The popularity of HGTV has left many people eager to purchase and make a new mark on a home of their own. While many home renovation shows are entertaining to watch, they can also give a false impression when it comes to attempting DIY home repair and renovation projects. The truth is, it’s not always necessary to gut a house and start from scratch. In rare cases, such as in an historic home with original windows, replacement windows can decrease your home’s value. However, when attempting to restore windows, it’s important to consider the amount of work that it takes. It’s also important to realize that any restoration will likely be a temporary solution and will not increase the energy efficiency of the home.
So what’s a homeowner to do?
Before you start ripping out your home’s problematic windows, stop and evaluate the situation. In some cases, it can be more cost-effective to repair existing windows rather than purchase new ones.
When to Replace Your Windows
Replacing old windows with new windows can be costly, especially if you’re replacing all the ones in your home at once. There are times when it is possible to repair existing windows rather than invest in new ones. It can be a better aesthetic move to replace your windows, too, especially when you’re taking on an extensive renovation.
Why? Some windows have too much damage to repair or the window glass, sash and frame were never energy efficient in the first place. Other times, it’s cheaper to replace the window than go through the repair process if it can be repaired. Sometimes, especially in cases where you’ve undertaken an extensive renovation, it looks better to change the windows too.
No matter what the reason for replacement, new windows are one of the best improvements you can make to your home if you’re looking for a solid return on investment down the road. On average, homeowners receive approximately 74 percent return on their investment when they sell their home if they opt to replace older windows with newer, more energy-efficient models.
So how can a homeowner identify when it’s time for new replacement windows?
1. Water Leaks
Leaks can be tricky because they require homeowners to identify the source to determine the proper course of action. Often, a leak may appear to be coming through your window when it’s instead coming through a damaged window casing or a window seal that can’t hold up to a poor drainage situation. If your drainpipes or gutters are routing a lot of water toward your window, it might be coming through the seal and into your house. In these cases, it’s not the window itself that’s the problem. If you’ve ruled out those possible issues and there’s still water coming into your house through your windows, it’s time for a replacement.
2. Broken Glass
Whether it’s a tree coming through the glass during a severe storm or a wayward object, like a baseball, windows will break. In some cases, a pane of glass may shatter completely. Other times, the break may take the form of a large crack. In either case, a break can spell trouble if you have newer windows in your home. Why? Today’s double- and triple-paned glass windows are difficult to repair when they break — unlike their single-paned predecessors that are notoriously simple to fix when breaks occur.
Depending on the extent of the damage, you may be able to get away with replacing the sash, but this isn’t always the case, especially if that particular window or piece of glass has experienced problems in the past. A new window will be the best option.
3. Foggy Windows
This problem only applies to newer double- and triple-paned windows. When a window or sliding glass door begins to fog up, it’s a sign moisture is gathering in between the layers of glass. The area between the layers of glass is called the insulated glass unit, and it’s designed to stay permanently sealed, which means you can’t open the window to dry it out without permanently damaging the window. Unfortunately, a trained technician can’t do it either. Those layers are supposed to be sealed tight. The fog indicates that seal is broken, letting moisture in and the insulating gases out. The seal cannot be repaired nor the insulating gas replaced.
While you can find plenty of instances online of people claiming to have repaired their foggy windows, not much has proven to be effective, other than replacing the existing window. If you want the fog inside your windows to clear up completely and permanently, you’ll have to invest in replacements.
4. Reduce Maintenance
While there’s a lot to be said for maintaining what you have, keeping older windows in good shape takes time and dedication on the part of a homeowner. It means monitoring windows to detect cracks, leaks, or rotting frames. It means spending time repairing problems and finding solutions. If your windows are single-pane windows with corresponding storm windows, it means putting them down in the winter and up in the summer. Many homeowners don’t have the time or energy to pay so much attention to their windows, even ones that aren’t experiencing a lot of issues.
Opting to purchase new windows takes away the pressure of maintaining older ones. It frees homeowners up to focus on other projects or interests beyond home maintenance. And, in some cases, it can save money.
While it may be inexpensive for a homeowner to caulk around a window or make small repairs, sometimes windows need more professional help. If you have to call in a professional to repair or restore your windows, the costs will increase. In some cases, maintenance costs may ultimately rival the cost of a replacement. When this happens, it may be better to replace what you have.
5. Update Your Home’s Features
If you live in an historic neighborhood, your homeowner association (HOA) rules may have more strict guidelines for replacing windows, so be sure to consult with your HOA as rules can vary. However, most people don’t live in historic homes. For homes that are less than 30 years old — and already outfitted with more modern varieties of windows — it doesn’t make sense to put time and money into maintaining old windows. From a financial perspective, as well as a practical one, it’s better to replace your windows. As we mentioned before, this investment yields substantial returns in the long run, and it also gives you peace of mind in the present.
