Is Window Repair Worth Your Money?

Is Window Repair Worth Your Money?

May 6, 2024
Martin Whitmore, President of US Window & Door
Woman with her arms out weighing whether to repair or replace her windows

Are your windows leaking air, cracked, rotten, dingy, or just plain old? Wondering if you should invest in window repair or replacement? Worn-out windows can affect your home's value, appearance, and energy efficiency. Installing new windows can be pricey, with whole-house replacement costing an average of $7,000 to $18,000. But when you factor in the benefits of replacing them, it just might be worth the money you'll spend. 

Depending on the damage your windows have endured, repairing them may not always be the wisest option. Sometimes, repairs can cost a significant amount compared to simply having your windows replaced by a professional Milgard window dealer. A repair job might not last nearly as long or offer the same advantages as brand-new windows, such as improved energy efficiency, enhanced home security, reduced dust and allergens, and a fresh new look.

If your windows have lost their looks, they may be crying out for a facelift. And some cases might require even more than that. So, if you're wondering if window repairs are worth the money or if repairing a window is better than replacing, we've got the experience to help you decide. Our quick guide below answers some of the most common questions regarding window repair vs. replacement.

When Should You Opt to Repair Your Windows?

If your windows have lost their looks but are still structurally sound and functioning properly, repair may be a good choice when the price is right. Ultimately, it depends on the scenario and the severity of the issue.

Challenging to Open, Close, or Lock and Unlock

Repairs can provide an immediate, short-term fix for minor issues like a sash that is difficult to operate or a lock/crank that doesn't work correctly. Similarly, if you have an older home with vintage hardware or unique architectural details you want to preserve, repairing the original windows allows you to maintain your home's character and charm. However, it's essential to check with a window replacement company to ensure the problem is fixable and get a quote for repairs and replacements. In the case of operating challenges, certain aspects of the window's operational parts can be replaced. However, window repair becomes less practical if the frame is badly warped or damaged, as it will cost about the same as a complete replacement. You might as well replace the whole window unit if extensive repairs are needed.

Drafty Windows

For homes in milder climates like San Diego, where winter temperatures don't dip too low, restored original windows with proper weatherstripping may provide sufficient energy efficiency. However, it's essential to understand the underlying reason for the draft before attempting repairs to avoid spending money on an issue that weatherstripping won't fix. If the draft is coming through an area with old weatherstripping, it may simply be time to replace that part of the window. A professional window company, such as Milgard, can help you identify the cause of the draft, especially if it's not apparent. 

We've seen more complicated scenarios for drafty windows caused by improper installation or old caulking and insulating foam. If the window is in good condition, it may be acceptable to have those aspects repaired or even reinstalled; however, these issues may be a sign of what's to come for many of the windows around your house. Depending on the age of the window, it may be better to consider total replacements to avoid continuous repair and trip charges for an issue that's likely across all products installed around the same time by the same company.

Chipped or Faded Paint

If all your windows need to look like new is a fresh coat of paint, then you may want to put off replacing them for a while. A bucket of paint and proper application is much cheaper than the cost of new windows. However, it's important to note the frame material when painting windows. Fiberglass, aluminum, and wood windows can be painted without causing issues with the window or its energy efficiency. However, Vinyl windows are not a material you should paint. The paint won't adhere to the material like it does direct from the factory, it will impact the energy efficiency or structural integrity of the material itself, and it nearly always voids the warranty. 

Fading paint may be more prominent on south-facing walls in San Diego due to the more direct sunlight. For that reason, some people choose to replace just the windows facing south when they have a fading paint issue rather than attempting to repaint them, especially when they are vinyl. Replacing in segments helps you save on costs and addresses issues where they are occurring rather than replacing everything if they don't all need to be updated.

Cracked Glass or Bad IGU Seal

Photo of an Old Vinyl Window with Foggy Glass and Mold

In some cases, replacing just the insulated glass unit (IGU) without replacing the entire window may be possible. Glass-only replacement can be a cost-effective solution if the window frame is still in good shape and the window is relatively new. However, if the window is already old and shows other signs of wear like drafts, difficulty opening and closing, or frame deterioration, replacing the entire window unit often makes more financial sense.

