaper and easier to buy and maintain a wood storm window than more frequent maintenance and replacement of the main window/sash. 

This added layer of protection, or "air-gap" (between the window and storm window) also helps to save energy by reducing indoor drafts and creating thermal break from the outside. 

So what happened to to all the Wood Storm/Screen Windows?

Traditional Wood Screen and Storm Windows, My Old House Fix

Why Wood Storm Windows Are Virtually Extinct

  • Wood storm windows are heavy and require hauling them up and down ladders, and at tall heights.
  • Wood storm and screen windows are TWO completely separate units to manage and swap out every year - DOUBLE THE WORK...DOUBLE THE STORAGE!!!
  • Before air conditioning was widely used, storms had to we swapped out EVERY summer and winter (glass storms and screens) - WHAT A HASSLE!!!
  • The mid-1900s were a turning point for Old Houses - that age of aluminum storms windows WITH screens emerged and were marketed as cheaper, lighter, and easier to operate and maintain - no seasonal screen and storm "swapping"

So, from this point forward, many traditional wood storm and screen windows began making their ways to attics, basements, and even worse...the landfill. Aluminum storm windows slowly took over as the easier/better choice, but sacrificed the charm and beauty that wood storm windows offered.  

It didn't take long for Americans to start covering almost everything in Aluminum - from storm windows to complete houses (siding). Everything was clad in aluminum! The home improvement industry kicked around advertising lingo and marketing slogans like - "Lifetime Guarantee" and "Never Paint Your House Again"!

With the time and labor costs associated with exterior wood features like storm windows and siding, its no wonder that many homeowners made the switch.  

Aluminum Siding and Window Removal, Old House Restoration, My Old House FixAluminum Siding and Window Removal

But, in the process, many architectural and defining features were either covered over, or completely lost in the process of retrofitting America's stock of old, historic houses! 

Today, it seems that more and more homeowners value the Old House charm and character that these defining features bring...BUT, that nostalgia and appreciation still don't make Wood Storm Windows and Screens any more practical now, than they were in the past! So what's an Old House lover to do?  

What if there was a BETTER Wood Storm Window? 

Well, there is!!!

The Fix - A Better Wood Storm Window

Taking lessons learned and design improvements from the original Wood Storm Window design, it makes better sense to install an All-Season Storm Window! It is a simple, yet effective modification that can be made to the original Wood Storm Window design/concept. The design is unique and innovative, where the lower sash has a channel on the back side to create a recessed edge that allows removable panels (glass and screens) to be easily installed and removed with the seasons.

An All-Season Wood Storm Window, once installed...can stay up year-round! This eliminates the need for seasonal storm and screen window "swap-outs". This option will save you TIME and LABOR, while retaining that Old House "character"! 

But don't worry! This is a "Fix" that is easily a DIY option, and there are also a few Wood Window Companies that can build them as well (we will list them at the bottom in our resources). Here are a few additional details of an All-Season Wood Storm Window...

All Season Wood Storm WindowAll Season Wood Storm Window

Elements of an All-Season Wood Storm Window

  • An All-Season Wood Storm - stays up all year long. It has a channel on the backside of the sash to create an edge/channel, allowing removable panels (glass and screens) to be installed.
  • Upper Sash - fixed glass/glazing putty. 
  • Lower Sash -lightweight frames are removable from inside of the house (glass and screens).
  • Upper/Lower Sashes - make BOTH removable, if your goal is to restore/retain double-hung window air flow.
  • All-Season Installation - no more swapping out the exterior window frames every season!

Wood Window Logistics and Planning

To get this look, you'll need to make the custom wood frames that fit your existing openings (measurements are critical), find a local craftsman (windowmaker, cabinetmaker, etc), and a little help from a local storm/screen shop for the removable frames. It's also worth reaching out to neighbors, local builders, and local wood window restorers! This is a great DIY project if you have the proper time, tools, planning, and logistical resources available! 

All-Season-Storm Window-InstalledAll-Season Storm Window Installed (left)

NOTE: Wood Storm Windows are a great option if you have "replacement" windows and want to restore that vintage, authentic Old House look! You'll also end up with a TRIPLE glazed window assembly! 

Custom Storm Windows

  • Decide if you want to DIY or Purchase 
  • Wood frames (wood species of choice – we used cedar)
  • Local Craftsmen/women are a good option - cabinetmakers/woodworkers, etc - Ask your local neighbors/builders and Window Restoration Pros.
  • Custom Frames, glass, glazing putty, paint/stain (3 coats)

Lower Sash Removable Frames - Glass and Screens

  • Local storm window/screen/door shop can build your frames based off the finished storm window dimensions.
    •   1 glass frame/1 screen frame per sash - Upper and/or Lower depending if you decide to glaze in your upper sash (fixed).
  • Removable frames (screen and sash) for easy install and removal from INSIDE the house. 

If your project or schedule doesn't allow for a DIY solution, then you can reach out to any of our Wood Window Pros for a "turn key" solution, if needed. As you can see, there are multiple options to fit your project/plan!


* carousel of window pro logo pics OR link to Directory - Windows *

Also, start thinking about the "look" that you will plan and design to. Are you going to paint? Is the wood so beautiful (like cedar, etc) that you would like to stain it? What type of hardware - PLAIN or FANCY? Small details can really add up to have a large impact overall! 

