FEH Editor’s Note: We recently caught up with second generation steel casement window restoration craftsman, Todd Seekircher of Seekircher Steel Window Corp based out of Peekskill, New York. We wanted to get a better understanding of the history of steel casement windows, what it takes to restore them and if there is a point in which the degradation of the windows is past the point of no return. We also wanted to hear from Todd where he thinks this business is headed once he takes over the reigns. The Seekircher family has been running their family-owned business since 1977 which was started by Todd’s father John, who is nationally recognized as one of the top steel casement window restorers in the country. Seekircher Steel Window Corp specializes in servicing both the residential and commercial markets and offers its customers a wide range of vintage steel casement windows for replacement.
What is the heritage of steel casement windows? As I understand it, steel casement windows were considered cutting edge technology when they began to be used widely in the early 20th century. The added strength of steel, as opposed to wood, allowed for very delicate sight lines in the mullion and muntins, which were quite beautiful and worked well with the classic forms of architecture of the time. They remained fashionable through the end of World War II when a lot of steel was diverted to the war and in the years following the war when materials like aluminum gained popularity.
What is the biggest misconception about steel casement windows? I would have to say the biggest misconception is that, given their age and state of disrepair, that these windows have outlived their usefulness. Unlike most modern windows, steel windows from the early 1900’s were made to last forever. They can be repaired, refurbished and restored and will continue to last for many decades to come.
What are the options for making steel casement windows more energy efficient? The simple act of repairing and servicing the operable windows to open, close and lock properly will greatly reduce air infiltration and therefore their efficiency. Another option that we recommend to customers is an interior storm panel- either acrylic or glass- that they can utilize during the colder months of the year, when having single pane windows is more of an issue.
Is there any point in which steel casement windows are beyond repair? We have repaired and rebuilt hundreds of windows, many of which owners, architects and contractors believed were far beyond repair. Deteriorated sections of steel can be cut out and matched with vintage steel from our collection and missing or broken hardware and hinges can often be matched with our salvaged pieces.
Problems happen on every construction project. What has been your biggest challenge to date and how was it resolved? I would have to say our biggest challenge, which happens semi-regularly, is working in finished homes and apartments. I guess it’s a little bit of a boring problem to have, but the amount of time involved in setting up protection and working in finished spaces is a constant challenge for us. It takes a significant amount of time and focus away from completing our project. Also, working in New York City apartment buildings that have contractor hours of 9/930 am to 4/430 pm shortens the work day even further.
Is there a salvage market for steel casement windows? And if so, what are the resources for builders, design professionals and consumers? We have been salvaging and collecting steel windows for over thirty years. My father started our business fixing a couple windows here and there and would routinely pull them out of dumpsters to save the hardware and steel extrusions, which you can’t find today. We have seen an increasing number of customers who want to purchase vintage windows and doors because of their unique aesthetic and enduring quality- something you just don’t find in new windows and doors. Most of the manufacturers from 100 years ago made similar products, which are dimensionally very similar, but vary in configuration and types of hardware. The first thing I ask customers to send me is a list of ideal sizes and quantities. From there, I can walk through our warehouse and send them options that would work for their project. A recent goal of mine has been to expand that side of our business and reach more customers outside of New York City and the surrounding area.
What is the coolest project you have ever worked on and what specifically got you excited about the project? We have worked on a lot of really amazing homes and historic buildings- its hard to choose just one. Probably the most famous, and architecturally significant, building we have worked on is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Its an incredibly challenging place to work in, since it is a fully operating museum and gets hundreds of visitors a day. In terms of private residences, there have been quite a few New York City penthouses that are pretty breathtaking. I think the most exciting part of every project we work on is being able to see the end product and compare it to where we started. Most people don’t have any idea how beautiful their old, beat up windows are. When we remove countless layers of paint, re-glaze the panes and refinish the hardware, they are often unrecognizable.
We know what comes along with working in family businesses. What is it like working with your father and where do you see the company going with you taking the reigns? My father and I get along great. Of course there are challenges and disagreements at times, but we have a mutual respect for each other and each other’s opinions. I understand where he is coming from and that he’s built the business from nothing into a nationally recognized company and he understands and values my opinion, even when it might differ from his own.
As I mentioned earlier, I would love to see our business grow and sell more restored windows and doors. Our collection is constantly growing- thanks to people who lack the foresight to see the potential in their windows and opt for aluminum or vinyl replacements- and we are doubling the size of our warehouse this summer. Being able to reach more customers in the ever expanding reclaimed/vintage/salvaged products market is our primary goal moving forward.