Repair or Replace? What To Do About Old Windows

Windows - Repair or Replace?

If you own an older home, there’s a good chance you’ve debated whether or not to get new windows. Perhaps they’re inefficient, or inoperable, or rotting. Maybe they’re all three. Either way, you know you need to do something. Problem is figuring out the better of two possible solutions: to repair or replace.

When it makes sense to repair your windows

As the saying goes, “they don’t make things like they used to.” The same can be said for windows built before the post-war housing boom. And while they’re not as efficient as modern windows, they’re typically far more durable. You could replace them, but there are a couple reasons you might not want to.

First, it might be prohibited. In many instances local building codes restrict you from replacing windows in historic homes. In these instances, replacement isn’t an option. If you can replace them, you’re often restricted to doing so with a historically accurate window. As you might imagine, historically accurate windows aren’t cheap. Compare repair costs of about $300 per window to replacement costs of $1000+ per window, and it’s easy to see why many go the repair route. This also allows you to make repairs on a window-by-window basis as your budget allows, rather than replacing all of your windows at one time.

Second, repairing windows is better for the environment. Keeping the windows you have keeps them out of the landfill and cuts down on the waste and energy consumption associated with the manufacturing process. If sustainability is important to you, repairing them will be your greenest option.

The case for replacing your windows

The most common question a homeowner has regarding new windows is whether or not they’re worth it. That depends. Do your current windows barely open or have rotted frames? Are they drafty and prone to excessive condensation? More important, will you be staying out for the next ten years? If you answered yes to any of these, new windows make sense.

For one, windows that don’t open are a safety hazard, especially if there’s a fire. Second, drafty windows drive up your utility bills and diminish indoor air quality, while excessive condensation could lead to wood rot and mold growth. Last but not least, new windows can boost your home’s curb appeal and value.

So, how much can you expect to pay? If the window frame is intact, you can expect to spend between $300 and $700 per window, including tear out, disposal and installation for most standard window sizes. As you might imagine, custom windows are more expensive, often $1000 or more per window. Keep in mind that these costs do not include replacing the window frame. Expect to spend up to twice as much per window if you need to replace the frame, too.

Making the right choice

Given the costs involved, it’s easy to understand why so many homeowners get stressed out about what to do. Our recommendation is to clearly define your needs and weigh your options against your budget and acceptable payback period. More times than not, the numbers will guide you to the right decision.

If you are ready to move forward with your window project, HomeAdvisor.com’s ProFinder tool will help you find screened and rated window pros in your area.

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