Homeowner Blues: Replacing Windows After 10 Years
Replacing Windows After 10 Years
It would be a pretty good bet in our eyes to think that the majority of windows we replace or windows we’re called out to look at would be for homes built before the 1980’s. After all, we’ve been taught that windows should last 40+ years with only the occasional replacement part that would need attention – maybe a sash lock broke or window crank stripped out. We looked back to see if there was a pattern in the appointments we ran based on the age of home, elevation exposure (North or South facing), and type of window (casement or double hung). The results were surprising to us and we wanted to give an overview of the results.
Overwhelmingly, the majority of homeowners we are visiting have homes less than 25 years old, but the surprising part is the sheer number of homes that are barely 10 years old that desperately in need of new windows. There are a ton of factors that could be influencing these failures, but there is a pretty simple standard equation we hear – “Our builder saved us money on the windows” and “Anyone can put in a window”.
Causes of Premature Window Failure
- Window Framing Material
- Glass Construction
Installation – The number one issue we see is incorrectly installed windows. During the recent housing booms the construction labor market was very tight. Window might seem like an easy item to install, but over time alignment issues can start to present. We often see windows so out of square they don’t even operate correctly or windows that have incorrect flashing and are fastened improperly. These aren’t easily correctable issues because a builder grade window is fastened through a flange on the exterior that requires the removal of siding or stucco to reconfigure. In most cases of installation failure, we recommend replacing the entire unit.
Window Framing Material – We’ve previously discussed the merits of different types of framing materials for windows, but it’s important to address relative to premature replacement. Windows as a whole, independent of framing material, perform fairly similarly out of the box. The real testament to long-term performance is the 10, 20 and 30 year tests that can provide insight into aging and overall quality. There was a tremendous influx of vinyl products into the marketplace in the 90’s and that trend has continued well into the 2010’s. Vinyl has proven to be a poor performer in the long-term and many of these manufacturers have exited the market leaving homeowner stuck with inoperable or under-performing windows. In fact, the number vinyl windows installed has continued to grow.
Additionally, some metal-clad wood windows have suffered from design flaws that allowed water to penetrate behind the metal through condensation and ultimately cause significant rot. This typically has been presenting itself in a 6-15 year window. It’s tough to help someone understand that their windows have completely failed when their home is 10 years old.
Glass Construction – Some manufacturers, like Andersen and Marvin, purchase glass from major suppliers that have a commitment to long-term performance. Some, however, assemble their own glass “packs” in their facilities, saving them a lot of money and sacrificing a lot of quality. The failure rate from in-house assembled glass is staggering. Driving around neighborhoods from the 1990’s and 2000’s, you’ll notice the oxidized Low-E coating in between the insulated glass panes on many homes. Depending on the severity of failure and how the window was assembled, it may or many not be able to be repaired. Insulated glass failures make up the majority of our calls overall.
Exposure – Depending on the direction your home faces, you may or may not be more susceptible to window failure. The high expansion properties of plastic vinyl windows cause it to be a poor choice of construction for high sun exposure (East and West facing) as well as homes with little to no overhang. The hot/cold cycle eventually causes vinyl to become brittle and ultimately distort. High exposure afternoon sun locations can see surface temperature rise above 160 degrees on some window exteriors which is the point of distortion for white vinyl.
Building for the Long Haul
At Great Plains Windows and Doors, we have adopted a similar long-term approach to Andersen Windows: build to last. It’s not a secret that we don’t like to go back to projects. We like to do it right the first time. In so many cases, we are already going back to fix a problem created many years ago and we look at it as our responsibility to make sure you don’t have to go through another window replacement project.
Is 10 years too soon to be replacing windows? You bet. But when we looked back at the calls we’ve made in the past year, the majority of homeowners are in the suburban Twin Cities metro area for 2 major reasons. 1) Window failure rate is high between 1990 and 2007 and 2) Homes built in this time have a lot more windows overall which increases the overall exposure to failure.
If you are in the unfortunate scenario where your windows are failing prematurely in the St. Paul and Minneapolis area, give us a call so we can give you a prescribed solution to dealing with the issues at hand.
If you need some help looking at a patio door and evaluating it or coming up with a replacement patio door solution in St. Paul or Minneapolis, look no further than Great Plains Windows and Doors. Our residential window experts are here to help. Find out more at www.GreatPlainsWindows.com or call us today at 651-207-4571.