Repair or Replace Windows: What to Choose in Your Situation

Repair or Replace Windows: What to Choose in Your Situation

Updated: 04.16.2024

By Nina Tsoy

The key to saving money on windows might not be what you think. Sure, new windows boast a fresh look and undeniable curb appeal, but is replacing all your windows always the most cost-effective answer?

Improved energy efficiency is a major selling point of new windows, promising lower heating and cooling bills. But how do you know if the initial investment outweighs the long-term savings? What about when your windows just need minor repairs?

In this guide, our team at Apex Window Werks will break down the key factors to consider when deciding between window repair versus replacement. We’ll help you assess the condition of your windows and determine the smartest investment for your home, saving you money without sacrificing comfort or energy efficiency.

To the untrained professional, unless a window is completely broken, it can be challenging to assess whether to opt for home window replacement vs. repair – that’s why we’re here to help.

Repair or Replace Windows: What to Choose in Your Situation

When to Repair Your Window: 10 Factors

Can windows be repaired instead of replaced? It depends on the damage. Here’s how to know when you should repair old windows instead of replacing them.

#1. Minor Cracks on the Glass

It’s best to repair cracked or broken glass panes as soon as possible to avoid further damage or injury. If you have a large crack, you should replace the window entirely but in case of minor cracks, your window can be easily repaired. Depending on the size and severity of the crack, it may be necessary to call a professional for broken glass repair.

#2. Single-Pane Windows

Single-pane windows can be effectively and inexpensively repaired by the homeowner or a glazier. These windows are made of a single layer of glass, making them easier to repair compared to multi-pane windows.

Common repairs for single-pane windows include replacing broken glass, fixing or replacing damaged muntins or mullions, and resolving issues with the window frame or sash. Repairing single-pane windows can help preserve the character of older homes and is usually more cost-effective than replacing the entire window.

#3. Broken Muntins or Mullions

#3. Broken Muntins or Mullions

Rebuilding rotting or split muntins and mullions that hold single-pane windows is necessary. Missing or brittle putty can also be mended by removing the glass, scraping the area, and replacing the putty. Afterward, the pane of glass can be held in place with new glazier points.

#4. Slow-Moving, Balky, or Stuck Sashes

When windows become harder to open, the likely cause is broken cords on sash weights, multiple layers of paint bridging the sash and frame, or the sash coming off track. For spring-type sashes, the spring may have failed or come loose, and this problem can be fixed by replacing the broken cords or repairing the spring mechanism. Most window sashes are attached to the window frame, and sash repairs should be done cautiously to avoid damaging the frame. Addressing slow-moving sashes can improve the functionality and energy efficiency of your windows.

#5. Missing or Damaged Drip Cap

The drip cap and the exterior shield at the top of the window can easily be repaired with a new rot-free, rust-free aluminum drip cap. The drip cap plays an important role in directing water away from the window, preventing moisture damage to the window frame and surrounding wall. If the drip cap is damaged, cracked, or missing, it can allow water to seep into the window frame and lead to rot and other issues. Replacing a damaged drip cap with a new aluminum one is a straightforward repair that can help protect your windows and extend their lifespan.

#6. Poor Exterior Window Casing

If the exterior casing of a window is loose, cracked, rotting, or missing, a window replacement may not be necessary. Homeowners can replace the existing casing with a primed wood exterior casing that’s easily found at most home improvement stores. Remember that primed wood isn’t weather-resistant, so it’s important to paint it quickly with exterior-grade paint after installation.

#7. Minor Water Leaks

When gutters and downspouts are clogged or improperly positioned, they can direct water toward the windows and put more pressure on the window seals. Window seals are meant to hold back water, but not water that has great force. Re-route your drainage system and see if this makes a difference. Minor water leaks around windows can often be attributed to issues with the home’s drainage system rather than the windows themselves.

#8. Rotted Frames

Rotten Frames

Signs of rot in window frames, sashes, and muntins can be a sign that water has infiltrated your house. This might occur due to improper priming or painting, aging, or persistent damp and humid weather. Restoration is possible if the damage is localized; however, the frames will need to be replaced if the rot is extensive.

#9. Worn Caulking

If you notice any cracks or gaps in the caulking around your windows, you should repair them as soon as possible. Worn caulking can cause air and moisture infiltration which leads to mold growth and damage to the surrounding walls and frames. It also reduces the energy efficiency of your windows. Nobody wants a higher energy bill!

#10. Difficulty Opening and Closing Windows

If your windows won’t open or operate correctly, there’s likely a problem related to the sashes being painted shut, dirt and debris accumulating in the track and balances, or broken hardware. The best approach is to repair the problem unless it’s impossible to locate parts for the older windows, which should be replaced.