Replacing IGUs can be expensive. We've seen costs as high as around 50% of a new replacement window, even when including installation costs. So, if the IGU has broken glass, it may be okay to replace it if that's the only window you are repairing. Suppose the IGUs are failing due to age. In that case, you may want to consider a full replacement, as issues in one IGU will likely show up in the others if the windows were installed around the same time. The value you gain from new insulated glass units may not be enough when considering the likelihood of replacing all windows a few years later.

Dirt and Grime

Say you recently bought a new home whose previous owners weren't keen on window cleaning. In that case, you might be able to fix the problem with manufacturer-recommended cleaning products and elbow grease. Even some unsightly windows perk up nicely after a thorough cleaning. Before replacing windows because of dirt and grime, find out if a good scrubbing will help. Hiring a professional to do window cleaning is always recommended since they are used to dealing with windows in various conditions. 

Dirt and grime rarely require full replacement, though we have seen some windows that are literally growing an ecosystem due to trapped moisture. Under those extreme conditions, there may be more of an issue than dirt and grime. If your windows show signs of mold or any unexpected growth, it may be time for a replacement to address underlying conditions that a cleaning isn't likely to handle.

When Should You Consider Replacing Your Windows?

There are several instances when replacing your windows makes more sense than trying to repair them, with the prime factors being the cost difference and age. While the upfront cost of window replacement can seem daunting, the long-term benefits often make it a worthwhile investment. Increased energy efficiency, improved comfort, better home security, and higher resale value can all help offset the initial expense over time. Here are some top reasons to consider investing in replacement windows, like extensive damage or age.

Rotten Windows or Excessive Age

If your windows are noticeably rotten, window repair may not be reasonable. We most often see rot in wood windows. Nonetheless, you can also get corrosion from aluminum and warping or failing materials in vinyl windows. In these cases, you should replace the frame. Since it would be nearly impossible to find a replacement for the original frame that also allows for reinstalling the IGUs, a complete replacement is often the only choice and likely the most cost-effective choice due to the additional benefits of a new window versus attempting a complex repair of a frame only.

Windows With Irreplaceable Hardware

If you have an older home with vintage hardware like locks or "cranks" that need replacing, you may run into a problem finding the materials you need. Often, these windows have aged out of production, even for a secondary market on parts, and may have other issues that need addressing. A lack of parts may make it easier for you to justify replacing your windows, especially if finding a match to the hardware is not possible. While hardware replacement is usually under our repair recommendation category, if you can't find the right parts, mainly due to the age of the windows, it may be time to replace them.

Single Pane or Poor Quality Windows

Single-pane or low-quality windows may not be worth repairing. Due to their lack of modern insulation, these windows can make your home uncomfortable by allowing temperature from the outside in. Single-pane windows are not usually available for purchase because they don't meet new energy efficiency standards.

Double or triple-pane windows not only keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer but also save a substantial amount on your energy bill. If your home still has single-pane or poor-quality windows, it's well past time to upgrade, and the benefits are well worth the cost.

Foggy Glass

If your windows appear foggy regularly, you might consider replacing them. While condensation and other temporary effects may occur on dual pane windows, permanent foggy looks indicate that the seal in the IGU may no longer be intact. While glass unit replacements are available, they are often too close to the cost of a complete replacement to be worth it. We highlighted that when it's broken glass or a relatively new window, replacing the IGU may be worth the money, and it may even be covered under warranty. However, foggy glass on aging windows will likely occur throughout the home as the seals break. No one likes to play whack-a-mole with home improvement issues, and foggy glass may end up being just that. Get a professional to take a look, consider the age of the windows, and see if the existing IGU is still under warranty, but ultimately, this may be one of the most obvious indications that it's time for window replacement.

Still Wondering if Window Replacement is Right for You?

Photo of a Couple Lounging on their Couch with their Arms Behind their Heads Staring Out their Windows

The decision to repair or replace your windows depends on your unique situation and personal preferences. For windows with minor damage that are otherwise in good shape or relatively new, repair can provide an effective, budget-friendly solution, especially in milder climates like in Southern California, or for preserving the original character of an older home. 

However, suppose your windows show significant deterioration, draftiness, or poor performance. In that case, replacement is usually the better choice for achieving long-lasting results, optimal energy efficiency, and the greatest return on investment.

If you're still unsure, consulting with a professional window replacement company like a Milgard dealer can provide expert guidance to help you determine the most sensible and cost-effective solution for your situation.