Door and Windows Repair

Repair or Replace Your Old Windows?

window rotThink again. That’s one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make: Believing that the cost of new windows is worth it because of energy savings.

Related: Take Back Your Energy Bills

Oh, and another tip: If your home has lots of vintage features, new windows may actually reduce the price you could get when it’s time to sell.


Rotting Wood

Image: Marbury/iStockphoto

  • Symptoms: Rotten frames, sashes and/or muntins (dividers) that allow water and air leaks into your house.
  • Cause: Wood deteriorates when it’s primed or painted incorrectly, seasoned insufficiently, or exposed to wet and humid weather consistently. Sprinklers that blast windows regularly also can cause rot.
  • Cost to repair: Depends on how much rot you’ve got. You can patch small areas with epoxy ($25). A handyman service can replace a rotten sill for $90-$250 (plus materials). Rotten frames require removing the window and rebuilding, which will cost as much as most window replacements ($300-$700).
  • Repair or replace? Repair if the damage is spotty. Replace if the frames are thoroughly rotten. Although, make sure you take a good look; they often look worse than they are.

Broken Panes

  • Symptoms: Cracks, scratches, or chips.
  • Cause: Johnny’s home run, storm damage, abrasive cleaners.
  • Cost to repair: Replacement glass, -/sq. ft.; hiring a handyman to install glass, 0-0; replacing sash (the frame that holds the glass), -0 (vinyl).
  • Repair or replace? Replace inexpensive vinyl windows. Repair vintage, aluminum-clad, and multi-pane custom windows that could cost upwards of 0 each to replace.

cranky hardwareBroken Seals

  • Symptoms: Foggy condensation or streaks between double or triple panes. Also known as “blown” windows.
  • Cause: Heat induced contractions and expansions eventually destroy seals, promoting condensation between panes and/or exposing low-emissivity coatings and insulating gas to air (oxidizing).
  • Cost to repair: Once a seal is broken, it’s hard to save the pane. New gizmos promise to de-fog the glass with solutions and valves, but online reviews seem unhappy with the results. The most practical and permanent fix is to replace the pane or the entire sash.
  • Repair or replace? Repair. Installing a new sash ($40-$250) is a quick and easy repair that preserves the frame and renews the life of the window.

Cranky Windows

Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

  • Symptoms: Windows won’t open or operate smoothly.
  • Cause: Sashes painted shut, dirt and grit accumulate in track and balances, hardware breaks.
  • Cost to repair: Opening a painted-shut window usually requires breaking the paint seal with a putty knife, then scraping and sanding old paint and putty. Cleaning tracks, balances and hardware cost pennies, while a handyman can replace those parts for $50-$270.
  • Repair or replace? Repair, unless replacement parts on old windows are impossible to find. If they are, then you should replace.

Note: Windows installed prior to 1978 may be covered with toxic lead paint, so hire a professional for safety reasons.

Drafty Windows

  • Symptoms: Air rushes in and out of gaps in sashes, frames, and dividers.
  • Cause: Cracked and pealing caulking, old weather stripping, loose sash, rotted wood.
  • Cost to repair: As little as $1.75 for a tube of painter’s caulk to seal gaps; weather stripping ($8/10 feet); or as much as $40-$250 to replace a sash. See above for rotted wood.
  • Repair or replace? Repair. Even if you replaced all the windows in your house with energy efficient windows, you’d only see an average of 7-15% savings on your energy bill. But if you seal the leaks in your windows, plus other leaks in your home, you can save 10-20% on your energy bills. But the real savings is the money you didn’t spend on replacement windows.
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