Window Repair Features

Window Replacement Features

Window repairs offer a smart alternative to full replacement. They’re budget-friendly, quick, and can improve your home’s appearance, energy efficiency, and safety. Let’s explore the advantages and trade-offs to consider.

The Advantages of Window Repair

  • Low cost: Window repair can often be a much less expensive option than replacing the entire window, so it’s beneficial for those on a budget.
  • Efficient: In many cases, window repair can often be completed quickly, minimizing the disruption to daily routines.
  • Enhances appearance: Patching broken frames, glass, or other materials can improve your home’s aesthetic.
  • Improves insulation: Window repair often seals up cracks or seams in the window frames so air doesn’t escape, improving energy efficiency.
  • Durability: By repairing any damage to the windows, they can last longer and potentially extend the life of the entire window.
  • Preserve value: Quality window repair can save you money in the long run, as it helps maintain the property’s value.
  • Increases safety: Broken windows can be a security risk, so window repair can improve the safety of your home by keeping would-be intruders out.

Disadvantages of Window Repair

  • Time: Even minor repairs can take quite a bit to complete, leaving the windows unusable.
  • Complexity: Repairs may require removing large sections of frame and glass to assess and fix underlying issues, making the process much more complex.
  • Matching style: It can be challenging to find an exact match in window styles and finishes, leading to a mismatch that can be noticeable, especially when it comes to repairing wood windows vs. replacing them on old heritage buildings.
  • Energy efficiency: Poorly sealed windows can cause air leakage, significantly reducing energy efficiency.
  • Uneven wear: Repairing one window may lead to wear and tear on other home windows and result in additional repair and upkeep.
  • Structural integrity: Repairs can compromise the structural integrity and safety of windows and lead to potential safety risks.

When to Replace Your Window: 10 Factors

When to Replace Your Window: 10 Factors

Replacing your windows maintains a comfortable and efficient home. It can also be a major investment, so it’s important to know when to replace your windows instead of trying to fix the existing ones.

Here’s an overview of the factors that necessitate full window replacement.

#1. Damaged Glass

Damaged glass is one of the most common reasons homeowners need to replace their windows. If the glass has a large crack or multiple cracks, the structural integrity of the window may be compromised, making it more susceptible to further damage or even shattering.

So, while minor cracks or chips can sometimes be repaired, more severe damage often necessitates a full window replacement.

#2. Foggy Windows

Fogged-up windows are caused by water condensing inside the double or triple window panes. Unfortunately, these IGUs are permanent and cannot be dismantled, so the only solution is to remove and replace the foggy windows entirely. In some circumstances, the panes of individual IGUs can be ordered from a glass company (like ours at Apex Window Werks) and replaced.

#3. Structural Problems

If the window’s frame and exterior show signs of wear and tear, it’s time to purchase a new window. In some cases, the area around the window might also be in disrepair, including the studs, sheathing, siding, and wall insulation. This would require a new construction window, as opposed to a replacement window, and would mean that parts of the wall would also need to be rebuilt.

#4. Poor Window Casing

#4. Poor Window Casing

The damaged casing can be replaced with primed wood exterior casing found at most home centers. Low-maintenance vinyl and PVC products are alternatives to wood. If the casing is damaged, cracked, or rotting, it can allow air and moisture to infiltrate the home. As a result, this reduces energy efficiency and potentially leads to further damage. Replacing damaged casing with primed wood or low-maintenance vinyl or PVC products can improve the appearance and performance of your windows.

#5. Major Water Leakage

If you notice water entering your home around your window, it may be an issue with your exterior window casing. This means you would need to fix the house’s exterior rather than the window itself. Should the damage come from the window, it may be time to consider replacing the windows.

#6. Drafty Windows

Drafty windows cause air leaks, and your home loses valuable heat during colder months, resulting in higher energy bills. Repairing a drafty window reduces condensation buildup and improves indoor air quality.

#7. Damaged Balance

If your windows are hard to open or won’t stay open, it’s time to inspect your window balance and consider whether you need to repair or replace windows. Signs that you may need a replacement window balance include broken cords, rusted or worn-out springs, and/or snapped springs.

#8. IGU Gas Leakage

#8. IGU Gas Leakage

Window unit IGU gas leakage is sometimes, but not always, related to the problem of foggy windows. But the IGUs can leak gas and still not develop fog. When the gas is gone, the window’s insulating properties dramatically drop. Insulated glass units (IGUs) are sealed window assemblies that contain a layer of inert gas, such as argon or krypton, between two or more panes of glass. This gas helps improve the window’s thermal performance by reducing heat transfer.

