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Wood Window Repair: A Comprehensive Guide to Restoring the Beauty and Function of Your Home

Wood Window Repair: A Comprehensive Guide to Restoring the Beauty and Function of Your Home

Updated: 04.16.2024

By Nina Tsoy

If your home features beautiful wood windows, you know how much character and charm they add. However, over time, these windows can deteriorate due to exposure to the elements, paint buildup, and general wear and tear.

At Apex Window Werks, we understand the importance of preserving your home’s original character. Our team specializes in restoring old wood windows to their former glory through our expert wood window repair services. In this post, we’ll explore the process of reviving your wooden windows and the benefits of choosing restoration over replacement.

Signs You Need Wood Window Repair

Signs You Need Wood Window Repair

Before diving into the repair process, you’ll want to understand the signs that your wood windows need attention.

Here are some common indicators:

  • Sticking or drafty windows: This can be caused by warped sashes, worn-out weather stripping, or damaged glazing putty.
  • Cracked or rotting wood: This is a more serious issue that can compromise the structural integrity of the window and lead to energy inefficiency.
  • Difficulty opening or closing windows: This can be due to a buildup of paint, grime, or damaged sash cords.
  • Condensation between window panes: This indicates a failing seal, allowing moisture to enter the airspace between double-paned windows.
  • Visible gaps around the window frame: This can be a sign of rot or deterioration in the window frame itself.

The Wood Window Repair Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’ve decided to tackle DIY window restoration, know that the process is possible. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process.

The Wood Window Repair Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

  • Drop cloths
  • Putty knife
  • Glass scraper (if removing glass)
  • Heat gun or paint stripper (if removing paint)
  • Palm sander (with various grits of sandpaper)
  • Wood filler (for repairing minor rot damage)
  • Epoxy repairs (for more extensive rot repairs)
  • Glazing putty knife
  • Glazing points (if replacing window panes)
  • Linseed oil or another wood preservative
  • Oil-based primer (if repainting)
  • High-quality paint or stain (suitable for windows)
  • Caulk (for sealing gaps around the window frame)
  • Replacement sash cords (if needed)
  • Replacement weather stripping (if needed)
  • Vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter

1. Safety First

1. Safety First

  • Lead paint warning: Many older homes have windows painted with lead paint. Lead exposure can be hazardous, so it’s essential to test your windows for lead paint before you start any repairs. If lead paint is present, we recommend hiring a professional contractor certified in lead-safe work practices.
  • Wear protective gear: Always wear safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask when working on wood windows, especially when sanding or scraping paint.

2. Assess the Damage

Carefully examine each window to determine the scope of repairs needed.

Take note of the following:

  • Any damaged or rotted wood
  • Condition of the glazing putty
  • The presence of broken or cracked glass
  • Condition of the hardware and sash cords

3. Remove the Window Sash

3. Remove the Window Sash

Most repairs are easier to perform with the window sash removed.

Here’s how to remove a typical double-hung window sash:

  • Carefully pry off the interior trim on both sides of the window.
  • If the sash is painted shut, use a putty knife or utility knife to score the paint seam where the sash meets the frame.
  • Lower the upper sash and carefully lift it out of the window frame.
  • Release the sash cords from the sash and set the sash aside on a drop cloth.
  • Repeat for the lower sash.

4. Remove the Existing Glazing Putty

  • Score around the glazing putty with a putty knife to break the seal to make removal easier.
  • Carefully soften the old putty with a heat gun or with a small amount of chemical paint stripper applied directly to the putty.

Caution: If you’re using a heat gun, keep it moving to avoid scorching the wood, and be aware of the risk of shattering the glass.

  • Once the putty has softened, gently pry it away from the window frame with a putty knife, being careful not to crack the glass.

5. Repair Damaged Wood

5. Repair Damaged Wood

  • Minor rot: Scrape away any loose wood, and lightly sand the edges of the affected area. Apply a layer of linseed oil to help strengthen the fibers, then fill the damaged area with a high-quality wood filler.
  • Extensive rot: Use a sharp chisel or wood carving tool to remove all rotten wood (extend the removal area slightly into healthy wood for a stronger repair). After cleaning and sanding, apply linseed oil and rebuild the area with a two-part epoxy wood filler. Shape the epoxy carefully to match the original profile of the wood frame.
    If you often run into the problem of rotting window frames, check out our guide for repairing rotten frames.

