Photo via: iStock
Ahhhh…spring is so close you can almost smell the spring breeze with its hint of sunshine and budding greenery. Soon you’ll be able to throw open your windows and let all that fresh air inside. When you do, it’s a great time to make sure your windows are in good shape. Follow the steps below to keep your windows looking and working their best. If you’re thinking about replacing your windows, we have guidance for that, too.
Cleaning and Maintaining Your WindowsStep 1: Clean the screens
Months of wind and flying dust can really muck up your window screens. But there’s an easy way to remedy that. Remove your window screens from their tracks and use a hose to dislodge all the dirt (never power-wash your window screens as it could damage the mesh). Rub gently with a wet cloth if the dirt is really stubborn. Then let them air-dry on a flat surface before reinstalling.
Step 2: Wash exterior windows
Use a store-bought or homemade window cleaner (simply mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water). With your cleaning solution and a soft cloth or sponge, work your way down from top to bottom removing dirt and grime as you go. Use another soft towel to dry — or squeegee them clean for the best results.
Step 3: Inspect and repair
Check your window frames and sills for wood rot. Mild wood rot can be repaired fairly easily if caught in time. Look for paint that is cracked, peeling or blistering, or wood that is darker or green with algae. Use a screwdriver to probe anywhere there is end grain, around joints and close to dirt, concrete or masonry. Wherever you find rot, fill the damaged area with two-part epoxy resin. For worse cases, you will need to remove and replace the rotten wood and fill any spaces with resin. After you’ve made the repair, go over it with paint and your window will look as good as new.
You’ll also want to check that any caulking and weather stripping you have in place has remained intact and re-apply if needed. To detect air leaks, look at areas where different materials meet, like between brick and wood siding and around door and window frames. Sealing these areas will help prevent warm summer air from getting in and cooled indoor air from getting out.
A tight window seal is the first line of defense against air and water. If you saw condensation inside the glass during the winter months, you know the weather seal has been compromised, and either the glass or the window needs to be replaced.
Step 4: Wash interior windows
Start by cleaning the channels of your windows with a brush or vacuum. Then wash the windows with the same solution you used on the exterior, finishing with a dry cloth or squeegee. You’ll want to carry an extra rag with you to catch any drips that might get on your walls or floors.
Step 5: Final inspection
When you’re done washing and repairing your windows, inspect the glass for cracks and the hardware to ensure smooth operation. Broken windows should be replaced by a professional.
Is it time to replace your windows?It’s a big investment but one that’s well worth it. New windows can reduce your energy bills and add great value and curb appeal to your home among other benefits. But there’s a lot to think about when choosing the right windows for your home. If you do your research up front, you can save on headaches later. Below are some things to consider before you purchase.
New or replacement windows?Completely new windows are installed when you want to change the shape or size of the current window opening. It adds more to the labor cost, but the advantage is that you can change the look and feel of your home entirely. On the other hand, replacement windows fit right into the existing opening. If your current window frames are in good shape and you’re on a tighter budget, replacement windows are a great option as they cost less in labor to install.
Window stylesThere are four basic types of windows:
1. Single or double hung windows
These are the most common windows found in homes. They consist of two separate sashes, which open or close by sliding up or down. A single hung window opens from the bottom only, while a double hung window can be opened from either the top or the bottom.
2. Casement windows
These windows usually consist of one large sash that’s hinged vertically and opens by swinging out, usually with a lever.
3. Awning windows
These windows are hinged at the top and opened by tilting the window out from the bottom, creating the appearance of an awning. They are popular in coastal areas and in bathrooms.
4. Slider windows
These windows slide open from side to side and are a great choice when there is limited space outside.
Window frame and sash materialsOnce you know the style of window you want, it’s time to choose the window material. The most popular materials today are wood or vinyl. Wood windows are beautiful and provide good insulation, but they require a considerable amount of maintenance. For this reason, vinyl windows have become a popular choice. They provide excellent insulation while being virtually maintenance free as well as reasonably priced. Then there are vinyl-clad windows, which offer the beauty of wood on the inside with a vinyl coating on the wood frame outside.
Window glassRecent advancements in technology have greatly expanded the choices available in window glass, but there are two basic types:
Low Emissivity (Low-E) Glass: This kind of glass has a special microscopically thin, virtually invisible layer of material on the surface which reduces the amount of heat that can flow through the glass.
Impact Resistant Glass: If hit hard, this glass may crack but it will not shatter all over the place. Another great thing about it is it holds up beautifully under extreme weather conditions.
You should also pay attention to these numbers on Energy Star window labels:
U-factor or U-value, usually ranges from 0.20 to 1.20. The lower the number, the better the window is at keeping heat in.
Solar heat gain coefficient is between 0 and 1. The lower the number, the better the window is at blocking unwanted heat from the sun. In warm climates, you’ll want the lowest number you can find; in cold areas a higher number is better.
Visible transmittance indicates how much visible light a window lets in and is between 0 and 1. As the number increases, so does the light.
Window qualityRemember, you get what you pay for. While cost is important, it’s even more important to choose a quality product made by a well-known company. Choosing a higher quality window will provide the kind of energy savings, ease of use, and low maintenance that holds up over time.
Window warrantiesCompare the warranties offered by various window manufacturers, especially concerning the glass itself. A well-known company with a good reputation will offer solid warranties, and they are more likely to be around in the future should you have any problems with your windows.
Window contractorYour best bet is to choose the window you want first and then look for a contractor who is especially trained by that manufacturer. It’s also a good idea to call your local Home Builder’s Association to find quality window installation contractors in your area.
There’s nothing better than a warm spring breeze blowing through your open windows. When everything else is coming up fresh and new, make sure your windows are looking fresh, too.
Next > Got 10 Minutes? Get Spring Cleaning Done