How to Decide Whether to Repair or Replace Your Windows

How to Decide Whether to Repair or Replace Your Windows

Small Projects and Repairs
By Dikran Seferian December 21, 2021

A window that is leaking, cracked, or faulty in a certain way can make you wonder whether to repair it or to replace it altogether. In many cases, homeowners will most likely go for a replacement. One factor that might turn the choice into a dilemma, however, is the cost involved. Since installing new windows may require you to break the bank, repairing them might be the way to go. The only issue is that a simple fix isn’t always feasible. Knowing which problems call for repairs and which ones warrant a replacement allows you to take the most suitable course of action for your windows.

When to Have Your Window Repaired

Glass is Cracked

The decision of how to deal with a cracked window comes down to safety and aesthetics. In other words, a window with cracked glass is not only a visual nuisance but can also pose an injury hazard. In many cases, simply replacing the glass should be enough. If your window is single-pane, for instance, having only the glass replaced is both effective and inexpensive. You can expect to pay an average of $13 per square foot for tempered glass. Multi-paned windows with cracked glass, however, may require replacing the sash — which may cost $175 at the very least. But if this issue is just one of many that have been persisting for quite some time, you may want to look into a new window.

What to Do If Your Window Pane is Cracked

What to Do If Your Window Pane is Cracked

Drip Cap is Missing or Rotten

The outside shield at the top of your window is the drip cap. It is not uncommon for this component to deteriorate over time or to fall off altogether. Fortunately, this is not much of an issue and involves an easy fix that you can carry out yourself. Rot and rust-free aluminum drip caps are available at most home centers for less than $20. Simply nail it into place, caulk the edges, and your window will be good to go.

Exterior Window Casing is Faulty

A window with an exterior casing that’s loose, cracked, rotten, or even missing can be unsightly and prone to damage. However, you don’t need to replace the entire window just because of a damaged casing. You can find primed wood casing at your local home improvement store for as little as $5 — PVC and MDF varieties are also available for nearly the same price range. Simply remove the faulty casing and install the new one. If you opt for primed wood, make sure to paint it directly afterward as it is not weather-proof.

Sashes Are Stuck or Balky

A common issue among older windows has to do with upper or lower sashes that won’t open. In many cases, the culprit is faulty painting; multiple layers of paint may have adhered the sashes to each other. A buildup of dirt and grime among the components of the window can also contribute to a balky sash. The sashes may have otherwise shifted off the track.

If you can’t raise the sash, it could be due to broken cords on the sash weights. In the case of spring-type sashes, you may be dealing with a malfunctioning spring — which can be typically repaired. Whatever the cause, a stuck sash can usually be repaired by replacing the faulty component. You can also prevent this issue by cleaning your windows on a regular basis.

Minor Leaks

If you notice water in the direct vicinity of the fenestration, it is most likely coming from around the window, not through it. Gutters and drainpipes with poor draining can be pushing water towards the window — and window seals can only hold back so much water. Re-routing the drainage system may solve the issue. You may also want to check the window seal for any signs of deterioration.

Common Window Issues That Involve a Simple Fix

Common Window Issues That Involve a Simple Fix

Muntins or Mullions are Damaged

Muntins and mullions are the bars that hold single-pane window glass. If these components are broken or rotting, you may need to have them rebuilt. However, you can easily repair the ones with frail or missing putty. Carefully remove the glass, scrape the area clean, apply fresh putty, and fasten the glass back in place with new glazier’s points. Faux muntins and mullions, however, cannot be replaced. These are usually designed for visual effect and do not influence the functionality of a window.

When to Have Your Window Replaced

Windows Are Foggy

The condensed water inside of a double or triple-pane insulated glass unit (IGU) can cause the window to become foggy. Nowadays, windows consist of built-in and self-sufficient IGUs which are sealed and permanent — unlike older multi-pane varieties where the glass is fixed into place by a glazier. This means that even experienced window technicians can’t disassemble and rebuild an IGU, making it an all-or-nothing replacement project. In certain cases, however, you could order an individual IGU window pane and replace it. This may cost anywhere between $100 to $800 on average including labor.

It is worth mentioning that a small number of companies specialize in repairing foggy windows. The process involves basically drilling tiny holes in the glass, removing the moist air from the unit, and resealing the glass again. Although this is possible, the companies that actually provide this service are hard to find. It is also more practical to have the sash or window replaced.

Replacing a Foggy Window is the Most Practical Option

Replacing a Foggy Window is the Most Practical Option

Structural Issues

A failing outer structure of a window calls for a replacement. In certain cases, the area surrounding the window may also be in poor condition. This includes the siding, the stud, the sheath, and the insulation. Besides replacing the window, this issue may warrant having parts of the wall rebuilt as well. In this case, you may want to consider a new-construction window instead of a replacement. The former is essentially designed for clear openings in the wall that have no trim or siding in place. Expect to pay anywhere between $125 to $400 for a new-construction window.

Major Leaks

If water is leaking excessively around the window, you may be dealing with a faulty exterior casing. Usually, this is more of an exterior issue as a whole rather than one that has to do with the window itself. Should the water prove to be leaking through the window, however, you may want to consider having it replaced. The price to replace a window can range from $100 to $650 — with an additional $100 on average for labor. Bear in mind that you may be paying even more to repair water-damaged flooring.

How to Deal With a Leaking Window

How to Deal With a Leaking Window

Panes Are Broken

A serious case of window damage is a broken pane. This can be the result of thrown projectiles or harsh storms. In any case, it is an issue that you need to fix without delay. A window with a broken pane can pose a safety hazard to you and your family. Moreover, it is detrimental to the heating and cooling system of your home. In the instance of a well-preserved window frame, installing new glass panes might be the go-to option. Otherwise, it might be time to pick up a new window.

Windows Are Drafty

A drafty window can be due to one of several causes. A cracked or peeled caulking, for instance, can allow for outside air to seep in. If this is the case then you’re in luck; fixing the issue involves simply applying new caulking along with the gaps. However, if the cause is an aged weather stripping, a loosened sash, or wood rot, then the only solution is to replace the window. 

Seals Are Damaged

Another common issue you may notice is a broken or deteriorated seal. Fluctuating temperatures, as well as time itself, can eventually take their toll on this component, causing it to deteriorate. In the case of multi-paned windows, a ruptured seal might be the result of condensation. Each time the seal dries after a fog, its quality disintegrates even more. This issue is one of the most irreversible since the window pane will be difficult to salvage. Replacing the whole window may be the only suitable course of action.


Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian