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Fix Them or Replace Them? What Should I Do With My Windows?

Nov 25, 2021

Even with professional installation and proper maintenance, you will inevitably encounter issues with your windows over time due to regular wear or tear, or you may experience serious emergencies that require immediate attention. Your windows serve many essential roles by ventilating your home, providing light, keeping your family comfortable, and enhancing the overall aesthetic of your home. Maintaining them so they stay in the best condition and promptly fixing any problems that may arise are crucial steps for ensuring your home is fully protected from the elements and safe from potential intruders, as well as helping your HVAC system operate at peak efficiency.

If you have been noticing consistent issues with your windows, or if they are simply not performing as they should be, you are likely wondering what you should do next to fix the problem. The first factor to consider when determining whether to repair or replace a problem window is identifying the problem. Then you can figure out if replacement is needed or if a repair will suffice.

Signs That You Should Repair Your Window

  • Broken Muntins or Mullions

Muntins are the vertical and horizontal strips of wood that divide a traditional sash into individual panes of glass, while mullions are the vertical or horizontal frame-like bars that divide two or more adjoining windowpanes. Some windows have faux muntins and mullions that only serve an aesthetic purpose, so damage does not impact the window performance. But in windows where these components encase the glass panes and they have rotted, split, or loosened, they can be rebuilt without replacing the window.

  • Inoperable Sashes

A common problem among older windows is upper or lower sashes that become unable to move. This can occur due to the sash coming off the track, multiple layers of paint covering the sash and frame, or the buildup of dirt and grime from neglected cleaning and maintenance. When sashes are hard to raise, this is typically due to broken cords on the sash weights responsible for operating the window. In spring-type sashes, the spring can fail or become loose. Any of these problems can be solved with a repair.

  • Damaged or Missing Drip Cap

The drip cap refers to the metal panel located above the top frame on the window exterior. It should be placed under the sliding panel directly above the window but can loosen over time, deteriorate due to rust, or become disengaged from the unit. If the drip cap is damaged or missing, it exposes the windowpane to excess water that can cause severe damage to your home. However, drip caps are easy to replace by nailing them into place and caulking them, so this issue does not require replacing the window.

  • Damaged Exterior Window Casing

The exterior window casing is designed to offer protection for the exterior of the window unit. When this casing becomes loose, cracked, rotted, or missing, it can damage the frames, sashes, and panes. It also negatively impacts the appearance of your home, particularly when the paint begins to wear off and the wood rots as a result. The existing casing can be removed and replaced without a total window replacement.

  • Drafty Windows

If you notice drafts on windy days, you may have worn stripping or caulk along the windowpane edges. But in many cases, this problem is difficult to detect until you notice a spike in your heating bills to make up for the loss of insulation. You can test the seals between the panes and sash by lighting a candle and holding it along the edge of the panes. A frame that suddenly blows to the side indicates the presence of a draft. This issue can usually be solved with new stripping or caulking.

  • Minor Water Leaks

Water entering your home around the window can indicate issues with the exterior casing or poorly draining gutters and drainpipes. If you see water coming into your home around your window or see signs of water damage, such as peeling, warping, and cracking, you should inspect your window to find the problem and the source of the water. It may be a simple fix of new weather stripping or rerouting your drainage system, but it could also be evidence of a significant functional issue that does require replacement.

Signs That You Should Replace Your Window

  • Cracked or Broken Panes of Glass

Broken window panes can pose a serious safety hazard for your loved ones, and small cracks can rapidly turn into larger ones until the pane eventually breaks. A crack or a complete break can cause water to intrude into your home, leading to severe water damage and encouraging the invasion of pests. It can also allow the cooled or heated air from the interior to escape, making your HVAC system work harder, increasing your energy costs, and preventing your family from being safe and comfortable. The only way to solve this problem is to replace the window.

  • Foggy windows

Foggy windows result from water condensation buildup inside the window’s double- or triple-paned insulated glass unit. Condensation inside the window is a sign of excess humidity and can often be fixed by opening the windows and circulating the air throughout your home with fans. However, if this condensation appears between the panes of glass, it is likely a glass seal failure. A professional can determine whether just the panes themselves can be replaced or if you need to replace the entire window.

  • Major water leaks

The drip cap and exterior casing are designed to protect your windows, but they can only handle a certain amount of water before they are no longer effective. When your windowpanes are exposed to excessive amounts of water, this can cause significant water leaks down the exterior wall and around your windows. In some cases, this problem comes from a clogged or faulty drainage system, and other times the leak stems from a combination of all the above factors. If you replace the drip cap or casing and fix the drainage tract and the leaks continue, you need a professional window replacement.

Should I Repair or Replace My Windows? Ask a Professional!

Choosing whether to repair or replace your windows can be a tough decision. If you are unsure about the cause of your window issues or you can’t decide whether a repair or replacement is the right solution, your best course of action is to contact a professional window company for an inspection. Even seemingly simple issues can be symptoms of larger, hidden problems. A professional has the experience, knowledge, and tools to properly diagnose and fix any issue that may arise with your windows before they impact your entire home.

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