An often raised concern among homeowners is when to replace windows. If you’re wondering whether to repair or replace windows, you’ll need to consider where the problem lies and how severe it is. If the glass, sashes or frames of your windows seem damaged, worn or ineffectual in any way, that could be a sign that you need new windows.

Then again, you might be wondering — are replacement windows worth the cost? This will depend on the condition of your windows. You might wonder whether it would be best to replace the entire window or the glass.

Fact is, the repair cost of window glass alone could equal the price of a new set of windows if it’s too difficult to remove the panes from the sashes. Likewise, the cost to restore old windows could be an unwise investment if a new set of windows would be stronger and less expensive.

Reasons to Replace Windows

The best time to replace windows would be whenever you see one of the following problems emerge.

#1. Rotting Wood


One telltale sign that you need new windows is when rot sets in along the wood that surrounds the glass. Rot is typically the result of water exposure, and windows with poor paint jobs are often susceptible. As the paint wears off or cracks in certain spots, water seeps in and molds start to form. The water could stem from rainfall or stray lawn sprinklers.

You can commonly find wood rot is in the following places:

  • the frames — along the outside due to rainfall or sprinkler exposure
  • the sashes — on the inside, where rain has crept in when the window is open
  • the dividers — same as with sashes

If you catch the rot early on, the spots could be patched and repainted. The damage can often be more advanced and detrimental to the structural integrity of the wood than initially meets the eye. In most cases, the cost of repairing the wood or replacing certain parts is liable to cost more than a new window set. Therefore, you should replace windows with rotten wood.

#2. Broken Panes

The most glaring instance of window damage is when a pane gets broken. Whether there’s a chip, crack or gaping hole through the pane, this is the kind of problem that you need to rectify immediately. Stray baseballs and thrown projectiles often cause cracks and holes, yet damage of this sort can also be the result of harsh storms.

In some instances, you might not have an all-out crack or hole, but the pane could have scratches that compromise the integrity of the glass. Problems such as these are most often the result of abrasive cleaners. In any case, replace any compromised glass.

When only the glass has damage, you don’t necessarily need to replace the entire window, but it could be the easiest option. If the window frame is vintage and well–preserved, an installation of new glass panes would be the best option. If the glass within a cheap set of vinyl frames has cracks, a replacement of the entire window would be the most practical choice.

#3. Broken Seals

Another common place of wear and tear on windows is along the seals, which can crack or break as time and temperatures take their toll. Between double panes, seal ruptures are often the result of condensation, which occurs when fog forms along the glass. As instances of fog reoccur, the heat within your rooms will cause the dampened seals to expand and contract. Each time after the seal has dried, its integrity is rendered just a little more compromised.

Broken seals are among the more irreversible problems along windows as a whole. With the seal broken, the pane is difficult to salvage. Simply put, it’s hard to separate seals from glass panes, and remove the latter from the frame just to fit new seals. Consequently, a broken seal means that it’s time to replace the window altogether.


#4. Stubborn Windows

If nobody has opened a window for many years, you might find that it won’t even budge when you try to crack it open for a gust of fresh air. It could be a case of expansion/contraction between the sashes and frames, which can occur over time as passing seasons take their toll. In cases like these, your best option is to replace the window.

In other cases, a window might refuse to open because the sashes and frames have been stuck together by layers of paint. Alternately, dirt or grime along the tracks could bond the two components.

In the components are bonded by paint, handy tools designed to cut through paint layers can fix the problem. Granted, the frames and seals could get damaged if someone doesn’t handle this job carefully. If bonded window components cannot separate without causing damage, yet the individual parts are too old to be replaced, the best option is to buy new windows.

If the windows existed before 1978, they could be covered with lead paint, in which case it’s best to hire a professional for paint removal.

#5. Drafty Windows

While some windows refuse to open, others have the opposite problem. You might close a window that’s been open all summer, only to find that air keeps slipping through. Alternately, a window that you never open might lose its ability to insulate your room. In either case, it’s likely down to gaps between the frames, sashes and dividers. A drafty window situation is usually due to one of the following factors:

  • cracked or peeled caulking — a sign that it’s time for maintenance
  • old weather stripping — common on older homes in extreme climates
  • loosened sashes — typically caused by years of opening and closing
  • wood rot — the consequence of moisture over time

The first of these problems is easy to remedy with a new application of caulk along the gaps. The other three problems would indicate that it’s time to have your windows replaced. If the sashes have grown old and worn, the cost of replacing them could equal the cost of a total window replacement, in which case the latter would be the most sensible option.


Granted, if you live in a vintage house, replacing the original windows with modern alternatives could compromise its market value. Therefore, you’ll want to assess the overall value of the windows if you ever need to decide on a partial or full replacement.