Perhaps you live in an older home but have the option to replace windows. If this is an option for you, replacement can add a uniquely modern flair to an historic property by showcasing the past in a crisp, new way. In rare cases, this can cause your home’s value to drop, especially if you choose not to keep with your home’s architecture. So, it’s important to consult with the correct design experts before replacing windows in an historic property.
When to Repair Your Windows
While there are certainly times when it will be necessary to replace windows, many homeowners are surprised to find there are ways to preserve and maintain their existing windows. The trend toward building “green” homes — eco-friendly, energy-efficient residences — has people wanting to make the most of what they have and avoid creating extra waste to be sent off to rot in landfills. And, since space for garbage is decreasing, there are increasing rules and restrictions in place about what people can throw away in the first place.
It will take attention on your part to regularly inspect and maintain your existing windows, but it can be an alternative to replacing all of your windows if you’re not concerned about gaining the energy efficiency benefits of newer technology. In some cases, what seems like a big problem can be a simple repair.
So, when should a homeowner opt to repair rather than replace old windows?
1. Air Leaks
Many homeowners assume if their windows are drafty, it’s time for new ones. There are a lot of reasons windows leak. In some cases, there could be leaks around the sash or between the window molding and the house sometimes as a result of a poor quality installation. These leaks sometimes can be addressed by replacing weather stripping or by applying caulk around the window trim for a new seal to block leaks. However, this would be only a temporary solution and still wouldn’t provide the same energy efficiency as technologically-advanced replacement windows would. It also does not address the loss of energy through conduction and radiation which are the biggest reasons for inefficiency.
Air leaks may happen in homes with windows that are older, single-pane models. In these cases, adding a storm window to the existing windows can help decrease the amount of air coming into and out of the windows. Storm windows cost less than new windows, which makes them an alternative to purchasing entirely new windows. They can also reduce noise slightly. If you opt for storm windows, you may see a slight savings on your energy costs, depending on what kind of openings the storm windows are covering, but not as much as energy-efficient replacement windows.
Storm windows need to be put up and taken down with the change of season, which does require quite a bit of effort. They also detract from the curb appeal of your home.
2. Historic Home
If you own an older home — typically one built before 1960 or one located in an historic district — it’s essential to know what you can and cannot replace on your home. In some cases, homeowners in certain historic districts are not allowed to replace windows, so you’ll have to opt for repair when problems arise, to maintain the architectural integrity of the home. These repairs are worth the cost because of the history associated with your windows and the home they protect.
Some of this is also because older windows — made of wood and glass — last longer than today’s versions. That is why older windows have, in some cases, lasted for 200 years. While it can be tempting to replace these windows as a quick fix, in some cases, you will be replacing sturdy, solid windows for a cheaper, inferior-quality product.
Besides the historic value of maintaining older windows, windows in houses built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. This paint was common in homes before 1960 and can become problematic when it gets disturbed and dust containing fragments of lead-based paint gets into the air. If you suspect your windows contain lead-based paint fragments, it may be safer (and simpler) to forego replacement and instead repair them as issues arise. While removal is possible in these situations, it’s risky and requires you to use a contractor certified in lead-safe practices.
3. Windows Won’t Open
Yes, it’s frustrating when your windows won’t open, but this isn’t necessarily a sign it’s time to replace them. In some cases, windows may have been painted shut. One of the benefits to painting windows shut is that it gives a weathertight seal during colder months. However, most homeowners want the option to open their windows at other times of the year. The good news is, it’s relatively simple to get rid of the seal from a bad paint job.
Windows can also become stuck shut when the sash has come off its track or the cord on the sash weight breaks. In these cases, repair is possible and does not require new replacement windows.
4. Poor Exterior Casing
If your window’s casing is rotten, loose, or missing in spots, it might seem like a replacement is in order, but wait before you buy! If the only problem with your window is a damaged casing, you can purchase replacement casing at your local hardware store or hire a professional company to correct the issue for you. Even in cases where the rot or damage seems extreme, there are sometimes ways to repair the damage without replacing the entire window.
Repair vs. Replace
In many cases, homeowners can follow these criteria to evaluate their windows and determine which steps they need to take. But, sometimes it’s not so cut and dry. Deciding what’s best for your home can be challenging.
If it’s time to do something about your windows, but you aren’t sure whether you should repair or replace, let the folks at Homespire lend a hand. Our goal is to offer long-term solutions to improve the comfort and security of your home. Contact us today to learn more.