Your Place | Restore some modern glow to aging windows

Posted: July 06, 2007

Question: We have a house built in 1911 with beautiful windows. However, they are in need of repair and restoration. They are the original windows with ropes and pulleys, which need to be replaced, and panes of glass that need to be replaced as well.

We do not want to replace the entire window because of the unusual millwork in the upper portion. Do you have a recommendation for anyone who does this work?

Answer: A carpenter experienced in dealing with older houses would fit your bill. In many areas in which older houses are the rule, there are nonprofit groups that provide information on old-house products and services that would be useful to you. In addition, the bulletin boards of those slowly disappearing but ever-useful hardware stores often are filled with names of repair people more than capable of doing your work. It won't come cheap - with an older house, nothing ever does - but the right carpenter or restoration contractor will take your windows back to their glorious past.

You could do the job yourself, with a little guidance. The ropes should be changed to chains, which will last longer - plus, it's not as easy to find replacement rope as it is chain. I redid 31 windows at my last house, and it was a chore, but all that work succeeded in preserving its architectural integrity.

As for the glass, some hardware stores will install new glass in old windows, but you'll have to remove them and take them to the store, and the job will take awhile. Or, you might investigate the variety of ways in which those old windows can be made more energy-efficient, eliminating the need to buy new ones. Investigate those options before you make first contact with a carpenter or contractor.

Q: Some months back, I saw an answer you gave to a question about black algae on roofs. You recommended something called oxygen bleach, or to have a copper or zinc strip put on the highest point of the roof.

I am having trouble getting the oxygen bleach. Do you know where I might purchase it? Also, do you spray it on or scrub the stain with it? Any more information you have would be greatly appreciated.

A: Oxygen, or oxygenated, bleach is one way of removing the black algae that is being bred by the newest generation of asphalt roofing shingles. There are three types of oxygen bleaches widely available: hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate, and sodium perborate.

OxiClean is oxygenated bleach and can be found in the laundry-detergent aisle at supermarkets. It may or may not work on black algae; I've never tried it. But for more information on what else is available, what the products on the market can do, and how much each costs, take a look at

The reason why oxygen bleach is recommended for cleaning algae is because chlorine bleach can damage the shingles. So can scrubbing them. To remove the algae, spray them with oxygenated bleach solution (the powdered variety and water, following the directions on the container), wait the recommended period, and then gently wash the shingles with a hose (don't power wash; it can damage the shingles and remove their granular coating).

Although a lot of roofing manufacturers won't acknowledge that their shingles provide food for algae, many others and a growing number of roofers do. To prevent algae growth, roofers nail copper and zinc strips at the peaks so that rain washing over the strips produces metal salts that kill the algae on the shingles below. Some manufacturers are impregnating their shingles with copper and zinc to accomplish the same result.

Have questions for Alan J. Heavens? E-mail him at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101.

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