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How To Repair Windows

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

Windows are generally low maintenance and many homeowners can go years without ever having a problem, but eventually just about everyone has a window that needs attention. Some window repairs are DIY-friendly and only need a few adjustments or some lubrication, but other issues may be beyond your abilities and a window contractor should be consulted. One of the traits of an experienced DIYer is being able to recognize when it's time to call in a professional.

Tips on how to repair windows

Most common window repairs fall into four categories:

  1. glass issues
  2. operation difficulties
  3. air infiltration
  4. water leakage

Glass issues usually involve cracks or fogging between the window panes. Both of these repairs should be left to a window contractor. Fogging can indicate that a seal on your double-paned windows has broken and moisture is getting between the panes of glass. If the window manufacturer is still in business, a new sash may be available and they are normally easy to install. A glass contractor can often replace the glass panes in older windows when the original company is a mystery or no longer around.

Window repairs for operational difficulties

It's not out of the ordinary for windows to be more difficult to operate during certain times of the year. Homes are affected by changes in exterior temperature and a window that's easy to open in December could feel very tight in July. Wax or paraffin on the edges of the sashes can often remedy this situation with wood windows and a light coating of a lubricant such as WD-40 on the sash edges may work wonders on the difficult to open vinyl windows in your home.

Windows that don't lock properly may simply need their tracks cleaned to allow the sashes to seat in place as designed. If this remedy doesn't work, small adjustments of the latches may help them line up correctly. Adding a small shim can sometimes help with height issues and locks can often be slightly shifted laterally.

Window air-infiltration remedies

The first step in stopping air infiltration is determining what part of the window may be the culprit. If you can feel a draft around your window trim, there's a good chance you're missing some insulation around the edge of the window. Removing the trim carefully and using a foam insulation can normally put an end to this problem.

Air infiltration that seems to be coming from the window itself may indicate that it isn't locking properly or that it's time to replace the weather seals on the sashes. Replacement weather stripping should be available from the manufacturer and can often be found at home improvement stores.

How to repair windows that are leaking

Most modern windows are designed to allow any rain water that enters the jamb or sill to drain to the exterior of your home. If you are getting water leaks around the bottom of a window, check that the drain holes aren't plugged up and that the bottom sash is seating properly when the window is latched.

Water leaks at the tops of windows can be a pretty good indicator of problems with your exterior window flashing or waterproofing membrane. Unfortunately, correcting this issue normally involves removing the siding material from around the window on the exterior of your home. This can be a DIY task with vinyl, wood, or fiber cement siding, but if you have a brick or stone veneer, it may be time to call in a professional.

Most window repairs are DIY friendly and just involve using a little common sense, but never forget that you're working around glass and one little slip can cause a serious injury. If you have any doubts as to your capabilities, don't hesitate to call a window or glass contractor.