When I lived in New England, I was surrounded by decades-old traditional wood windows that still held paint quite well. But where I live in Seattle, it's not unusual to find expensive, recently manufactured windows being replaced before they're even five years old. I know of a three-year-old house that didn't sell until all of its wood windows were replaced — with vinyl. Modern wood windows seem to have earned a bad reputation as being notoriously difficult to keep intact. What gives?

The sash of a traditional wood window — that is, a window with panes of glass held in place with glazier's points and glazing putty — is essentially composed of four single, dimensionally stable pieces. But a modern window, with insulated glass sandwiched into a wooden frame, can have two or three times as many pieces, which are often smaller...

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