Yapp: When it comes to windows, older is better

There is little love lost between restoration expert Bob Yapp, president of Preservation Industries Inc., and the modern manufactured double pane replacement window.

“When they’re 12 to 15 years old,” he said, “you’ll see massive failure.”

Yapp offered an alternative – repairing and restoring the existing windows – during a workshop Friday hosted by the Fort Dodge Historical Preservation Commission at the Iowa Central Community College East Campus.

Yapp’s own experience with restoration work goes back to his high school days. He purchased a home with a friend on a contract for deed and $2,000 down. The two restored the home, including the original windows, floors and siding. Materials such as the wood shake shingles that were rotted were replaced with like material, wood shingles.

The pair sold the home for $80,000 after their work was done – with one small problem that reared its head at the bank office – neither was old enough to sign a deed so they were sent to get their parents.

“We never told our parents we bought the house, ” Yapp said.

His father embraced the project.

“What a fine young capitalist you are,” Yapp recalled him saying.

The pair, lacking funds to replace or hire contractors, unintentionally stumbled into preservation.

“What we did was pure unadulterated preservation,” he said, “We saved all the original material.”

He said that windows are, in a worst case scenario, responsible for 10 percent of the energy used in a home. He said that window manufacturers are no longer allowed to make higher claims. He said it would be considered fraud.

Yapp said that once fixed, the old is better than the new.

“Old windows are more efficient than new replacement windows, ” he said.

They also last longer.

“It’s been in use for 100 years, it will be in use for another 100.”

The process he uses to restore old windows involves installing a metal guide along the side of the frame, a slot is then routered into the side of the sash. The window will then slide up and down on the metal track.

The bottom of the window frame gets a hollow rubber tube gasket. Another gasket is installed to help seal between the bottom and top frames.

In addition, the weight and pulley system hidden inside the frame is restored with new rope. He said nylon is out, cotton or hemp rope are much better.

Before the rest of the work, the old paint and caulking is removed. He uses a tool called a Speed Heater to soften the paint, then several different types of scrapers and chisels to remove the softened residue.

The heating system doesn’t get the paint hot enough to release any lead in the old finish like a heat gun would.

“The lead stays encapsulated,” he said.

If a homeowner does the work themselves, it’s not an expensive process.

“It’s less than $30 for a small window,” he said of the material costs.

The process works, he said. He’s had his window restoration process tested against modern windows. The U value, a measure of how much energy is transmitted through a one-square-foot area in one hour, is about .55 for a modern window. His window, .35 to .40.

Yapp has little use for modern-built homes. He said they are often too airtight, contain construction materials that contain PVC, a plastic he said is one of the most toxic in use, and simply don’t last very long.

“The functional and economic life expectancy of a new home is 27.3 years,” he said. “An older home, restored, in the core of a city has an expectancy of 87.3 years.”

For many of the participants in the workshop, today will offer them a chance to try Yapp’s restoration techniques on the windows in the McQuillen Building located at 815 Central Ave.

He calls his workshop sessions “bootcamp.”

“We’re going to take out an old 1914 window,” he said. “By noon, we will have them so they can be opened with one finger.”