Modern windows are usually constructed as a double- or triple window pane with space in between, and filled with insulating gas. That is why your windows don’t let the heat or cold into the house. As soon as the window seal gets damaged, the insulating gas will run out, and the energy efficiency of your windows will be lost.
Also, fresh air may enter the space between the window panes, and you will have a problem with the condensation, blocked view, and the impression that windows are dirty and blurred. If you live in a mild climate, you probably won’t notice this, but it will be a problem in a region with cold winters and humid summers.
Why Does Seal Break Down?
If you maintain your window correctly, it will last for a long time. However, every type of window frame has a limited life span. For example:
- Wood and aluminum framed windows have a life span of approximately twenty years
- Vinyl framed windows with standard box spacers have a life span of roughly fifteen years
- Vinyl framed windows with a low-quality spacer can’t last more than five to eight years
Top Reasons for window seal failure
a). Manufacturing or installation problem
If some mistake occurs during window manufacturing or its installation, your window seal will break within two years. The reason can be dirty material or insufficiently dried sealant. Sometimes the inexperienced installer can puncture the seal while installing the window.
If you purchase the window that doesn’t suit the climate in the region where you live, you can face a seal failure, as well. For instance, avoid wooden windows in the Midwest since this material quickly rots and warps due to high moisture.
The second wrong choice for this region is an aluminum frame for the window because it can’t perform well in the areas with extreme weather conditions.
In most cases, the reason for fast window failure is the sun. Sunlight causes ‘solar pumping’ and hardens the sealant. When sun rays hit a double-pane window, they heat inside air. As a result, air will be pushed out through the seals, and your sealed window unit will expand.
When the window cools in the evening, it will contract and suck in moisture. Over time, this cyclical expansion and contraction stress the window seal, and you will remain stuck with the blurred window.
Due to the significant difference in temperatures inside and outside your home, it is not rare that condensation occurs. Failing to wipe away condensation as soon as it appears may cause mold forming, which will damage the window seals over time.
Nowadays, high-quality replacement windows contain a glazing bead spacer. It holds the glass in place and moves with it when necessary. That helps to avoid a problem with window seal failure in most cases.
How to Spot Window Seal Failure
It is not too hard to notice the failure of the window seal. Pay attention to the following:
- Absence of clear signs of decay – At the very beginning, you will probably see nothing. The moisture won’t build-up between the window panes until the seal failure is not significant.
- The first signs of moisture – However, you can expect to see the early signs of failure as a result of the weather fluctuations. As a result, you will spot moisture build-up between the window panes without a possibility to get rid of it.
- Noticeable moisture – Over time, you can expect severe build-up of moisture, which will eventually become noticeable. With increased blurring, you will see that dirt and mineral deposits cover your window. That is the time to replace it.
What to Do When the Window Seals Break
Unfortunately, your options are quite limited once the signs of window seal failure occur. You can always use window blinds to solve the issue with ugly and blurred glass, but it is not just a matter of aesthetics.
The reduction of the energy efficiency of your home is the real problem. When window seals decay, you will get higher electric bills almost right away. Therefore, you need to do something as soon as possible. Let’s see the possible solutions you have at your disposal.
1. Call on the warranty
If your window seal breaks prematurely, the probable reason is in a defective product. If the window is still under warranty, call the customer service, and get it replaced.
In general, you can expect the window manufacturer offers you a partial or even complete replacement of the IGU. The only condition is that the failure occurs within the warranty period.
On the other hand, some companies offer adequate compensation in such a case, which will depend on the age of your window.
2. Replace the entire window
It is one of the situations when the best solution is to replace the entire window. The truth is that you can’t do much once you discover that the window seals have begun to release air.
Even though this will eliminate the problem with a blurred window, it is the most expensive option you have. Therefore, you should calculate the total cost first. It will depend on the brand and style of the window you want to buy for your home, necessary material, and labor costs. Basically, you have two options:
- Cheaper insert replacement – It implies reusing all exterior and interior trim. These windows will fit the existing window frame, which means that the installation is quick. Also, you won’t need too much material, and labor costs will be minimal.
- Expensive full replacement – That procedure implies the complete replacement of all exterior and interior trim. In that case, new windows need to fit inside the rough opening, but the installation will take longer, and you will need more materials.
Depending on the type of window frame you want to install, the full replacement will cost you from $500 to $650 on average. Keep in mind that replacing a wood frame or the bay, bow, and picture windows will cost much more.
However, you should be aware of a broader picture. A brand new, well-insulated window will save you money in the long run through lower electricity bills.
3. Do nothing
In the very beginning, when the window seal is not damaged significantly, the best option is to leave it the way it is. For a year or two, the damage of one or two window seals won’t notably affect your bills. The worst thing will be blurred windows that always look dirty.
On the other hand, most experts don’t recommend this option since the situation will become worse over time. As a result, the window seal will decay entirely, and you will face the severe insulation problem.
I need to say that this option is particularly not advisable for you if you live in the region with harsh winters. However, if you live in the area with a mild climate, you can try to delay window replacement as long as you can.
4. Replace the broken window seal
Basically, it is possible to replace the argon-filled window pane, but the question is if the repair is worth the effort. However, if you decide to avoid replacing the entire window, you should consider adding a new insulated window pane. It is an economical and convenient way to solve the problem.
Keep in mind that only qualified window repair specialists should finish such a job. Check the reputation of the local companies and pick out the best option available.
Depending on the position of the broken window seal and the severity of the damage, a professional repair will probably cost you about $100.
5. DIY options
In general, you can replace your window or remove the window panes on your own, but it is quite a tricky job if you are not skillful. You will need a bunch of tools and a few hours to finish this dirty and hard work. Maybe you should give up and let the professional do the job.
Tips for Preventing Seal Failure
As always, prevention is a better option than repairing. I will list a few tips on what to do to avoid problems with failed window seals:
- Warranty – Always pick out a model of windows with a long warranty. Most manufacturers offer a ten- or twenty-year warranty. However, you should find one of the companies that offer lifetime warranties.
- Installation – Let the manufacturer install the window. Since they fit insulated window panes into the frames in the factory, they will offer the full warranty only if their technicians finish the installation.
- Regular checking – Check your windows from time to time to see signs that the IGU detaches from the frame. Caulk spotted gaps and keep the seam clean.
- Pressure washer – Never use pressure washers while cleaning your windows to prevent the occurrence of gaps between the IGU and the window frame.
- Heat gun – Avoid using heat guns to remove paint from the window frame before painting them.