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Old windows get new life

Becki Vital, who will help with a workshop Oct. 8-11 on repairing historic windows, examines a window in a historic building downtown The Dalles.

Photo by Neita Cecil
Becki Vital, who will help with a workshop Oct. 8-11 on repairing historic windows, examines a window in a historic building downtown The Dalles.

On a recent stroll through downtown The Dalles, Becki Vital showed an unusual eye for detail, noting marble facades, curious little bumps in window sills, and a thing that saddened her – plenty of boarded up windows.

A reporter along for the stroll looked up at a pair of boarded up windows Vital pointed to, high up on a building. “I get people to look up – that’s what I do,” Vital said.

As part of completing her associate’s degree in historic preservation, Vital is helping to put on a three-day workshop in downtown The Dalles Oct. 9-11 on repairing and restoring historic windows.

The 100-year-old Odd Fellows IOOF Lodge, at 421 E. 2nd St., will be the site of the hands-on workshop, where participants will learn to restore wood framed windows to working condition.

The workshop is being co-sponsored by The Dalles Historic Landmarks Commission and the Clatsop Community College Historic Preservation and Restoration Program.

Cost is $80, which Vital said is a good deal for the 12 elective continuing education credits toward a contractor’s license. It also can be used as one credit from Clatsop Community College.

To register, call Dawn Marie Hert at The Dalles Planning Department at 541-296-5481 ext. 1129 or email her at

The paid workshop is Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10-11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A free introduction that is open to everyone is set for 6-8 p.m.

The workshop is at the conclusion of a Main Street Oregon conference being held in The Dalles Oct. 7-9.

Vital said, “Main Street Oregon is coming here because there is economic viability in historic preservation. Look at Hood River, look at Astoria, they’re old and they love it.”

The workshop will be taught by Craig Gustafson, who owns a company called Vintage Window Restoration. Room is limited to a dozen participants for the hands-on portion of the workshop.

Vital said the City of The Dalles has sponsored several students from The Dalles High School to attend the course, and several other community college students from Astoria and Portland will be coming.

She hopes working contractors will also sign up for the course, and citizens interested in repairing their windows.

She welcomed the participation of the students, saying “We need to have more opportunities such as this to help us train our next generation of craftspeople.”

Vital said people are afraid to tackle the restoration or repair of historic windows, and have fallen for what she said is the myth that they cannot be made energy efficient.

But restoration or repair is not only doable, but sensible. “There are statistics now that prove that well-fitted repaired old windows are just as energy efficient as new windows,” she said. “It’s not green to put these new windows in in the name of energy efficiency. Think of how much energy went into making that vinyl window.”

Preservation Nation, the website of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has information debunking the notion of the energy efficiency of vinyl windows, she said.

She said “lifetime” energy efficient windows often end up being replaced before they’ve paid for themselves in energy savings.

“Old windows, first of all, fit in their openings; old windows can be repaired. Old windows can be made energy efficient,” she said.

Part of achieving that energy efficiency may include installing storm windows on the outside of the window, or even the inside, she said.

She said the goal of providing training to repair historic windows is “keeping what was there, what was intended to be there, functional and of value.”

She said in older homes, “smaller panes of old windows often meant that you couldn’t’ afford a big window. So a larger window was often a sign of prosperity.”

She said, “Yes, it takes some knowledge and expertise but it is not beyond event eh homeowner to repair their own windows.”

A key part of energy efficiency is eliminating drafts from window areas. That can be something as simple as caulking. But don’t dream of committing the restoration faux pas of painting that window shut. “If you paint your window shut, I’m going to come find you,” Vital joked.

On the Saturday of the workshop, the morning will include sash removal (the moveable sections of the window), hardware removal and cleaning, putty and glass removal, paint removal, sash repair and use of epoxy.

Vital said marine epoxy is popularly used in window repair.

The Sunday workshop will focus on sash treatment, glass cutting, glazing, hardware installation, sash rope and weights, minor jamb and sill repair and reinstalling the sash.


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