Window Maintenance

By Cheryl Reed

September 21, 2013 4 min read

There are many things you can do to upgrade your windows so they look and work better and waste less energy.

Here are tips gathered by our consumer-services researchers, based on interviews with top-rated window pros:

New caulk or weatherstripping. If you feel drafts around your window frames, seal the area with caulk or weatherstripping. A variety of caulk and weatherstripping materials are available, and many will last a long time. But check annually to make sure they're holding up.

Check for cracks or gaps between the windows and siding or sills. Remove any old caulking before applying a new layer.

While caulking is great for fixed windows and frame areas, weatherstripping is ideal for movable joints, such as sliding windows or storm windows. Because there are many types of weatherstripping available — V-strip, felt and foam tape are just three options — do your research before buying anything. Some types of weatherstripping are best for window sashes, while others are better for sliding or double-hung windows.

Dealing with old windows. Windows made decades ago are usually built of hardwood and will function almost indefinitely, as long as you address problems as they arise.

To replace a broken rope pulley, remove the sash, detach the old cord from its weight, attach a new cord of the same diameter and reinstall the sash. The window stops must be reattached with finishing nails, and touch-up paint may be required. Properly maintained, rope-and-pulley systems are more durable than many modern spring methods and should last for many years.

Got an older window that won't open? Sometimes they've been painted shut. You can break the bond between casing and window sash by making several light passes over the seam with a utility knife. Inserting a putty knife blade into the seam and working it around the sash will separate the paint from the window.

Repairing window glass. Many problems with window glass can be repaired, either by a glass specialist or a window repair contractor. Here are common glass-repair projects:

—Pane replacement. Whether it's a large pane of glass in a picture window or a smaller panel in a French door, replacing a single pane of glass is often much less expensive than replacing an entire window.

—Cracks, chips or scratches. If a panel of glass is cracked or chipped, it's not always necessary to replace the entire pane. Special compound glass epoxies can fill in the crack or chip and then be buffed to create an almost seamless repair. Scratches also can sometimes be buffed out.

—Condensation or fog. As double- or triple-paned windows age, they lose their ability to keep an airtight seal between panes. This can lead to condensation or fogginess inside the window. Glass repair and window repair specialists can often remove this condensation and reseal the windowpanes.

—Rattling or buzzing. Windows that rattle or buzz with passing traffic or loud music indicate the glass panels have come loose from the sash or frame. A glass repair specialist can resecure the pane in its frame by adding a new layer of sealant or caulking.

If you see a small problem with windows, it's better to take care of it soon, before it becomes a real pain.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, the nation's most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. To find out more about Angie Hicks and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

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