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When to Repair or Replace Your Windows

Jun 12, 2021

When to replace old windows and when to simply have them repaired is a dilemma faced by many homeowners. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell. To make matters more confusing, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace a window. When considering your options, you will need to determine where the problem lies, and how big a problem it is. From there, you can learn which options are available, and which will be most cost effective in the long run.

Although windows are often overlooked, especially when doing remodels and home repairs, they actually have a huge impact both on the beauty and energy efficiency of your home. If your windows are damaged, leaky, or ineffectual in some way, it is a good idea to start thinking about maintenance or replacements.

Replacing old windows will certainly lower your heating bill and make your home more energy efficient, but windows are not cheap, and replacing multiple windows in your home may cost thousands of dollars. On the other hand, buying the materials to make complicated repairs and paying for the repair job can sometimes cost as much as buying a whole new window, and may not do much to lower your heating bill or increase the window’s lifespan. Here are some common window problems and their solutions:

Rotting Windows

Rotting windows are a common problem. One of the clearest signs that your windows need some attention is when the wood surrounding the glass begins to rot. Wood rot in window frames, sashes, and dividers is typically the result of water exposure and condensation. Water can seep in through cracked or chipping paint and lead to mold. If you discover the rot early on, chances are you can stop the problem by patching or repainting the affected area. Usually, by the time homeowners notice the patch of rot or mold on their window, it has already advanced too far for a simple repair. If the rot is too advanced, simply painting over it won’t do the trick, because excessive rot could damage the structural integrity of the frame. If the rot is more extensive than a little paint can fix, it is possible to replace entire sections of wood. Unfortunately, replacing the wood in certain spots may be just as expensive—or more so—than replacing the window entirely.

Windows Become Stubborn to Open

Stubborn windows are another common problem, especially in historic homes. If a window hasn’t been opened in years, it may not open easily—or at all. There are several possible reasons your windows may be refusing to open. One reason is that wood expands and contracts over the years due to weather and humidity. If there has been excessive expansion and contraction between the sashes and the frames, the best option is to replace the windows.

Another reason your window could be sticking is that the window has been glued shut by paint, grime, or accumulated dust. If this is the case, it is possible to break the bond using a few handy tools. Window frames and sashes can easily be damaged in this process though, so it should always be handled by a professional. Another reason you should consider hiring a professional for this job is that the window could be covered in toxic lead paint.

Window Seals are Broken

Window seals are a rubbery and elastic sealant that separates panes of glass. These seals often experience a lot of wear and tear, and can become damaged over time. As condensation and time take their toll, these seals can crack and break, allowing moisture to seep between the panes. You can tell you have a broken seal when the inside of a double pane becomes foggy and damp. Once the seals are broken, your windows will become a lot less energy efficient, and you may notice a higher heating bill. As far as window problems go, window seals are one of the more irreversible damages. In most cases, once the seal is broken, it is almost impossible to replace the glass. In this instance, the entire window should be replaced.

There Is a Draft

Do you have a window that still lets in cold air, even when it’s closed all the way? While stubborn windows refuse to open, drafty windows have the opposite problem. Drafty windows can be both uncomfortable and expensive, making your home feel cooler and your energy bill higher. Window drafts are usually caused by gaps between the sashes and the frames. There are several situations that may cause these gaps to form, including:

  • The caulking is cracked or peeling
  • The weather stripping is worn out or damaged
  • The sashes are loose
  • Rot has formed on the frame or sashes

If cracked or peeling caulking is the culprit, a little maintenance should do the trick. If there is excessive wear to the stripping, the sashes are loose, or there is excessive wood rot, it is probably time to invest in a new window altogether. Doing repairs to these problems could cost as much as getting a replacement window. However, if you live in a historic home, replacing vintage windows with modern ones could reduce the market value. In this case, you may need to research the costs of a partial or full replacement as well as current housing market trends.

Broken Window Panes

Broken panes are the most obvious sign that your windows are in trouble. Window Panes can be broken by stray baseballs, severe storms, or any number of accidents. Whether your window is cracked, shattered, has a hole, or is badly scratched and damaged, this is a problem that needs to be rectified quickly. If the broken or damaged pane is within a well-preserved vintage frame, or an otherwise high-quality frame, replacing the pane is probably the best option. Panes can be removed and replaced by a professional easily in this situation. However, if the broken pane is within a cheap vinyl frame, the best option may be to replace the window entirely, thereby upgrading and extending your window’s lifespan.

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