When Window Glass Has to Be Replaced or Repaired

If windows look worn out, are drafty, or difficult to operate homeowners think about new windows. The often suspect the energy savings will help offset the cost of the windows. Replacing windows with the belief that the new windows are worth the cost because of energy savings is a mistake.

New windows are not the best option for reducing energy bills. Sealing the home’s air leaks is significantly cheaper and simpler than window replacement. More of an impact is made. If energy savings is the only reason for considering new windows, window repair is usually the smarter choice. A home having lots of vintage features may look out of sync with new windows. New windows could reduce the price of a home when the time comes to sell it.

Rotted Wood

Wood deteriorates when it is consistently exposed to humid and wet weather, is seasoned insufficiently, or primed or painted incorrectly. Sprinklers blasting windows on a regular basis cause rotted frames, sashes, and dividers that allow air leaks and water into the house.

If the damage is spotty, repairing is the best option. Replace frames that are thoroughly rotten. Be careful in your analysis. The damage may look worse than it is. The cost of repair depends on the amount of rot. Small areas patched with epoxy are repaired for approximately $25.

The cost of having a handyman replace a sill that is rotten may cost from $90 to $250, plus the cost of materials. To remove and rebuild a window costs as much as a window replacement. Window replacements have a range of $300 to $700.

Broken Panes

Abrasive cleaners, storm damage, and kids playing baseball can cause chips, scratches, and cracks in window panes. Some vinyl windows are relatively inexpensive to replace. Multi-pane custom, aluminum-clad, or vintage windows can cost a minimum of $500 apiece to replace. They should be repaired.

Replacement glass costs between $3 and $14. Installation can cost from $100 to $300. Vinyl frames or sash replacement costs range from $40 to $250.

Broken Seals

Heat-induced expansions and contractions destroy window seals. They promote condensation between window panes and expose insulating gas and low-emissivity coatings to the air. This oxidation causes streaks or foggy condensation between window panes which are referred to as ‘blown’ windows.

It is hard to save a pane when the seal is broken. Online reviews of gizmos promising to de-fog glass with valves or solutions have not been favorable. The permanent and most practical fix is to replace the sash or pane. Installing a new sash is an easy and quick repair that renews the window life and preserves the frame. The cost ranges from $40 to $250.

Hard to Operate Windows

Windows that do not operate or open smoothly should be repaired unless old window parts are impossible to find. Opening a window that was painted shut requires using a putty knife to break the paint seal. Old putty and paint are scraped and sanded. Hardware, balances, and tracks are cleaned. This process costs just pennies.

A handyman replacing the parts costs between $50 and $270. As a note of caution, a toxic lead paint was used to cover windows installed before 1978. For safety reasons, hire a professional to replace the windows.

Drafty Windows

Rotted wood, a loose sash, old weather stripping, and peeling and cracked caulking cause air to rush in and out of divider, frame, and sash gaps. These are repairable items. A tube of painter’s caulk used to seal the gaps, costs less than two dollars. Ten feet of weather stripping costs approximately $8.

Replacing a sash is similar to replacing rotted wood. The replacement costs between $40 and $250. Replacing all the windows in the home would gain a seven to 15 percent energy bill savings. Sealing window leaks and other home leaks save ten to 20 percent. The real savings is money not spent on replacement windows. Most window problems can be remedied with some sweat equity and a few dollars. The repair is likely to improve the window’s energy efficiency.

All-Wood Windows

Well-maintained wood windows can last a century or more. Left unpainted windows degrade quickly. Even after being neglected for years, the damage is often superficial. Window stops and sashes wear with age. They are prone to gaps that allow air to penetrate.

Penetrating epoxy can be used on rotted wood. Epoxy putty can fill holes in sashes and sills. They can be easily sanded and painted. The putty for a 3 X 5-foot window costs about $20. The paint and primer cost about $10.

The flexible shape of a popular spring bronze weather stripping, having a V-shape cross section, applies continual pressure to the sash and seals the gap permanently, while allowing the sash to move. Adhesive foam and tubular vinyl are other weather stripping solutions. Window restoration takes between three to six hours for each window.

Non-Wood Windows

Windows made of aluminum, fiberglass and vinyl last for a minimum of 20 years before they need to be replaced. The gaskets, sealing the sashes do not have the same lasting expectancy. Small rips and holes are repaired by removal of the sash and an application of silicone sealant.

Contact a specialty supplier or the window manufacturer for gasket replacements. Caulk any cracks or punctures in aluminum- or vinyl-clad windows to protect the wood core from water damage. Tighten screws at the corners of aluminum sashes. Coat the threads of the screws with a dry-locking compound designed for screws.

The cost of replacement parts and gaskets is only a few dollars. Repairs take an hour or two per window. Any repair to prevent air leakage yields energy savings. The worse the condition of the window, the greater the potential is for saving on fuel bills. Sealing a single window can save $14 to $20 per year. A couple of hundred dollars is the maximum likely to be saved. Not having to replace windows is the big savings.

