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The extent and type of disrepair that your windows have endured are often the first indicator of whether to repair or replace them. Homeowners struggle with the choice because it can represent a significant amount of money, weighing the pros and cons of each against the costs associated with performing the repairs versus how much money they may save in energy costs over the long term. There are other factors that should be considered as well, including the age of the home, the condition of the sashes, the materials used in the construction of the home and the windows themselves, and obviously if anything is broken or cracked. These factors all play a role in deciding on repair or replacement of old windows.

Sometimes they may just look outdated and worn out, bringing down the aesthetic (and value) of the house in general. So here are some tips to help you decide on one over the other when it’s time to address the problem of old windows.

Reasons to Repair

Repair is usually the preferable solution to any window problem. Whether the window is drafty, not opening and shutting properly, or there are signs of deteriorated and rotted wood in and around the frames, all of these problems have the potential to be fixed instead of needing to be replaced fully. A general contractor in Los Angeles might incorporate new window installation in a bathroom remodeling project scope, for example, to get more light in the room or there are maintenance issues that need to be addressed.

But with the most common problems that are found with windows, there is most likely a solution that can be far less impactful on your wallet. For drafty windows, you may need something as simple as painter’s caulk to seal any gaps or broken seals that have emerged over time. Weather-stripping is also an inexpensive way to solve the issue. Some homes have windows that haven’t been opened in years due to them having been painted over repeatedly. The good news is, that window is properly sealed and you won’t have to worry about drafts, but if it’s a window that you would like to open up once in awhile a simple putty knife and some sandpaper can get it open again.

Broken elements, whether it’s a seal or a pane itself, are also more cost-effective to repair instead of replace outright. Putting in a new replacement pane and a sash could cost a few hundred dollars depending on the size of the window and the difficulty to fix, but repairing older windows that are vintage, aluminum-clad, and have multiple panes are usually candidates for repair instead of a full replacement.

The biggest culprit, however, is rotted wood. You may be thinking that’s a full-on replace over a repair job, but you would be mistaken. The amount of rot that you find in a frame or sash will determine how easy it is to repair or if it just needs to be redone entirely. You may find rot visible from the outside, but it’s better to rely on the opinion of a trained home improvement contractor to tell you how bad the rot has become.

In some cases, small areas of rot can be repaired with just a little bit of epoxy while bigger jobs may require some extensive repair work done by a professional. However, if the rot has really overtaken the wood at the frame, the sill, and so forth, then you are likely going to need to replace the window entirely.

Reasons to Replace

Major damage to the window is usually grounds for replacement, but you need to be careful how you do it and know what you’re dealing with before you start. New home construction in the 1960’s relied on the use of lead-based paint, which has since been banned as of 1978. But the homes from that era which still exist pose the potential for health-related problems when replacing windows that use lead-based paints. Replacing the windows will eliminate the potential health risks, but only if done properly as lead dust could be spread as a result.

Replacement is also the right choice when you want to update the look of your home. Bringing a modern aesthetic to an older dwelling can be achieved through window replacement. But if you’re an owner of a home that has some historic value there may be some restrictions to replacing the windows that drastically alter the dwelling in some capacity, and replacement may not be an option.

Finally, if there’s just way too much damage to make repair cost-prohibitive, then the decision to replace has already been made. You may have no choice in the matter if you’re going to continue living in the home, even less so if you’re attempting to sell.


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