Ask the Expert

Windows: repair or replace?

Q: How do we decide whether to repair or replace our old windows? Any tips for evaluating our windows to determine if they should be saved or thrown away? What signs should we look for?

That depends on what the problems with the windows are. Generally speaking, older windows that are double pane with fogging or condensation between the panes can have the insulated glass units replaced. Windows that aren’t opening and closing properly are usually not repairable as replacement hardware can be impossible to find. Often, the wood frames have twisted or warped as they aged and that can prevent them from opening or closing properly. Twisted or warped window frames aren’t repairable.

Windows that suffer from icing or condensation on the inside during the winter can be improved if the glass is replaced with upgraded modern double or triple pane glass with low emissivity coatings. If the windows are single pane, aluminum frame, or don’t open and close properly, it is usually best to replace them.

Replacing your windows will typically get you vastly improved thermal performance with tighter seals and no drafts and significantly reduced maintenance. Plus most manufacturers back up their windows with lifetime warranties. However, the cost of replacing windows is significantly higher than repairing them. To make sure they’re worth repairing, look for signs of decay in the window frames – peeling paint, cracking and splitting of exterior wood are all telltale signs that the frames may be too far gone. Check for smooth operation of opening windows – most of the time if you can’t get a window to lock closed, it is because of a twisted or warped wood frame. Good paint, no rot or cracking, and good function of operable windows are all signs that it may be worth replacing glass. If in doubt, call an expert. Most reputable window and glass companies will provide a free inspection and estimate on either replacing the glass or replacing the whole window.

Steve Stich is the owner of Neighbors Windows & Doors in Anchorage and has been working in the industry for 17 years. Visit neighborsak.com.