Your house feels drafty
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On a windy or cold day, move a smoking
incense stick along the perimeter of your
“drafty” windows to detect either incoming
or outgoing airflows. Make sure to note
whether leakage occurs around the window
sash itself or around the trim.
If your house feels cool and drafty in the winter, chances are you have leaky windows. Turning up the thermostat and putting on a sweater won’t always bring comfort, especially on a windy day.
New windows will solve this problem instantly. When properly installed, they are virtually airtight. You’ll immediately feel the difference. Your house will be snug and free of most drafts. Depending on the air leakage of your old windows, you could also see a 10 to 30 percent reduction in your heating (or cooling) bills, because old windows often account for up to one-third of a home’s energy loss.
Be sure new windows are the answer
Drafts may seem like they’re coming from windows even when they’re not. Often air leaks occur around the trim rather than around the sash, for example. You can usually fix this yourself by removing trim and insulating. (See “Stop Window Drafts.” )
If the leaks occur only around a few, frequently opened windows, you maybe able to fix them with new weatherstripping, latches or closers. (See next section.) Or call a window repair specialist for an estimate. The cost of professional window repair might seem high, but it may be much less than the cost of new windows.
Windows don't open and shut easily, are rotting, or have broken hardware
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Look for rot
Probe exposed wood corners annually with a screwdriver or other sharp tool, looking
for soft spots that indicate rot. Check the lower edges of wood trim as well.
It’s frustrating when you have to
struggle to open or close a window
because the sash sticks or won’t stay
up, the crank won’t turn, the sash
won’t latch or the hinges are broken.
Installers tell us that they see these
problems in homes only 10 years old.
The original windows in many
homes are not top quality.
On the other hand, new windows,
especially those of a major brand,
will operate smoothly and easily, and
should give you years of trouble-free
Fix or replace?
Should you fix the windows or
replace them? To answer this question,
first inspect all your windows
for signs of wear. Common problems
include binding sashes, hardware
that’s not working, cracks in vinyl,
and wood rot. Installers tell us that
most of the mechanical parts on lower-quality
windows tend to fail at about
the same time.
If only a few windows have problems,
have a window repair specialist
give you a bid. Then compare it with
the cost of complete replacement. You
can replace most types of hardware
yourself. This is a good strategy if only
a few windows have hardware problems. The trick is to find identical
replacement parts. Finding replacement
parts for major brand windows
(Andersen, Marvin, Jeld-Wen, Pella
and Weather Shield, for example) is
First look for a manufacturer label
on the top, bottom or edges of the
sash, or at the corner of the glass.
Then call the manufacturer and ask
about parts sources. If you can’t find the manufacturer’s name, check local
hardware stores and home centers
for identical replacement hardware.
Or search online for “window repair
parts” or “window weather stripping
replacement.” (Two good sources are
www.truth.com and www.blainehardware.com)
Up to a point, you can also fix
wood rot. First, eliminate the source
of moisture if you can; for example, a
leaking gutter or ineffective flashing.
Dig out the rot and fill with epoxy or
other fillers, caulk and repaint. ( See “How to Use Epoxy.”)
Replace rotting trim. If you can’t
repair the rotted area, you’ll have to
replace the window.
If your windows have maintenance-free exteriors (aluminum or
vinyl-covered), be vigilant as well.
Stains running down the siding
below windows sometimes indicate
a seal failure and the beginning of rot
behind the cladding. Look for open
joints and flaking or peeling caulk.
Clean the bad joints and recaulk.
Too much maintenance
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New window benefit
Low-maintenance exteriors on new windows
eliminate the painting chore and allow cleaning from the inside. Nice!
If your sick and tired of scraping
and painting wood windows every
few years, it may be time for a
change. New windows with maintenance-free exteriors will eliminate
those time-consuming chores. All vinyl
or composite windows, and
windows with vinyl or aluminum
exterior cladding, won’t rot and
don’t need painting. The double-pane
glass eliminates the need for storm windows. And new window
mechanisms allow you to rotate the
sashes and wash your windows from
the inside; no more climbing ladders.
If your old windows are basically
in good condition and you’re not up
for the maintenance chores, hire a
professional painter or home maintenance
pro to service and clean your
windows annually. It’ll take about a
day every year. If you want to keep
your old windows in working order
for as long as possible, it’s a good
Your old windows waste energy and money
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energy loss and
will make your
home more comfortable.
when it comes
time to buy new windows.
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Storm window option
Tight-fitting storm windows will reduce
drafts from leaky double-hung or sliding
New high-efficiency windows will
cut your heating and cooling costs.
Unfortunately, this alone is generally
not a good reason to replace windows.
Stopping air leaks, especially by thorough
exterior caulking and sealing
attic bypasses, is the most important
step toward energy efficiency. (See “How to Seal Attic Air Leaks.” ) The energy savings
from new windows alone is
unlikely to cover their costs, even
with a federal tax credit. An energy
audit will show you the most cost-effective
improvements, and the auditor
can assess your windows at the
However, if you have to replace
your windows anyway, buy the most
energy efficient ones you can afford.
They’ll cost a little more (10 to 20
percent), but the additional savings
will usually pay you back in the long
Other options for saving energy
Many less-expensive strategies will
bring significant savings. For example,
to tighten drafty double-hung
and slider windows, you can add
Another lower-cost option is to
mount storms on the inside. (To help
you locate this option, search online
for “interior storm windows.”) Or
you can simply cover windows with
heavy drapes at night to cut drafts and reduce heat loss.
Your old windows just plain look bad
If your existing windows look shabby,
whether it’s from many layers of
paint, permanent water stains, or
general wear and tear, consider new
windows. New windows will vastly
improve the appearance of a room and will add to the market value of
It’s possible to refurbish old windows—chemically strip and refinish
both sash and trim, restain or paint,
reputty, install new glass and/or
replace hardware—but it’s time consuming,
and usually more expensive
than replacement if you have to hire
pros. Two exceptions are windows
that have historic value and windows
that are unique and can’t be
duplicated at a reasonable price.
Photo courtesy of Simonton Windows
Partial Replacement May Be an Option
Don't assume you have to
replace all your windows at
the same time. Windows
sheltered from sun and rain
or those on the north side of
your home may be in much
better shape than unsheltered,