How YOU Can Be Classically Tacky—With Just a LITTLE Pair of Brass Ones!

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For those of us “blessed” to own an old home, it’s common knowledge that one measure of “character” is the lack of a single plumb, level or square surface in the entire house. A second indicator of character is the complete absence of identical windows.

Oh sure, throw a quick tape on them, and they’ll all be “about 30 by 68.” But if you have 20 windows (the house above has 25 on the front alone!), the odds of most of them being able to use the exact same size wooden screen or storm window are about the same as my 401k balance getting another comma. (Or the way things are going, of even HAVING a comma in it). They’ll range from 29 ¾” to 30 ¼” wide, and 67 5/8” to 68 ¼” tall. This is partly the result of someone, many decades ago, failing to measure twice and cut once, and partly the result of many years of settling and weather-related expansion and contraction, both on the house and on the storm and screen sashes. All part of the charm. Keep telling yourself that.

The Traditions of the Older Home

Windows of my youth…why yes, it WAS in Buffalo!

The house I grew up in, outside Buffalo, NY, had the same type of old wooden double-hung windows. Every spring and fall, after drinking several cups of his special coffee, my father would summon us for the ritual Swapping of the Screens and Storms. This ritual involved many trips up and down the ladder, quite a bit of trial and error, and many colorful additions to our vocabulary.

Match ’em up and slap ’em in!

Too bad Dad never heard of Acro Hold-Tite Numbering Tacks. They’ve been around since 1948, and according to the folks at Smith Restoration Sash, “These charming and practical numbered marking tacks are traditionally used to match removable wooden storm sash and screens to their respective window frames. Our tacks are made of the original “white brass” alloy. They are durable, secure and the numerals remain legible even after decades and many layers of accumulated paint. The sharp, angular nail pierces hardwood and the barb beneath the head anchors the tack down to stay.” I couldn’t have said it better!

Now that’s old-style tacky!

The tacks are ½” in diameter, and are bought in cards of 25, numbered 1-25 or 26-50. You’ll need one card for the frames, and identical numbers for the screen and storm sashes, totaling three tacks for each window (why yes, I AM a math whiz). They’re a tad pricey, at around $20 for a set of 25 tacks, but when you consider how many hours of profanity-laced ladder climbing they’ll save you in the years to come, they’re a steal!

Other Ways to be Tacky

This happy little tack-head is here to ease your burdens…

Aside from matching up your storm windows and screens, it seems like these tacks would be useful for bringing order out of chaos in any number of ways: Keeping track of shutters, numbering the fine vintages on your wine rack, pinning photos of your exes to the wall in correct numerical order, or for rotating your cases of PBR for freshness. Some probably NOT-so-good uses might include keeping track of your tires, or for preventing your prophylactics from falling off the nightstand.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

the Acro numbering system tacks are a simple solution to a problem many old-home owners face. Buy the tacks, match up your windows, and make your future sash-swapping routine one of Zen-like bliss. (Too bad reinstalling windows on my PC couldn’t be this easy!) Once you have these tacks in place, you can congratulate yourself on how you’ve made order out of chaos. On the outside of the house, anyway…

The Acro Hold-Tite Numbering Tacks are available from The House of Antique Hardware, and from Smith Restoration Sash, which also offers a contractor’s pack that saves you sixty bucks—twelve sets of numbers, in any combination, for $180. Not a bad deal if you have a LOT of windows or racks of fine wine or exes, or some similarly blessed friends.

Some applications may require a contractor’s pack…or two
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About Phil

Phil’s path to the pinnacle of success as HomeFixated’s Senior Writer was long and twisted. At various stages of his life, he worked as a framing carpenter, attended motorcycle mechanics school, served as an Army MP, did a hot and itchy stint installing insulation in Phoenix, owned and operated a small contracting firm doing residential renovations, and worked as an employee of a major airline (Motto: We’re not happy ‘til YOU’RE not happy). He is currently semi-retired, but continues to take on little projects, such as the total renovation of an old farmhouse. Yes, he is a slow learner. Future projects include a teardown restoration of his 1965 BMW motorcycle, and designing and building a kick-ass playhouse for his grandsons. Phil loves spending time outdoors, hanging out with family and friends, cool tools, and a cold IPA when beer o'clock rolls around.

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11 thoughts on “How YOU Can Be Classically Tacky—With Just a LITTLE Pair of Brass Ones!”

  1. Is there any reason why I couldn’t just use the tacks on the outside sill and use marker or some other permanent ink to WRITE the matching number on the edge of my screens and storms? I have short descriptions written on them now (room “title” and northwest, east, etc.).

    • No reason I can think of. Nothing wrong with cutting your cost by two-thirds! Just don’t forget to keep track of which is which if you ever re-paint everything.

    • Anywhere you want – preferably in an upper corner, where they won’t be too obvious. Just make sure the placement won’t interfere with their fit in the window opening. It’s a good idea to put them in the same area on all the screens and windows, so you know where to find the tack.

  2. Just remember someone always has it worse than you. I have replaced 7 windows so far with a remaining 5 to go and a rotted sliding door. I have one window I’m not replacing as it’s never used has no air leakage and is barely visible from the outside. I wouldn’t even do some of the others but the Anderson Slimline have never worked well and at least the new ones I can tilt and clean and will open and close I hope for the rest of my life.

    • I finally replaced our last window last year, doing a few at a time. It only took 26 years! Now, of course, a couple of the FIRST ones are starting to have issues…Ah well, keeps me off the streets.

      • 26 many windows are you talking. At a few a year that’s gotta be some 75 or so windows. You’re not a window man by trade are ya?

        • Actually, 43 windows total, including 5 glass block basement units. We skipped some years along the way to let the bank balance replenish. Happy to have ’em all in, as it was 10 degrees last night, and the new windows at least slow the hot air down a bit as it escapes to the great outdoors…

          • 43 OUCH! That’s some serious mo-la-la! Hopefully he warranty will carry you for the rest of your life assuming you don’t pick up and move somewhere else.

            That’s how I measure things now…I want a warranty that will insure that I never have to worry about a particular item again. And to save some expense let’s downgrade a bit – no sense paying for the next guys life :-0

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