6. Replace Broken Glass (If Needed)

  • Remove any remaining glazing putty and glazing points from the glazing rabbets.
  • Carefully measure the opening for the new glass pane.
  • Apply a thin bead of glazing putty to the glazing rabbets. Carefully install the pane by gently pressing it into the putty.

Important note: If you are not comfortable working with glass, consider hiring a professional to replace it. Wear heavy-duty gloves and safety glasses when handling any broken glass.

7. Apply New Glazing Putty

  • Knead the glazing putty to soften it.
  • Roll it into long, thin strips and press it into the rabbet around the windowpane, angling the putty with a putty knife for better water runoff.
  • Once the putty has set for about a week, it can be primed and painted.

8. Reinstall the Window Sashes

8. Reinstall the Window Sashes

  • Remove any loose or flaking paint with a scraper or a heat gun and a scraper.
  • Sand all the surfaces of the sash and window frame with progressively finer grits of sandpaper.
  • Apply an oil-based primer.
  • Apply several coats of high-quality paint or stain. Consider using a water-based paint for a more environmentally friendly option.

9. Repaint or Refinish

  • Remove any loose or flaking paint with a scraper or a heat gun and a scraper.
  • Sand all the surfaces of the sash and frame with progressively finer grits of sandpaper.
  • Apply an oil-based primer.
  • Apply several coats of high-quality paint or stain.

10. Seal Gaps

After completing repairs and restoring the finish of your wood windows, the final step is to seal any remaining gaps around the window frame. This is an important step to prevent drafts, improve energy efficiency, and enhance your home’s overall comfort.

Additional Tips for DIY Wood Window Restoration

  • Work on one window at a time: This keeps the project manageable and less overwhelming.
  • Test paint removal techniques: Experiment with different paint removal methods (heat gun, chemical strippers) on a less noticeable area to see which method yields the best paint removal results for your specific windows. Stripping paint can be a time-consuming process.
  • Restore original hardware: Clean and polish the original hardware whenever possible. If original hardware is missing or severely damaged, consider sourcing hardware appropriate to the age and style of your home.

Tips for Maintaining Your Restored Wood Windows

Tips for Maintaining Your Restored Wood Windows

Investing in the restoration of your windows is a wonderful way to preserve the charm of your home. With a bit of routine care, you’ll ensure they continue to look beautiful and function well for years to come.

Here are some simple ways to protect your restored windows:

  • Regular cleaning: Keeping your windows clean is a key. A mild soap solution or a glass cleaner formulated for historic or restored windows is perfect for the job. Just remember, gentle is best – always avoid harsh chemicals or anything abrasive.
  • Annual checkup: Set aside time once a year to give your windows a thorough inspection. Look closely for any signs of wear or damage, such as chipped paint, minor cracks, or indications of wood decay. Catching issues early saves you from bigger headaches (and expenses) later on.
  • Weather protection: If it fits your home’s style and budget, consider storm windows. They shield your restored windows from the elements and even boost energy efficiency.
  • Prevent moisture woes: Good ventilation in your home keeps excess moisture at bay. This is crucial, as moisture buildup can damage wood and paint.
  • Handle with care: Your restored windows deserve a bit of extra TLC. Open and close them gently to protect the sashes, hardware, and the frame itself.

The Average Cost of Wood Window Repair

The cost of wood window repair can vary widely depending on the extent of the damage, the size and complexity of the windows, and regional labor rates. However, it’s generally more cost-effective than replacing the entire window. In states like Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, you can expect the following average price ranges for different types of wood window repairs:

Repair TypeCost Range
Minor rot repairs$150 – $300 per window
Extensive rot repairs$300 – $600 per window
Sash replacement$200 – $500 per sash
Glazing replacement$50 – $100 per pane
Full window restoration (incl. painting/refinishing)$350 – $800 per window

It’s important to note that these are just average ranges, and the actual cost of your project may be higher or lower. For a more accurate estimate, contact Apex Window Werks to schedule a consultation. We’ll assess your specific windows and provide you with a personalized quote.

