Should you repair or replace old windows?

The older something becomes, the more worn out it gets. This is especially true of old windows. If you live in the same property for many years, then you are likely to have issues with your windows at some point.

They may become leaky, foggy, cold, or your window frames may begin to rot. Whatever the case, it may be time to repair your windows. Better yet, replace them. If you are wondering whether you should repair or replace your windows, the answer depends on the specific problem.

Some issues can be remedied with a little Do It Yourself (DIY) work. Other problems must be fixed by a professional. In some instances, you may have no choice but to replace your entire windows. Often, if you are not careful, you can end up spending more on individual repairs than what it would cost for a simple replacement. If you have consistent issues with your windows, then it may be worth investing in new windows. The following gives you a good set of guidelines to follow in making your decision.

Cracked or Broken Panes of Glass

Having a cracked or broken windowpane not only looks bad, but it is potentially a safety hazard as well. Fortunately, the problem can be easily solved. Glaziers can repair single-pane windows inexpensively. If you have been successful in DIY home renovation projects in the past, reduce costs further by doing the job yourself. If you have many broken panes in the window or if you have other problems with the window as well, a better route is to replace it entirely.

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To repair a broken or cracked pane of glass, there are two main costs. First, a replacement pane costs around $3 to $14 per square foot. Secondly, you have to repair the sash, which is the frame holding the glass into position. Depending on the size, the cost for a vinyl sash can be anywhere between $40 and $250. If you need to hire a handyman to do the work, there will be an additional cost for labor. This can be between $100 and $300.

Water Leakage and Foggy Windows

When you find water inside your home next to a window area, it is usually coming from around the window rather than through it. Drainpipe and gutter problems can force water towards your windows. Even though window seals are supposed to be water resistant, sometimes they cannot compete with excessive forces. If you are noticing water leakage inside your home, try cleaning the gutters and rerouting the drainage system to see if it makes any difference before you think about repairing or replacing your windows.

Excessive interior water could also be a sign your exterior window casing is no good. If it is loose, cracked, or rotten, it can cause window damage. However, if the window is still intact, you can repair or replace the casing easily yourself. Primed wood exterior casings are sold at most home centers. If you replace the casing and you still find water inside, this proves the water is coming through the window. In which case, it is best to shop for a new window.

Foggy windows can be a problem for double and triple glazing. Over time, heat-induced expansions and contractions eventually destroy the seals on these windowpanes. The windows then become foggy as water condenses inside the window’s double or triple-paned insulated glass unit. These units cannot even be disassembled by a skillful window technician, let alone a savvy DIYer. Therefore, removal and replacement of a foggy window is the only solution.

Broken Mullions and Muntins

Mullions and muntins are the pieces of wood that separate the panes of glass in a window. A mullion is the heavy horizontal or vertical piece adjoining the window units. Muntins are the narrow strips that divide the individual panes. Mullions and muntins can rot or split easily on old windows. However, you do not need to replace your window if this happens. Simply repair the mullion or muntin. If the piece of wood needing repair has brittle putty holding the pane of glass into position, it can be easily fixed. All you have to do is:

  • Remove the glass.
  • Scrape the area clean of old putty.
  • Apply fresh putty.
  • Secure the glass.

If you are worried about doing the job yourself, you can always hire a professional to do it for you. It is still a lot cheaper than replacing an entire window.

Other Window Problems

Whether you repair or replace your old windows depends on the specific problem at hand. There are many other issues that could force you into a decision of repairing or replacing, such as:

  • Inoperable Sash Cords: A typical problem of older sash windows is the upper or lower sash cords getting stuck. Their immovability is often due to layers of paint bridging the sash cord and the window frame, meaning the two become stuck together. Alternatively, the sash could have come off of its track. If the sash is hard to raise, this usually indicates a broken cord. Thankfully, these types of problems are easy to fix with simple repairs.
  • Drafty Windows: If your old windows are drafty, it is not usually a sign they need to be replaced. Drafts occur due to cracked and peeling caulk, loose sash, rotten wood and old weather stripping. All of these issues can be repaired easily for little cost, unless the window frame is rotten.
  • Rotten Wood: Rotten window frames allow air and water leaks into your home. Wood can become rotten when it is seasoned insufficiently or painted incorrectly. However, with old window frames, the rot is usually due to consistent wet and humid weather conditions. Sprinklers that regularly hit window frames also cause rot. If you only have small patches of rot, you can treat it yourself with epoxy. If the window frames are severely rotten, you will have no choice but to replace the whole window.

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