Window replacement advice

Author: Evergreen Home Inspection |

Blog by Evergreen Home Inspection

This warrants inclusion here as you may, as a new homeowner, be faced to keeping the existing windows or having them replaced. Below are the reasons to replace and not replace windows. (You may not get this feedback from a company selling new windows).

When to keep the existing windows? Intact and operable single glazed windows with decent combination storm units (or interior storms) do not warrant replacement on heat loss grounds. If the existing windows are reasonably tight-fitting – or can be made so through weather-stripping, the energy savings from window replacement are not large. They are often minimal. As the cost of new windows typically runs anywhere from $300 to $800 per unit, the payback in energy savings will very often be 30 to 50 years.

Higher quality wood windows - often with sash cords - can be weather-stripped and very often refurbished to provide years of use. Many (not all) of the single glazed wood windows with storm units that were installed in the 1960’ and 70’s are also in good shape. These simply do not warrant replacement on energy grounds. All but the most decrepit windows can be weather-stripped and tightened. Another point: single glazed windows won’t suffer from the breached seals (and fogging) that afflicts double glazed units. The combination storm units provide the second layer of glazing,

Importantly, many older single glazed wood windows are architecturally appropriate and just look better. They can last far longer than most new replacement windows (which very often need repairs or replacement after 25 or so years.

Why and when to replace?. Not all existing windows warrant keeping. Deteriorated, substandard units or those with loose glass, damaged (and non-fixable) hardware come to mind. Having worn out, loose, rattily sashes that don’t keep the drafts or the noise out can be good reasons for replacement. If the windows have deteriorated glazing putty this takes a lot of effort (either time or money) to repair properly. You can learn to do this, but it takes a bit of time to be become proficient). Dealing with peeling paint on the inside or exterior can be a chore. Another point: Many older windows will have lead paint – especially on the exterior. If you need to deal with lead paint issues just have the windows replaced. Windows with operability problems, damaged hardware, or that are just worn-out warrant replacement. Lastly, new vinyl, fiberglass, and composite windows will reduce street noise. Installing quality windows, if done at the right price – and respecting the architectural appearance of the original windows – will mean less maintenance and should increase the value of the home.

Our advice is to evaluate the existing windows. Are they solid wood units that are reasonably tight-fitting. Are they architecturally attractive. Are the storm units in good shape. Don’t make immediate decisions. Don’t replace good windows if there is nothing wrong with them; you won’t save a lot of money. Some older windows warrant keeping; others do not. Get cost estimates on repairs from a window repair specialist if you are thinking about keeping the existing windows. Get estimates from contractors who install quality brands if decide to replace the windows. Your home inspector does not get into replacement decisions. The basic concern is whether the existing windows are functional, have intact hardware, or show specific defects.