 Remove glass from the old sash, cut it, or have it cut to size to fit the wood and aluminum frames.  

wood window glass removalWood Window Glass Removal

Click HERE for the BEST Paint Remover Tool!

Building Wood Storm Windows 

Sizing and Construction

  • Cedar, Oak, Pine, etc ~1 -1/2" thick ( I prefer cedar for rot resistance) - Check the depth of your blind stops for your depth/thickness. 
  •  Mortise and tenon joint construction. Blind tenon and pin joint may also be acceptable.
  •  Build the wood window frames with the following gaps between the trim/casing:
    • measure window opening in 3 places (top, middle, bottom) and cross measure for square (or not) - this is important!
    • 1/4" gap at bottom (for drainage and ventilation)
    • Bevel the bottom edge to match slope of window sill - usually a few degrees.
    • 1/8" gap on all other sides for expansion and easy opening/closing.
  • Router the back side about 1/2" wide, and to the depth of your removable frames that you select locally (~3/8" deep).
  • Glaze in the fixed sash (usually upper sash), if only the lower sash is removable.

Note: Make sure to chamfer the bottom rail (top edge) to prevent water from sitting on this surface. This will extend the life of the finish and reduce the chance of wood rot.


Wood Storm Windows: Finish and Hardware

So, you've worked super hard to build or have your Wood Storm Windows made, now its time to dress them up! The last steps to cover will be  1) The Finish and  2) The Hardware. The key is to ensure that your  Wood Storm Windows function correctly, safely, and hold up well in all outdoor elements. Let's do it... 

Wood Storm Window Finish 

In this section I'll give you a few options for exterior finishes - the basecoat will need to be some form of stain if a natural "blonde" look is not desired. Finish off with 3 coats of quality Spar /Marine-type varnish to minimize future maintenance from exposure to the elements. 

I initially finished the storm windows with PPG Cetol products, but the finish only lasted 2-3 years in direct sunlight. Failures started to appear early. Therefore, I have since switched to a wiping stain with Waterlox Marine Finish. Products used:

Original Finish Used

  • Basecoat - PPG Cetol SRD - Dark Oak 009
  • Topcoat - PPG Cetol Window and Door, Satin 003 
  • Finish failure in as little as 2 years

wood storm window finishesWood Storm Window Sample Finishes

I am now trying alternatives to Cetol such as Waterlox Marine Sealer and Satin Finish, as it is a sealer that “soaks in” and may retain the wood color better when staining (as the finish wears, wood is still sealed vs topcoat peeling to expose raw wood). You can also apply a “satin” finish on the last coat with Waterlox Marine Satin Finish - it is comparable to a Spar Varnish.   

Updated Finishes Used

We chose the color finishes above to closely match our other stained house features like the exterior entry doors, garage doors, porch ceiling, and to complement our Porch Swing Installation.

All Season Wood Storm WindowWood Storm Window

NOTE:  Dont forget to perform follow-on maintenance coats as needed...BEFORE the finish fails, otherwise you will have to completely strip the windows and start over! 


Wood Storm Window Hardware

Window Hardware Recommendations - Plan ahead, because it's the "little" details that all add up to enhance your home's Old House character!

I like hardware options that minimize EXTERIOR holes and penetrations to prevent water infiltration and wood rot. 

Additionally, you'll want to research finishes like stainless steel vs painted , etc. Stainless steel will hold up much longer in ALL climates vs paint.   

Interior Window Latch Set - Wood Windows

Interior Window Latch Set - Vinyl Windows

Window Hardware Not Recommended - I don't recommend these  two types of hardware options because they require additional holes to be drilled into your wood trim - increasing the chances for rot. 

  • Snap Fasteners - require drilling holes, but you ARE able to push the storm window open from inside the house in case of emergency.

Storm Window Snap FastenersStorm Window - Snap Fastener Hardware

  • Turn Buttons - while they do look more historic, they also require drilling holes, but are much more dangerous than Snap Fasteners, as you CANNOT push the storm open from inside the house in case of emergency. This is a safety hazard!

Storm Window Hardware, Turn ButtonStorm Window - Turn Button Hardware

Numbered Window Tacks - don't forget this step so you can keep track of each window location around your Old House - just like in the old days!  A numbering system will eliminate all guess work! 

Numbered Window Tacks for Storm WindowsNumbered Window Tacks

Wood Storm Windows Resources

Spencer Works, Lincoln NE

Adams Architectural Millwork, Dubuque IA

Old Masters Stain

Waterlox Marine Sealer

Waterlox Marine Satin Finish

Stainless Steel Storm Hinges - Kilian Hardware

Storm Window Stays - SRS Hardware

Window Number Tacks

Storm Window Latches

Artisan Glass Works

Bendheim Restoration Glass

Sarco Putty

Screen and Storm Panel Retainers


I hope you find this information helpful for designing or building storm windows for old houses, and maybe it just might save you a few trips up and down your ladder each season! Best of luck with YOUR beautiful All-Season Wood Storm Windows! 

Best of luck, and keep on Fixing!   

Christopher Hewett My Old House Fix

For more info visit:  www.myoldhousefix.com

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