When Should You Replace
Your Home Windows?
Hint: You Don’t Start By Looking At Your Calendar
We tend to take our windows for granted, even when they aren’t working properly. That window isn’t broken; it’s just hard to open. And, yep, that one over there is the one with the crack. Be careful; that sill is loose. No matter the situation, we accept our window issues with the occasional shrug and adapt our habits to match the limitations of each window.
While this laissez-faire attitude is normal to virtually every household with aging windows, it costs you money every single day. Age may be a factor in whether or not you replace your windows, but other factors are more important.
What Is A Window?
The sash, panes, and sill are the most familiar parts, but they aren’t the most important. The sheathing, drip cap, head, and sub sill keep air and water from getting around, under, or through the parts you know best. They protect the rest of the window from rot and your home from insects and the air outside.
There is also insulation around the portion of the frame hidden from your eyes. All of these things can age and are subject to damage from poor installation, weather extremes, and misuse, all of which may have occurred long before you purchased your home. Simply eyeballing your windows will tell you little about their condition since your walls and siding hide so many inner workings.
Indications Of Failure
While there are obvious issues like the loose sill, cracked glass, and stubborn sashes I mentioned above, these occur long after the more difficult to see issues come into play. More subtle signs of trouble include:
- Peeling interior paint
- Watermarks below the sill or along the sides
- Stiff areas where the sash takes additional force to move up or down
- Ice or frost forming in the home anywhere around or on the window
- Mold forming in the home anywhere around or on the window
All of these are signs of water infiltrating the window system. At the least, you need to have the window system resealed and may need to replace the entire unit.
Lifespan Of Windows
The average lifespan of a window is 20 years. This doesn’t mean that the window suddenly fails to open or that the glass is no longer any good. The lifespan is mainly concerned with the seals of your window system breaking down and making them less efficient.
Sometimes you can get away with just spending some time with a caulk gun, but more often, it’s the seals between the panes that fail. When that happens, and you have more modern windows, you can simply replace the glass insert instead of the entire window system.
The most significant effect your older windows can have on your life is through higher energy costs due to heat loss/gain. When your windows allow air into your home or simply let the outdoor temperature bleed through the panes. Your HVAC system has to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. This extra effort results in higher energy bills no matter the season.
Replacing older windows with modern multi-paned window systems will save you hundreds of dollars in energy costs every year. It will also make your home more attractive to homebuyers allowing you to ask for a higher price when you sell.
Types Of Windows
Modern windows come in several varieties at multiple price points. Prices vary between manufacturers, so we will stick with low, middle, and high when referencing cost. Significant differences are the number of panes, what is between the panes, and the type of material used for the entire system.
Multi Pane Windows
Windows are available in the following generalized configurations (we are leaving single pane windows out of the equation due to their lack of efficiency):
- Double Pane – Two panes of glass with a single insulating air barrier between the panes. Low cost.
- Gas Double Pane – Similar to double pane but with an inert gas between the panes to increase the insulating effect and prevent moisture from getting between the panes. Middle cost.
- Triple Pane – Three panes of glass with two insulating barriers between the interior and exterior panes, respectively. Almost always filled with inert gas. High cost.
Windows are made from just a few materials, each with its weaknesses and strengths. Most have to do with longevity, flexibility, and visual appeal. You can get windows made from the following:
- Vinyl – A sturdy material that stands up to the weather. Coming in every color you like, so long as you only like white. You can paint them to match your home but will require periodic repainting to keep a clean look. Low cost.
- Fiberglass – An exceptionally durable material that ignores the elements. Since it is made of glass fibers, it expands and contracts in concert with the glass panes, which keeps the seals good and tight at all times. Fiberglass windows are available in many colors, will take paint, and can even be made to replicate the look of wood. Middle to high cost.
- Wood – Wood windows are, hands down, the most beautiful option. They also require a lot of maintenance to keep them looking that way. They are often used to maintain the original look of older homes while increasing the home’s energy efficiency. High cost.
So, When Should I Replace My Windows?
The easy answer is: If you are asking the question, there’s probably a good reason, and you should at least get your windows inspected. If you feel cold spots near your windows or notice they aren’t as clear as they used to be or have trouble opening them, or notice any of the issues we mentioned earlier, you should consider replacement windows. At the very least, you need some repair work done.
If your windows are over 20 years old or are single-paned, replacing your windows will make your home much more efficient and save you money on your energy bills. Whether your reason is function, efficiency, or beauty, replacing your windows will solve the issue for decades to come.
Have you been thinking about replacing the windows in your Central Massachusetts home? If so, contact Solid State Construction, and we will help you go over the options that best fit your home and your budget.