How to Shop for Old Window Repairs

By Vernon Trollinger, November 27, 2017, Energy Efficiency, Home Improvement, Save Money

While most homeowners love their homes, not every home is perfect. There are one or two things the homeowner would like to change, such as an outdated bathtub for a new walk-in shower or updating the look of their kitchen. And then there’s occasional “uh-oh” of the unexpected repair. We’re going to identify several projects and some of the ins and outs of what you can expect.

How to Shop for Old Window Repairs | Bounce Energy Blog

How to Shop for Old Window Repairs

If your home has old double hung windows installed before the 1960s, you know that keeping them in repair and functioning well can be an ongoing battle. Depending on how well-made the windows are, how well they were installed, and how well they were maintained over the years, these windows can leave you stuck with all sorts of problems — cracked glass, crumbling window glazing, thick coats of paint that stick sashes to stops or jambs, broken or missing counterweight sash cords, and rotting sills. The whole thing might look to you like a mountainous disaster. I once owned a home built in 1926. All but one of the double hung windows had an access hole cut into it for the sash counter weights. My wife and I called that one window the “Friday Beer-Thirty Window.”

Not only do these older windows look bad once their parts start to deteriorate, but you could also experience drafts and other issues that might increase your energy bill.

Fortunately, these old wooden double hung sash windows are actually easy to repair. Most were made with stock sizes of moulding lumber that you can get at your local home center. That means window parts like parting strips and stop beads that have broken or warped can be easily matched and replaced.

If the sash rattles or doesn’t completely close, then it’s drafty and letting in moist outside air. Most windows built before 1980 were not equipped with weatherstripping. For old double hung windows, you can help them close snugly by adding weatherstripping.

How to Repair a Rattling Window Sash

  1. Clean the area. Start by cleaning out any dirt, dust, or gunk from the window jambs and along the sill.
  2. Add weather stripping. Next, add weather stripping to areas where you find drafts leaking through. Self-adhesive foam weather stripping is inexpensive and easy to apply— but it’s not always the right kind. You’ll want the right weatherstripping for the right job, and make sure it’s also the right thickness.
  3. Remove excess paint. Sash windows shouldn’t rattle but firmly press against parting strips. Thick coats of paint with noticeable drip bulges will prevents this so you might need to remove the sash and sand the places where the window and parting strips touch.
  4. Adjust the stop bead placement. You can also firm up this joint by removing and adjusting the placement of the stop beads on either side of the sash.

How to Shop for Old Window Repairs | Bounce Energy Blog

Because walls, windows, and doors all expand and contract at different rates, windows and doors are installed to “float” inside the rough opening of the building’s framing, held in place by wooden shims. Still, it leaves open space around the window that lets outside air and moisture leak into your home. If you have air leaking around the window frame, that means these gaps need sealing.

How to Repair Air Leaks Around the Window Frame

  1. Remove trim and debris. Start by removing the outside trim and fascia boards from around the window. Remove any old insulation, rags, and paper, as well as dirt, dust, and loose wood. A wet/dry vac can be a big help.
  2. Insert a backer rod. Next insert a backer rod into the gaps as far as it will go and cover it over with silicon caulk. If you find the gaps are wide and deep, then use expanding foam. You don’t want to use the big-gap type expanding foam because it can actually bend and distort the window frame. Fortunately, there are insulating foam formulations that expand just enough to seal the space.
  3. Trim the excess foam. Once the caulk or foam has hardened and cured, trim off the excess so that it is flush with the wall.
  4. Install a drip cap. Next, install a drip cap across the top of the window to shield the window assemble from rain. Drip caps are available in a variety of sizes, so know your window size when you go shopping. New windows are installed with aluminum flashing or a gasket to keep rain water from getting into the wall. While flashing around an existing window may not do a 100% effective job at keeping out moisture, it can help reduce drafts. An easy-to-use window and door gasket is made of butyl that comes in rolls and goes on like tape. Start by putting one strip below the window all the way across. The next two go on either side of the window and the final strip runs all the way across the top.
  5. Reattach the trim and fascia boards. 

The glass in old single-paned windows is kept in place with a combination of tiny metal “glazer’s points” and glazing putty. Glazing putty is a mixture of talc, powered limestone, and any number of petroleum solvents. When cured, it’s rock hard does a great job of sealing out the weather. But when glazing putty gets old and dries out, it loses cohesion and crumbles. If the glazing is crumbling on your old windows, you need to replace it. Unfortunately, glazing a window takes some practice to do the job right. Otherwise, it can look hideous.

The alternative is use 100% silicon caulk.

How to Repair Window Glazing

  1. Remove the old glazing. First, remove the crumbling glazing putty with a sharp-edged chisel. You shouldn’t have to push hard, just let the chisel’s edge do all the work. Also, be careful to remove any old glazing points.
  2. Insert new glazing points. Once the glazing putty is removed, insert one or two glazing points for every 2’ of glass. Carefully push these in place with a flat screwdriver or putty knife.
  3. Use caulk. Lay down two beads of silicon caulk right next to each other where the glazing was. Then, use a putty knife at 45° angle to smooth the caulk into place along the entire bottom edge of the window glass. TIP- Spit once or twice on the blade edge of the putty knife before you use it to smooth the caulk. The little bit of saliva prevents the caulk from adhering to the putty knife and helps leave a smooth finish. You could also use your finger, but that tends to get a bit messy.
  4. Let dry. Most silicon caulk formulations take 5 to 10 minutes to “skin-over” and then up to several hours to set depending on ambient temperature.
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