Quiz most New York City apartment-dwellers on what the primary force keeping undesirable elements out of their apartment is, and chances are they'll say, "the doorman," or their elderly neighbor who keeps a hawk's eye on the street, or maybe they'll briefly flash to a time when their cat took command of some pesky rodent. Few will think to name their windows as the first line of defense against the uninvited entry of dirt, drafts and noise into their home.
Windows are often neglected in New York City apartment buildings. Why? They are transparent - composed mainly of glass - but they aren't fragile. Even when they're not properly maintained, they have the potential to last a hundred years. Precisely for these reasons, people are not commonly inclined to invest in any preventive window maintenance. It's only when they stop functioning properly that a window is addressed as an entity, "And often, by that time, it's more of a replacement situation," says David Skudin, vice president of CitiQuiet Windows on Long Island. "They are beyond repair."
The further gone a window is, the greater the disturbance caused by replacing it. In the most extreme scenario, when the whole frame has rotted and needs to be taken out of the masonry, the moldings inside the apartment will inevitably be altered or damaged, as will the plaster and paint around the interior perimeter of the window. Skudin says that it's difficult to sum up the values of a window sight-unseen, but he estimates that a "good quality replacement window" will price between $500 and $600. This doesn't include the cost of fixing the window interior, or of the labor time spent carting debris out of the apartment.
Bruce Woolf says that the Hotel Olcott on 72nd Street was about 15 years overdue in calling his company, Apple Architectural Windows, which specializes in historic window replacements. Woolf's crew was contracted to replace the 80 wood-frame windows lining the first three floors of the hotel.
"Had they been properly maintained, the windows might either have been saved, or would not require an entire frame replacement," says Woolf. He explains that if you get to a window in time, you can do a replacement by just installing new sashes (a sash is the part of the window that slides up and down) in an existing frame. "But in this case, the entire window frame had to be removed, and that necessitates a lot of interior repair as well."