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Old-House Online » Old-House Tips, Restoration Stories, & More » Interiors & Decor » Antique Window Hardware Guide

Antique Window Hardware Guide

Tips on how to maintain the look of your old home with replacement window hardware. By Brian D. Coleman

    Ornate Victorian swing-arm sash lock, reproduced in cast brass by House of Antique Hardware.

    When it comes to replacing antique window hardware, what’s not to know? Old double-hungs are simple, so getting the right replacement hardware should be easy. But not so fast: Some hardware experts and builders say that the window hardware should come first in both restoration and new construction. It may be easier to design trim and millwork around the window’s workings. And installing this hardware the right way is critical.

    Over the years hardware has taken a beating from humidity, sunlight, and coats of paint; it’s not uncommon to find it corroded or damaged beyond repair. If you need to replace a sash lock or lift, trace a template of it with pencil and paper, making sure to include the screw holes. When you install the new hardware, you can use the old holes, but be sure to select screws slightly longer than the originals so they penetrate into new wood. Alternatively, Bill Rigby (Wm. J. Rigby Co.) suggests fashioning wooden plugs, gluing them into the old screw holes, and putting new screws into them.

    Brass sash lock with ball finial, from Walter Phelps.

    Wood sashes warp and settle and rarely are aligned perfectly. Old sash locks often don’t close completely. Don’t force the lock shut, as you’ll end up damaging it or the sash. A tip from Kip Beatty (Crown City Hardware): a little beeswax rubbed onto the sides of the sashes helps them slide up and down smoothly. For security, Walter Phelps makes a ventilation lock that allows a double-hung sash to open a few inches but still remain safely locked.

    Old (and old-fashioned) hardware fits best on old windows.  But you can get traditional elegance with enegery-efficient new windows, too.  Try William Phelps‘s Model LK281 sash lock, which has a strike narrow enough for use with insulated glass.

    Casement windows that swing open from the side often have hinges exposed to the elements; the best are made of stainless steel or bronze. Crown City’s ‘Parliament Hinge’ has been one of the company’s bestsellers for over two decades: built like a standard butt hinge, its barrel extends outward to allow the window to swing inside, clearing any projecting molding and opening flat against the wall.

    With security a concern, many homeowners now take the precaution of having their casement hinges “NRP”ed. Jon Eaton (House of Antique Hardware) explains that means making the pin non-removable, by drilling a set screw from the inside of the hinge into the pin so that it can’t be pulled from outside.

    Now, where to find this hardware? The hardware universe is huge, but once you’ve narrowed your search down to a window latch for this window of this period in this metal, it may seem you’ll never find the right thing. Not at the local hardware store or big-box emporium, at least.

    Some of the hardware shown may seem arcane, but all of it has old-house application for existing windows. A transom operator—and they are so often absent—is a wand assembly that makes it possible to open and close the high transom window over a door. A sash lock pulls top and bottom window sashes together and locks them shut; originals may have been plain cast iron or highly decorated brass. A sash stay keeps the window sash open by producing tension against the outer frame, when it’s mounted on the side of the sash.

    Casement fastener in antique finish, from Crown City Hardware.

    Casement fastener in antique finish, from Crown City Hardware.

    Happily, though, you can find what you need, whether it’s decorative window pulls with Eastlake incising, or functional casement-window hardware for a prewar building. If you need just one or two pieces that “go with” hardware already in your house, try an architectural salvage dealer.

    If you need multiples of the same pieces, use reproductions based on antique originals. Crown City Hardware, for example, offers three styles of Victorian window locks, and six of sash lifts, including a recessed one. Rejuvenation has a ten-inch casement adjuster with pins.

    Resources

    For more places to buy period hardware, visit Hardware in the Products & Services Directory.

    Published in: Old-House Interiors July/August 2010

    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    anne millham October 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Where can I purchase the Brass sash lock with ball finial from Walter Phelps that is shown in the picture on this page??

    Jeff Marshall October 31, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Have bought a house 7,500 sq ft house with all leaded glass casement windows all with built in pull down screens in need of repair. Is there any information on these? The house was built in 1925. Thank you. Jeff

    Old House Journal admin November 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Jeff, it’s hard to be certain what you’re referring to without the actual name of the types of screens on your windows. I would recommend consulting with your local window repair specialist to get their opinion, or at least so they can identify the types of screens you’re working with. Once you have a proper name for the screens, there should be a plethora of information online simply through a Google search for “How to replace ___ window screens”. Best of luck to you!

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