Is It Time to Repair or Replace Your Windows?

March 1, 2024

A Guide for Homeowners: When to Replace, What Product to Buy, and What to Know About Installation

By Paul Rigan, Window Installation Manager, Mans Lumber

Windows are much more than mere glass portals to the outside of your home. They are among the most important investments a homeowner can make in the value and livability of the home.

As many homeowners come to realize, over time windows can wear out and age, leading to various issues that may prompt homeowners to consider whether repair or replacement is the best course of action.

If it is becoming apparent that a home’s windows need attention, repair or replacement, choosing the right product for the home, budget and lifestyle can be confusing to homeowners tackling such a project for the first time. And if a homeowner is unsure whether the home’s windows need repair, replacement, or nothing at all, here are some tips to help navigate the decision and find exactly the right window solution suited to one’s unique situation, needs, preferences and budget.

To Repair or Replace?

Sometimes the signs are open and obvious. Other times, a homeowner simply has a “sense” that it’s time to consider upgrading, repairing or replacing the windows in part or all of the home. And in other cases, the mere age of the windows (strictly measured in years since installment) reveals that it’s time to consider one’s options, as most windows in today’s modern homes will begin to show wear and tear after 20 years or so.


Look for these signs and hints that it’s time to take a closer look at the windows in your home:

  1. Visible Damage: Take a close look at your windows, inside and out. Do you see denting, cracking, warping or other signs of physical damage? Open and close them. And if they are the more modern double-hung windows, operate the hardware to fully open and tilt the windows, as if you’re cleaning them from the inside. If any of this is showing signs of damage, age or disrepair, it’s time to consider your options.
  2. Fogging: Do you notice fogging between the window panes, sometimes dependent upon the outside weather conditions? Fogging glass is a less obvious — but just as real — sign that your windows are not operating at peak energy efficiency; and the fog you are seeing is costing you more than merely a pleasant view to the outdoors.
  3. Energy Efficiency: Similarly, if you feel drafts coming from the windows, or notice that certain rooms in your home are consistently colder than others, this could be a sign that your windows are no longer insulating properly. This can lead to higher energy bills and overall discomfort. Consider windows as an investment in more than mere aesthetics, but energy efficiency as well. Upgrading to more modern and energy-efficient windows will begin to pay themselves off almost immediately.
  4. The Passage of Time: Windows that are more than 20 years old may not offer the same level of performance as newer materials and modern product design. Advancements in construction, glass quality, and overall product mechanics have made modern windows more energy-efficient and durable than their predecessors.
  5. Still Seeing Single Panes? Older homes may still have single-pane windows, which are far less energy-efficient than double or triple-pane options. If your windows are single-pane, it’s likely time for an upgrade. Today’s replacement windows even offer products that match the charm and style of traditional, older homes in older neighborhoods.

How to Choose Which Window Style is Right for Your Home

When it comes to selecting new windows for your home, several factors come into play:

  • 1. Budget: Determine how much you’re willing to invest in your new windows. Keep in mind that higher-quality materials and features may come with a higher price tag but can offer long-term savings and lifetime cost benefits. Be sure you are working with a window company that includes labor and installation in their price quotes, so that there are no surprises and “hidden” fees that you aren’t taking into account during your price shopping and budgeting process.
  • 2. Materials: An experienced window professional will help you consider the pros and cons of the different window materials available to you at your chosen price point. Vinyl windows, for example, offer affordability but may not hold up well to extreme weather conditions or the rigors of the elements over the long term. Fiberglass, conversely, offers durability and low maintenance but a higher price point, while all-wooden windows provide a classic look but require more upkeep due to the nature of their all-natural composition. Considered by many to be the best of all are what are known as “cladded” windows…
  • 3. Know Your Cladding Options: “Clad” windows feature a layer of protective material over wood-constructed window frames, such as aluminum or fiberglass, which helps improve durability and weather resistance. A window expert will help you weigh the benefits and tradeoffs of each to help you choose between wood-clad, fiberglass-clad, or vinyl-clad options based on your preferences and budget.
  • 4. Consider Composite Products: One of the newer and more popular options are billed as “the smart alternative to vinyl” — offerings such as Fibrex from Andersen Windows & Doors. Composite alternatives such as this can be twice as strong as vinyl and will perform better when exposed to extreme temperatures. The other benefit of composite over wood is that such windows aren’t prone to fade, flake, blister or peel. Best of all, Fibrex, specifically, is made up of reclaimed wood fiber and thermoplastic polymer that is fused together, offering both sustainability and durability at once.

What to Know About Installation:

Proper installation is crucial for the performance and longevity of your new windows. Of course, you’re likely not installing the windows yourself, but it is important that the homeowner know what’s critical to properly installing new windows, and to challenge the company selling the windows to demonstrate experience and commitment to the following:

  • 1. Professional Installation: Ensure that your windows are installed by experienced professionals who understand the importance of proper alignment. Improper installation by inexperienced professional installers can lead to serious issues such as drafts, leaks, and operational problems — all of which come at a cost at some point or another.
  • 2. “Plumb, Level and Square:” Installers should focus on three basic fundamentals when it comes to installation. Ask your installment specialist what the policy and procedure is for ensuring the windows are plumb (vertically level and snug), level (horizontally flat and flush), and square (aligning with right angles at the corners). Any deviation from these principles can compromise the integrity of the installation, and any good installer will be happy to demonstrate their commitment to these fundamentals.
  • 3. Warranty and Service: This final consideration is perhaps the most important of all. Be sure to find a window company that stands behind its own workmanship and products. Look for installers who offer warranties on both the product and installation, not just the windows themselves. Additionally, inquire about what post-installation services and support are available after the sale, in case any issues arise. Not every window company is willing to service the windows after the sale. In Mans’ case, we warranty the installation of new windows for two years, and our own experienced professionals personally service the installed products if there are ever any issues. If your window provider outsources service to a third party or external contractors, there’s a danger that the service professionals will not share the same commitment to quality and customer satisfaction as the company who sold you the windows.

An Investment That Pays a Return

The good news is that today’s window products and designs are much more durable, long-lasting, and energy-efficient than those that were being installed just 20 or so years ago. The result: the investment you make today will net tangible returns, whether you plan to remain in the home for years or have plans to sell the home in the near future. Much of the investment you make today will come back to you in time, beginning on day one, either through resale value or in heating and cooling costs.

By choosing the right product for your needs and ensuring proper installation, you can enjoy improved comfort, energy savings, and aesthetics in your home for years to come.

Paul Rigan serves as Window Installation Manager in the Ann Arbor office of Mans Lumber. He has been advising customers on the proper purchase and installation of windows and doors since 2005.