Why Choose Wood Window Restoration?

When you’re deciding to repair or replace old windows, many homeowners opt for replacement windows due to their perceived convenience and energy efficiency.

However, there are several compelling reasons to choose wood window restoration instead:

  • Preserving historic charm: If you own an old house with original windows, restoring them allows you to maintain the historic integrity and architectural style of your home. New windows often lack the character and craftsmanship found in historic wood windows.
  • Cost-effective solution: Restoring your existing windows is often more cost-effective than replacing them entirely. With proper maintenance and repair, your restored windows can last for decades and provide long-term value.
  • Environmental sustainability: By repairing and reusing your existing windows, you reduce the demand for new materials and minimize waste in landfills. Wood window restoration is an eco-friendly choice that conserves resources.
  • Improved energy efficiency: Contrary to popular belief, properly restored and weatherized wood windows can be just as energy-efficient as modern replacement windows. By addressing drafts, adding weather stripping, and installing storm windows, you can significantly improve the thermal performance of your windows.

When to Consider Wood Window Replacement

While repairing wood windows is often the most cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing option, there are situations where window replacement might be necessary.

Here are some indicators that replacement is the better course of action:

  • Extensive wood rot that affects more than 20% of the window frame or sash.
  • Cracked or broken glass panes that cannot be repaired safely.
  • Windows that are drafty and cannot be effectively sealed, leading to significant energy loss.
  • The historical significance of the windows is minimal, and the cost of repair outweighs the benefits.

Our Wood Window Repair Process

Our Wood Window Repair Process

At Apex Window Werks, our skilled craftsmen follow a meticulous process to restore your wood windows to their original beauty and functionality.

Here’s an overview of the steps involved:

  • Assessment and planning: We begin by thoroughly assessing the condition of your windows, and identifying areas of damage, rot, or paint failure. Based on this evaluation, we develop a customized restoration plan tailored to your needs such as discussing if a casement window or sash windows need extra attention.
  • Paint removal: Using a combination of hand tools, a steam box, a heat gun, and safe chemical strippers, we carefully remove old paint and glazing putty from the window sash, frame, and sill. Rest assured that we take precautions to protect your home from lead paint dust and debris, including using a HEPA vacuum while cleaning up.
  • Wood repair: Once the paint is removed, we inspect the natural wood for signs of rot, cracks, or other damage. We use epoxy repairs, wood filler, and selective wood replacement to restore the structural integrity of the window components.
  • Glazing replacement: If necessary, we remove the glass and replace it with new, high-quality glass. If the original glass is in good condition, we might recommend keeping it for historical authenticity.
  • Sash cord replacement: For double-hung windows, we replace worn or broken sash rope with new, durable ropes to ensure a smooth surface and eliminate sash sag.
  • Weatherstripping and insulation: To improve energy efficiency and reduce drafts, we install weatherstripping around the window sashes and add insulation to gaps and crevices.
  • Priming and painting: Once all repairs are complete, we apply a high-quality oil-based primer and finish with multiple coats of paint in your desired color. We use durable, low-VOC paints that provide lasting protection and a beautiful finish.
  • Reassembly and installation: Finally, we reassemble the restored window sashes and reinstall them in the frame, ensuring a smooth surface and proper alignment.

Your Wood Windows Deserve the Best: Call Apex Window Werks

Wood windows aren’t only beautiful but also an integral part of your home’s architectural charm. Choosing wood window repair and restoration means you’re preserving history, making a sustainable choice, and potentially saving money compared to full window replacement. The process may require some effort and skill, but the long-term rewards are undeniable.

Don’t let your beautiful wood windows fall into disrepair, especially if your house was built many years ago and the windows are a key part of its charm. Choose Apex Window Werks for expert wood window repair services in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. With over 15 years of experience and nearly 15,000 jobs completed, we’re proud to service your windows with care. Contact us today to get estimates or schedule a consultation, and learn how we can revive the charm and function of your historic windows.

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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