7 Questions for Your Window and Door Installer

If you’re considering a window or door installation, don’t rely on a contractor’s slick website or flyer to select someone to work on your home. Instead, take the time to interview potential contractors. A few well-chosen questions can help you separate true pros from the many fly-by-night operations that populate the construction world.

One little-known technique for finding the right pro for your job is to ask questions that not only have a “face value” answer, but that also provide tremendous insight into the way that contractor thinks about their craft and their customers.

What’s Your Lead Time?

Construction is a seasonal business, and the time from contract signing to start of work can vary greatly. In addition, material selections such as custom sizes or non-standard colours can dramatically affect a start date. But when potential contractors answer this question, they’re not just giving you a timeline, they’re telling you how in demand their services are.

As you talk to contractors, you’ll likely find that most companies can start around the same time. But sometimes there’s one exception who can fit you in immediately. While it’s possible that they just had a cancellation, it may be that they don’t have enough satisfied customers to generate repeat business.

Similarly, be wary of a contractor who offers to move you up in the schedule in an attempt to close a deal. Remember that they’re not just talking about moving you up in the queue, they’re also talking about pushing someone else back. Ask yourself if they’ll treat you the same way once they’ve got your deposit check.

Who are your References?

If a contractor is hesitant to provide references, that should be an immediate red flag. Any reputable contractor should be not only willing, but actually proud to give you references for their work. Don’t be afraid to follow up and call the references directly. Most people are glad to show off their homes and let you know what they thought of the workers involved.

When you talk to references, don’t just ask what went well. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong on a window or door job, and it’s often far more useful to find out how a contractor dealt with these inevitable speedbumps than to hear about a job that was all smooth sailing.

Is Your Crew Trained to Work with Lead Paint?

If you have an older home, especially one built before 1970, there’s a chance that there are still traces of lead-based paint on the walls. If so, talk to your contractor about whether their workers are trained in lead safety.

Controlling lead dust during a window or door replacement isn’t terribly complicated, but this little bit of additional work can keep lead dust from spreading throughout your home during the work. The industry standard for remodelling work done on a home with lead paint is AS43612:1998 Guide to Lead Paint Management. Ask potential contractors if they are familiar with these guidelines and whether or not they follow them.

What Homeowner Prep is Required?

It’s important to have a clear concept of what, if any, preparation you’ll be expected to do for the installation. Will you be expected to move furniture out of the way? Will you need to move your car to make room for a dumpster in the driveway? If so, does it stay overnight or get hauled away at the end of the day? If you have pets, do they need to be regulated to one area of the home?

Your contractor should be able to tell you what to expect, or have a process that ensures you won’t have any surprises the day work begins. Asking about it now not only helps to set expectations, but will reveal whether your contractor has thought through the entire installation process.

What Happens if You Discover Structural Issues?

One of the biggest headaches that remodelling contractors deal with is guessing what problems hide behind walls. Windows and doors that look sturdy may be sitting next to wood framing that’s been damaged by insects or water exposure. As a result, sometimes when a window or door is removed, serious structural issues are revealed.

What you’re looking for with this question is a contractor who acknowledges that the unexpected can happen, and has a procedure in place for just such occasions. It doesn’t need to be fancy – a common procedure is to stabilize the structure so that it’s not an immediate safety issue, then contact the homeowner to discuss options and any additional costs – but it has to exist.

What Kind of Clean-Up Should I Expect?

Construction is dusty work, and even the relatively clean jobs of window and door installation generates a fair amount of mess. Ask your contractor how much cleaning they’ll do. Different companies have different standards on the final clean. Some perform what’s called a “construction clean” which means they’ll remove all the debris and give the work area a good sweeping. Others perform a “deep clean”, which can often leave a work site looking nicer than before they arrived. Either answer is acceptable, but you should have a clear idea of what to expect.

If the project will span multiple days, ask what condition the work area will be left in overnight. Any construction site that’s in-progress has certain hazards, but a dusty room with tools boxed up is very different from one with saw blades and nails scattered over the floor.

How do you Handle Warranty Calls?

The obvious reason that you’re asking this question is to make sure you’re not dealing with the kind of contractor who has a “taillight warranty” — one that expires as soon as you lose sight of their trucks. But even the shadiest of contractors won’t admit to delivering that kind of sub-par service. Instead, be on the look-out for vague assurances and overly optimistic guarantees to fix any problems at all, without any kind of end date.

Look for a contractor with a clearly stated, easily understood warranty process. Smart pros build potential warranty costs into their pricing. You may pay a little more up front, but you’ll have the comfort of knowing that you’re working with someone who’ll stand by their work.

It might well be that no contractor answers all your questions to complete satisfaction. But by asking a number of questions, you can build up a sense for their professionalism and trustworthiness. If you’re going to allow a contractor into your home, you deserve to know that you’re making the best possible choice.