The aluminum window units were manufactured in Lustron’s Columbus factory. Glazing was edged with Koroseal instead of traditional putty. Window units were shipped to the house site in a specially designed truck along with the house’s other parts. A prefabricated window unit was inserted in a prefabricated wall section after the exterior frame was erected at the house site.While Lustrons had picture windows and bottom-opening awning windows, casements were the most common window type. Comprised of three or four rectangular panes, stacked vertically, the casements flanked picture windows, were paired (two casement windows on one elevation, or appeared alone). Although some models had bay windows, most windows were flush with the facade. The variety of window types was criticized as inefficient by some experts in prefabricated design. Architect Carl Koch, a consultant hired by Lustron in 1948, recommended a single, triple-hung window unit. The panes could be interchanged with wall panels of the same size, allowing a great number of configurations. Production ended before Lustron could implement his recommendation.
HISTORICAL INFOAluminum was vital to America’s victory in World War II, the first major conflict in which airplanes played a pivotal role. After the war, new uses had to be found for the massive manufacturing facilities that had been developed during the war. Aluminum found many new uses including window frames. Iron and steel had been pressed into service for industrial window frames decades earlier. Steel was also popular for residential casement windows by mid-century, but most residential frames were made of wood. Both materials had weaknesses: wood frames were cumbersome and demanded periodic maintenance, while steel corroded. These window materials were easy targets for a lighter, easy-care alternative. Aluminum window frames went from experimental before the war to mass-marketed after 1945 .
Indeed, because of its modern appearance, light-weight, low-profile, ease of manufacture and low-maintenance (no paint needed), aluminum was the perfect for fit the Lustron concept. Why buy a steel house if you had to paint the windows? Using wood windows which would have to be painted regularly would have flown in the face of the all modern, maintenance-free Lustron philosophy.
All Lustron window frames were aluminum, and models came with window screens. Storm windows and 2-inch-wide metal slat Venetian blinds with cloth ladders could be purchased as accessories.
In featuring aluminum window frames, Lustron was on the cutting edge of residential construction trends. But times have changed, and what was once innovation is now obsolete. Aluminum window frames are very good conductors of heat and cold unless insulated-and Lustron window frames are not insulated. The windows may fail to meet today’s energy standards, especially if they lack storm windows or are in poor repair. If your windows need some help, click here.
WINDOWS: The Specs
The window units included a location to install brackets for blinds and drapes.
Materials: Extruded aluminum frames and sashes. Screen frames are aluminum extrusions or rolled aluminum sections; screening is aluminum or bronze wire cloth.
Colors: The original Lustron windows were made of aluminum and were not painted or enameled. The original aluminum finish was the only color option.
Design: Lustrons featured several types of windows:
- Projecting bay window in living room: a large, central, fixed sash flanked by four-pane casement windows. Overall dimensions: 4′-5¾” high by 6′-5¾” wide.
- Similar windows (large, central, fixed sash flanked by four-pane casement windows) in dining room and some bedrooms, but flush with exterior wall.
- Paired three-pane casements in bedrooms, placed high in wall.
- Single three-pane casement window in bathroom. Overall dimensions: 3′-2-3/8″ high by 1-7-1/8″ wide.
- Double three-pane casement windows in kitchen. Overall dimensions: 3′-11¾” high by 3′-5-¾” wide.
- Awning-type “porthole” windows (bottom opens out) in some bedrooms. Overall dimensions: 1′-7-1/8″ high by 1′-7-1/8″ wide.
Windows, Assembly and the Lustron SystemThe windows were installed in the wall sections at the factory, it appears from historic photos and the erection manuals that the panels surrounding the windows were installed on-site before the surrounding wall panels. The installation of the panels surrounding the bay window was complex enough to merit its own page in the erection manual (EM-02-L-40.11) illustrated with four photographs. The first photograph showed the opening before the installation. The others accompanied a narrative for the three steps of the installation: “Step No. 1: Position clip 02-302-51 on lower wall spacer. Tap down on flange with light hammer blows. Step No. 2: Position ‘X’ flange of panel into adjacent ‘V’ flange, 1″ down from final position. Position top of panel 02-421-40 behind edge of eave panel. Force right edge of panel into position-working from top to bottom, raise panel 1″ upward to engage lower flange into clip. Step No. 3: Bend up (2) tabs of clip to lock panel in up position. Trim off tabs flush with face of panel.” The erection manual does not explain how the remaining windows were installed, so the process was presumably similar. The optional Venetian blinds merited two pages of instructions (EM-02-Z-30.1 and -30.11). Again, photographs were employed to supplement the text.
The aluminum windows were a key feature of Lustron’s distinctive look, replacement of existing windows can dramatically alter the appearance of a Lustron and could lead to other problems. For more information on window repair, click here.
“Today steel casements are probably more often used than wooden ones.” [Talbot Hamlin, ed., Forms and Functions of Twentieth-Century Architecture, vol. 1, The Elements of Building (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952), 383.
Carl Koch with Andy Lewis, At Home with Tomorrow (New York and Toronto: Rinehart and Company, 1958), 118-119.