Improved Window Materials

One of the main reasons that people get replacement windows is because the newer windows mean superior materials. Over the last 20 years, the frame and sashes material have made window sets far stronger and more durable. Whereas older homes had wood frames, newer homes often use frames made of vinyl and fiberglass.

Vinyl. One popular choice among modern homeowners when it comes to replacement window frames is vinyl, which has a sleek surface and bold visual appearance. Vinyl window frames are often made in white or black, as well as in assortments of neutral colors that can either blend in or complement a wide range of interiors. Vinyl windows provide rooms with strong insulating qualities, which makes vinyl a financially savvy and eco-friendly choice among homeowners who wish to save on their electricity.

Fiberglass. Another common choice for windows in modern homes is fiberglass, which can be made to resemble many different things, including wood. However, fiberglass is a considerably stronger material that can handle the elements and maintain its structural integrity through years of harsh winters and intense summers.

Due to its sleekness and ability to insulate, fiberglass is popular as a replacement window option in homes built within the last few decades. At the same time, wood–looking fiberglass has been used in vintage homes to replace old rotting wood frames while maintaining the architectural integrity of such homes.

Wood. As one of the oldest materials for window frames, wood remains a popular choice among traditional homeowners. Some of the oldest houses standing have featured the same wooden frames for many decades, if not a century or more. Simply put, wood window frames have stood the test of time as a stable and reliable feature on homes.

However, wood frames need proper maintenance for the material to remain strong and intact throughout the years of your occupancy of a home. If the wood doesn’t have the proper treatments, mites can eat away at the wood, and saturation from rain and moisture can cause mold to form along the surfaces. Therefore, it’s crucial to have wood window frames coated and recoated every few years to ensure their integrity.

Whether you opt for windows with frames made of vinyl, fiberglass, wood or some other material, it’s important to see this as a long-term investment in the quality, comfort and aesthetic appeal of your home.  To that end, place quality over price when you select new windows for your home.

Replacement Windows are an Eco-friendly Option

Newer homeowners are generally in the market for more eco-friendly options when it comes to home improvement. In keeping with this trend, double–paned windows have become an increasingly popular choice.

With double–paned, Energy Star–rated windows, rooms are better insulated. This allows you to ease up on your HVAC system because your windows are less liable to leak warmth in the winter or leak air-conditioned air during summer months. With the reduced use of your HVAC system, there’s less of a carbon footprint emitted from your house. This can be especially important in climates where temperatures are exceedingly hot or cold, depending on the time of the year.

The heightened insulation of double–paned windows also comes with financial–friendly benefits, because the less you rely on your HVAC system, the more you save on your monthly energy bills. When considered over the span of the average residential occupancy, these savings can be substantial.

Should I Replace My Windows if the House Is Old?

If your house existed before 1960, it could originally have lead-based paint. Even though people couldn’t legally use lead paint after 1978, its presence remains in many older homes, in some cases under layers of subsequent paint coats.

When it comes to the windows in older homes, lead paint is a cause of concern due to its dusty particulates, which can be dispersed into the air when sashes are opened and closed. The effects of lead dust can be especially harmful to children.


Replacement windows can eliminate the risk of lead dispersal when sashes are raised and lowered. However, when you have windows replaced in an older house, lead can circulate through the house as the project takes place. As such, the project of window replacement in these and other homes should always be handled by a licensed contractor.

Should I Replace the Original Windows in an Older Home?

The windows on a home can be one of the details that defines the overall identity of the façade, as well as the interior. On a Victorian-era Painted Lady, for example, the window frames are among the standout features that distinguish this design style from homes built in recent decades. As such, these windows are one of the key details that give houses in this category such high market value.

If there’s something wrong with the windows in your vintage home, determine first whether the problem is with a pane of glass, or if there’s a problem with a frame or sash. If the latter is the case, determine whether the problem is one spot, or if the whole window is an issue. As long as the problem is only in one specific area, inquire as to whether you can have that one part replaced with a stylistic match before you go for a full replacement.

If you must have a set of windows replaced in an older home, try to get an exact stylist match to the preexisting set of windows, as this will help maintain the home’s market values. Of course, you might have no intentions of ever reselling the home, or simply wish to change some of the architectural details regardless. Either way, you might want to speak to a preservation commission in your area for secondary input on the matter. 

How Often Should You Replace Windows?

How many years do windows last? As long as you take care of your windows, they should remain in optimal shape and provide comfort and insulation to your home for at least a quarter-century.

When you need replacement windows in Pennsylvania, Garrety Glass is the window expert. For the last two decades, we’ve provided windows with a lifetime transferable warranty, as well as sunrooms that have a 50-year transferrable warranty. For a free estimate on high–quality windows in a variety of styles, contact Garrety Glass today.