Window replacement doesn’t become a household priority until a specific concern makes it immediate, like poor energy efficiency, security, or soundproofing. For the most part, we spend our time looking through windows—not at them. It’s a counterintuitive habit, though, since so much of a home’s comfort, aesthetic, functionality, and energy consumption are tied to its windows.
According to data from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), a window can last up to 40 years, depending on its construction material, fitting, usage, surrounding climate, and yes, maintenance. Four decades. That’s a lot of time to put anything on the back burner and gradually forget its importance. The problem is, most homes feature single and double pane units since they’re the most accessible and affordable, compared to contemporary offerings like vinyl or fiberglass windows. On average, single and double hung windows have a lifespan of 10-20 years. Now we’re down to a single decade—maybe two if you choose a quality manufacturer and product.
Window depreciation is a gradual process, but its effects can compound quickly—and in a variety of ways, from mounting utility costs to mold and mildew growth, which ultimately affects indoor air quality. It’s best to identify troublesome unit vulnerabilities early, and the only way to do that is to understand their telltale signs.
While this article intends to highlight those, you shouldn’t misread its overall thesis as, “If you have any of these issues, call a window company immediately!” While not as costly as roof repair or replumbing, window replacement is a sizable-enough investment to be cost-prohibitive for some. As such, we’ll also provide D.I.Y. troubleshoots to ensure that your window issues are not based on external factors, like inclement climate or worn weather stripping. The goal is to give you the largest body of information to help you determine if it’s actually time to replace your windows.
To start, let’s look at some of the most common window concerns, and how these should inform your decision to invest in replacement windows.
CONDENSATION BETWEEN GLASS PANES
First, it’s important to note that in-unit condensation is not directly tied to a window’s age. In some instances, older and less energy-efficient windows won’t have newer insulation features, like a spacer system or an inert gas fill. As such, older units are more susceptible to interior condensation, but at the same time, aging, drafty windows won’t condense as much since the airflow around them evaporates moisture before it collects.
In-unit condensation indicates excess humidity, either inside or outdoors. Homes in particularly humid regions, or areas prone to drastic temperature changes, may experience this issue more often, especially after cooking, showering, or running dishwashers and dryers. If you notice condensation in your windows during or shortly after a period of heightened humidity, it’s best to wait and see if the problem resolves itself after said humidity dissipates.
In-unit condensation may also point to a seal failure. Inspect your window frames for cracks, and reapply caulk or weather stripping, if necessary. However, if the condensation within your windows never seems to clear, and you start to notice moisture running down neighboring walls, peeling wallpaper, or pungent, musty odors, you may be dealing with a more chronic issue that requires window replacement.
AIR LEAKS AND DRAFTS
Most articles on this topic point to drafty windows as prime candidates for replacement, but in many instances, the issue is with the unit’s insulation or glaze. First, start by confirming where your air leakages are, if any. Seal your doors and windows, close off vents, and turn off exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom. Once you’ve done so, light a stick of incense and run it along your window frames to see where the smoke flows.
If you identify an air leak, inspect the unit for large cracks or gaps. The latter will be your best indicator of whether you need new windows since it forecasts potential unit warping or shrinkage, which may result from an improper window installation. If you can’t spot any apparent drafts, try applying a new glaze or weather stripping to see if it resolves the issue.
Unless your home is full of picture windows, you need your units to easily open. Inoperability most commonly indicates that a window is aging, but there are several other causes that require no more than a little elbow grease. For example, build-ups of dust, dirt, or other debris along the frame of single and double hung window can create friction along the rail over time. Instead of having a window company replace it, you could apply a solvent-free, non-silicone lubricant to the rail and clear any obstructions.
The same troubleshooting can be done for sliding windows, as well as hinged units, like awning and casement windows. In the case of the latter, inoperability issues could also be caused by loose or stripped screws. If you find it’s too difficult to open and close your windows, certainly consider each unit’s age but don’t become immediately convinced that replacement windows are the answer—especially if the units in question are relatively new. However, if the problem persists through regular upkeep and maintenance, it may be time to make a change.
EXCESS NOISE POLLUTION
Most types of glass have poor noise-reducing properties, so this isn’t the most conclusive metric for determining whether your windows need replacement; but when paired with some of the other signs we’ve profiled, this factor would be more decisive than it would be in a vacuum. Multi-pane windows are the most effective at noise cancellation, so if you have a home full of single pane units and you believe replacement window installation is in order, make sure to take a long at our double hung window selection and triple-pane offerings.
If a little outside noise isn’t enough for you to make a large home investment, there are several stop-gap solutions, such as polyurethane shutters or soundproofing window blankets crafted from quilted fiberglass. It bears remembering that window replacement is still the most effective and comprehensive solution since these D.I.Y. strategies will, at most, mitigate the issue—but not eliminate it entirely.
Exposure to excess moisture and precipitation is always a concern, regardless of window type, since it can lead to gradual frame warping, improper fitting, interior energy loss, and the growth of mold and mildew. If your windows or their surrounding walls are weeping, you won’t have a lot of time to deliberate about possible causes and the need for replacement windows. This issue presents one of the strongest signs that it’s time to contact your local window company.
The effects of overly porous windows can be immediately debilitating and costly, but if you’re intent on fully evaluating the issue before investing in replacement windows, you could do a series of basic inspections, like checking to see if your window sills are pitched sufficiently enough to direct water away from your exterior. The best course of action, though, is investing in multi-pane, energy-efficient windows that halt airflow and heat transfer within the unit.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WEST SHORE HOME’S ENERGY-EFFICIENT WINDOWS
There are ways to manage and mitigate the issues discussed above, but doing so only provides a short-term solution that will just prolong your window maintenance issues. To learn more about best window inspection practices or how to update your home’s design, efficiency, and security with contemporary energy-efficient windows, make sure your first call is to West Shore Home—Pennsylvania’s most-trusted window company and home solutions provider. Call us today or submit our online contact form to request a free, no-obligation project estimate!