We love light-filled rooms and beautiful views. But inevitably, our windows will let us down. They will stick, they will leak, and they will let in unwanted drafts. Whether to replace or repair them, that is the question.


Types of Windows and Frames

Knowing the type of windows is the first step. That will help you to understand what to look for in terms of repairs and replacements.

  • Awning windows are horizontal top-hinge windows that swing outward.
  • Bay windows have 3 panels at an angle that create an alcove.
  • Bow windows have 4-6 panels and are like bay windows.
  • Casement windows are hinged at the side and crank to the outside.
  • Single slider windows slide horizontally in one direction.
  • Double slider windows slide horizontally to either the left or right.
  • Single hung windows have the top sash fixed in place, with a bottom that slides up and down.
  • Double hung windows have both the top and bottom that slide up and down.


Window Wellness Check

An annual window inspection is a good idea to flag problems before they become expensive repairs or replacements. Schedule a time each year, such as when you replace your smoke detectors, to do a window checkup.

  • Check that your window opens and closes easily, and that your window locks.
  • Check the weatherstripping to make sure it’s intact and even all around.
  • Open the window a quarter of an inch or so. Make sure the opening is even across the bottom of the window.
  • Inspect panes for cracks and signs of moisture.
  • Check screens for rips or holes.
  • Check for signs of mold or mildew.
  • Aluminum windows: Check corner welds and exterior caulking. Make sure opening mechanisms are well lubricated.
  • Wood windows: Check the caulking on the exterior between the siding and the window frame. That’s where potential problems can arise. Regularly paint and seal the exterior finish and interior finishes.
  • Vinyl windows: Check exterior caulking and opening mechanisms.


Common Problems and What to Do About Them

Following are some common problems that you may encounter with your windows—and some guidance on whether to repair or replace.

  • Sticking/Not Opening

Windows are meant to be open, and when that doesn’t happen, it can be frustrating. If your window doesn’t open easily or at all, consider the following.

Repair: Some wooden windows are painted over so many times that they don’t open. Other times, dirt, dust, and pollen get lodged in the tracks. You can try removing the debris or paint and lubricating the tracks.

Replace: Aluminum windows that have broken corner welds are nearing the end of their lifespans. Similarly, steel frames that have deteriorated due to rust need to be replaced.


As windows age, your seals and caulk can dry out, leaving gaps. This can lead to water leaks when it rains.

Repair: Go around your window and reseal any cracks with caulk and weatherstripping. Almost all windows have bottom “weep” holes where water can drain out. Do not caulk over these holes. Otherwise, water can be trapped in there, freeze, expand and crack the window frame.

Replace: In some cases, windows can be defective and need to be replaced. In addition, if the leak has occurred for some time, the water may have caused the wood frame to rot.


If it’s cold outside, you don’t want to feel it through drafty windows. Check that you don’t have any openings and where you can, add extra protection.

Repair: Apply weatherstripping to your windows. Reglaze loose panes.

Replace: You can replace single pane windows with double pane windows that do a better job of blocking the heat of direct sunlight and still let the light come in.


Foggy windows could be a sign of expensive repairs to come so you’ll want to address this problem right away.

Repair: Condensation could be due to lack of ventilation. It can soak into the window trim and damage it. It can also lead to mold. You can try a dehumidifier with the windows closed to see if that eliminates the fog.

Replace: Fogging between double pane glass panels cannot be fixed and must be replaced. See the section on soft wood if the water has gotten into the wood.

Sagging Casement

Casement windows can be heavy, and the hardware must be strong enough to hold up over time.

Repair: You may notice the downward movement of the window sash on casement windows. You’ll need to reset the windows and replace the hardware.

Replace: While you can replace worn out crank mechanisms, you’ll need to replace them if they are bent or worn.

Soft or Rotted Wood

You may notice dampness and a darker color on the wood around your window. That could mean it’s structurally unsound.

Repair: When wood is soft to the touch, it is a sign of rot. Flashing protects the window frame from moisture, so make sure yours is not damaged or missing.

Replace: When water leaks into the walls, it can cause a more significant problem. It can attract carpenter ants, termites, and bugs. It can also affect your walls and foundation. Replace any rotted wood right away and eliminate the source of the moisture.


What You Need to Know About New Windows

New windows can boost your energy efficiency and help you save on heating and cooling bills. They can reduce exterior noise, increase security, and improve the look and value of your home.

However, new windows can cost $450-$1,400 per window or more. That means it’s expensive to replace all of them at one time. Also, even if you find a close match, new windows will look different. Consider replacing just a few on the same side. Ask about warranties. You will want protection that cover glass replacement up to 20 years.

Finally, your home is one of your greatest investments. Protect it with the right insurance for added peace of mind.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

California Casualty

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