Tom Shafer

Window woes: repair or replace?

February 06, 2012

Your double hung windows haven't budged since you painted ten years ago. The crank on your casement window goes round and round, but it doesn't engage the gears. You're dying for a breath of fresh air. Is it time to buy replacement windows, or will a few repairs do the trick? What to do?

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4 scenarios: repair or replace your windows?

  1. Sometimes your window problems are not quite as bad as you think. When you need superhuman strength to move the sash up and down on your double hung windows, too many coats of paint could be the culprit. Stripping the paint might free up the moving parts.
  2. Chipping or peeling paint can indicate more serious issues, particularly if the paint is old. If your peeling paint was applied prior to the 1978 ban on lead-based paint in residential dwellings, you are going to have to call in a lead-abatement specialist. The process is labor intensive: dust and paint chips must be properly contained. It can be very costly. Replacing the windows might make a lot more sense.
  3. If the paint isn't that old, but it's peeling, moisture could be the culprit. If the moisture has rotted the wood, repairs must be made. Now is a good time to consider replacing your windows.
  4. Casement windows that no longer open out might be good to go with nothing but new cranks or locks. But if the window is defective or damaged and the gears don't engage, they may be stripped. When the windows are going to cost you almost as much to repair as replace, consider new casements.

Was that an earthquake or a truck?

Do the windows rattle in their frames every time a truck goes by or the wind blows? Rattling indicates wood hitting against wood. You might only need weatherstripping. If there is no weatherstripping, there is certainly air leakage -- both cold air coming in and warm air leaking out.

What if you can hear your neighbor snoring through your closed window at night or you can't hear your TV when your kids are playing in the yard? Because sound travels in air, outside noises migrating inside can also indicate excessive air leakage. New windows can be made more sound-resistant by using glass of different thicknesses -- a 3-mm pane and a 4-mm pane. They disrupt sound waves, canceling some frequencies or at least greatly diminishing the noise entering your home.

So, do you repair or replace your old windows? The cost and time required to do some repairs can be relatively inexpensive, but it can also be almost as much as new windows. Repair, and you will still have old windows with old glass -- not as efficient as new replacement windows. You decide.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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