Old, worn-out windows or patio doors are often leaky, which can result in high energy bills during peak heating and cooling months. The glass may be loose (in which case it should be re-glazed) or the seal between the sash and frame may have weakened. The cost of replacing failing windows is often dwarfed by overall household energy costs, but we recommend replacing old single-pane windows with modern windows that feature dual-pane Low-E glass for a substantial energy savings. If your windows are in decent shape but still leak, consider applying new weather stripping. It’s easy to install and available at most building supply stores.
“Ugly” is a matter of taste, but let’s address three obvious causes:
Does the exterior color of the windows match the rest of the home? If not, a simple repaint can solve the problem. If the windows are obscured on the home exterior by unattractive storm window frames, consider replacement windows with dual-pane Low-E glass instead.
Does the window style not match the home? Older homes usually feature double-hung windows. Gliders and casement windows offer a more contemporary approach. Consult an expert to see if you need a touch of architectural authenticity in your home.
Does the window or patio door material seem artificial or cheap? If you don’t like the look of thick vinyl frames, replace them with natural wood that can be painted or stained to match your interior.
In some cases, a window may fail to operate simply because of broken hardware. Replace the hardware and the problem is solved, right? Some situations aren’t so easy. Your window, for example, may be painted shut — and setting it free can be a painstaking process. By carefully working a putty knife around the perimeter of the sash and breaking the paint seal between sash and frame, you can often undo the damage. For some extra leverage, try a small pry bar. In extreme cases the interior trim may have to be removed. Be advised: windows that are painted shut are often older and of poor quality. Replacement windows and patio doors are the best bet.
Operational trouble can also stem from a warped frame and sash. Warped windows or patio doors are usually caused by house settling, which skews the rough opening where the window sits. In this case, the entire window or patio door must be removed and the opening reframed and squared. After that, the most common course of action is to insert a brand new window or door.
If it’s an older window, there’s most likely a problem with the connection to the sash weights. Older double-hung window sash are counterbalanced with heavy weights connected to the sash on a rope. As the windows age, the rope dries out and becomes brittle, eventually breaking. If you decide to fix the problem yourself, you can remove the interior trim to expose the fallen weight, replace the rope and reinstall the trim. Newer double-hung windows often feature in-sash balancers. If these break, follow the window or door manufacturer’s recommendations for balancer replacement.
For casement windows, the solution may be as easy as cleaning and lubricating the operating hardware with a light oil or dry silicone spray. Avoid lubricants or harsh abrasive cleaners — these will break down or collect dirt and grime. Gliding window tracks also need periodic cleanings to maintain easy sash operation. Otherwise, you may be looking at a warped frame and sash caused by house settling, which can skew the rough opening the window sits in. Here, we recommend removing the entire window and reframing and squaring the opening. Then simply insert a new window.
Some homes must weather tough environmental conditions by virtue of their locations — such as areas of heavy industry, or along the coast. Airborne particles abound in these environments, and they stick to windows. That means frequent washing. Thankfully, some window products are available to help ease the chore. Many double-hung windows now feature tilt-in sash designs. This means the exterior glass can be cleaned from the inside — just tilt the sash inward. If grilles cause cleaning headaches for you, consider ordering windows with grilles built-in between the glass. It’ll be easier to wipe the windows clean.
If a window or patio door is failing or on the verge of failure — leaking, sticking or falling apart — it’s time to replace it. Choose a style that matches the other windows in your home. In many cases, you can take the opportunity to do more than a simple replacement. Why not enhance your home’s look from the inside and out, and improve your overall energy efficiency? Two windows side-by-side, called a combination, can be replaced with a single picture window that frames a stunning view or opens the room to more light. You can also enlarge an opening to add more windows. Be sure to choose a replacement that features the energy-efficiency of Low-E glass.
If your windows or patio doors don’t match your home’s architectural style, go ahead and replace them with a more appropriate style. It can improve the look of the whole house. Older or more traditionally-designed homes usually feature double-hung windows, while contemporary architecture favors casement or gliding windows. Consult your architect for the best fit.
Most interior condensation problems are the result of poor household ventilation. By controlling your home’s humidity, you can usually limit interior window condensation. For more information, see our Care & Maintenance section.
The semi-seasonal touch-ups demanded by unclad windows can be a tiring, frustrating business. Want to eliminate this job for good? Replace your current windows with vinyl windows.