#9. New House Purchase

A new house purchase coupled with a commitment to remain in the house for at least another 10 to 20 years is enough to justify window replacement. It’s a smart purchase early on in your ownership of the house that pays off in the long term.

When you purchase a new home and plan to live in it for an extended period, replacing old, inefficient windows can be a wise investment. New, energy-efficient windows can help reduce your energy costs, improve your home’s comfort, and enhance its overall appearance. By replacing windows early in your ownership, you can enjoy these benefits for many years to come, making it a cost-effective, long-term solution.

#10. You’re Ready for a New Look

When you’re ready to give your home a new look, replacing your windows is a great place to start. During the replacement process, consider your desired aesthetic and research your options on the market. Additionally, upgrading your windows can increase your home’s value, which may be beneficial if you decide to sell your property in the future.

While some may prefer a traditional look, others appreciate the sleek design of modern windows. Various window frame styles are available, so you’ll find one to fit your needs.

Window Replacement Features

Window Repair Features

When considering window replacement for your home, be sure to understand the various advantages and disadvantages associated with this significant investment. Our team has outlined some pros and cons.

Advantages of Window Replacement

  • Improved home aesthetic: New windows can dramatically change the look of your house, both inside and out.
  • Increased property value: Energy-efficient and updated windows will increase your home’s value.
  • Improved energy efficiency: New windows will drastically reduce energy loss and save you money on utility bills.
  • Better insulation: New windows can prevent drafts and allow for better insulation to make your home more comfortable.
  • Reduced noise pollution: Double-pane or triple-pane window glass can help to reduce outside noise.
  • Enhanced ventilation: Newer windows are designed specifically to allow for improved ventilation.
  • Stronger security: New windows come with an assortment of locking mechanisms and design features that will increase the security of your home.

Disadvantages of Window Replacement

  • Cost: When it comes to window repair vs. replacement cost, the latter can be expensive – it may require the labor and cost of professional installers.
  • Time: Replacing windows may take a lot of time, as all new windows need to be measured, cut, and installed accurately.
  • Disruption: Installing the new windows will involve some level of noise, debris, and disruption to the flow of daily activities.
  • Decrease in property value: Depending on the quality and style of the replacement windows, the property’s value could decrease due to the replacement.
  • Special considerations: Replacement windows may not fit or work correctly with existing window treatments or framing; so additional materials and considerations may be needed.

Repair vs. Replace Your Windows: Let’s Make the Decision!

Whether your windows look tired or are no longer functioning effectively, you’ll want to weigh the options carefully before choosing between a window repair vs. replacement.

Besides obvious window damage, you should also consider the following:

FactorWindow RepairWindow Replacement
SustainabilityOld windows were designed to be repaired, reducing waste and preserving resources. However, they may be less energy-efficient.New windows are more energy-efficient but have a higher ecological cost due to manufacturing and materials used.
RecyclingWood frames are biodegradable but may not be as energy-efficient.Modern materials like uPVC and aluminum, as well as glass, can be recycled, offering a balance between efficiency and environmental sustainability.
Labor CostRepairing and maintaining old windows can be time-consuming and costly due to the difficulty of finding replacement parts and performing meticulous maintenance.Although the initial cost may be higher, new windows require less maintenance, potentially saving time and effort in the long run.
Window AestheticsMaintaining original windows can preserve the home’s traditional character and curb appeal.Replacing windows offers the opportunity to update the home’s style, improve natural light, and enhance views, with options to complement or transform the existing architecture.

The choice between repairing and replacing windows depends on your values, preferences, and the specific context of your home. If you prioritize ecological sustainability and historic preservation, your choice may lean towards repair. If you value energy efficiency, lower maintenance, and modern aesthetics, you might prefer replacement.

Each path offers its own set of benefits, underscoring the importance of a thoughtful decision-making process tailored to individual needs and the unique character of each home.

Want to Make the Right Choice? Consult Local Window Professionals at Apex Window Werks!

No matter your window issues, it’s always smart to seek the advice of an experienced individual. Consult a window specialist to determine an appropriate action plan for your residence. Either an uncomplicated repair or a complete window replacement is the solution.

At Apex Window Werks, we believe in providing comprehensive insurance coverage and superior craftsmanship that suits any budget. Our services in IL, WI, MN, and OH states prioritize repair over replacement and guarantee customer satisfaction in every job we do. We’re fast and reliable and produce high-quality work that will benefit you for years to come.

Contact us for window repair vs. replacement help.

Nina Tsoy

Nina Tsoy

With over 15 years of experience in the window repair, replacement, and manufacturing business, Nina is in charge for strategic solutions and exceptional operational performance at Apex Window Werks. This allows her to offer innovative techniques and solutions to address any window-related problem, all while adhering to industry standards and best practices.

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