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I have to admit, I have met very few windows I have really liked. It seems like no matter how many places I've lived in, they either don't open, don't lock, have drafts, are covered in condensation, or look straight into the neighbour's house. So what in the world is wrong with so many windows? 

Building Envelope

A 'perfect' home is sealed tight against the elements including wind and water but windows and other interruptions in the buildings finish create inherent weaknesses in the 'envelope' of the building and this is one reason so many problems can occur at windows. Water can sneak in where caulking materials have deteriorated and missing or ineffective flashings may prevent water from running correctly around the window opening. Regular maintenance here could save big bucks in repairs in the future.

Structural Changes

One fact of wood buildings is that they expand and contract with moisture levels. This can mean a window that opens easily in dry summer months, won't budge after the rainy season. Wood can also sag if it was not originally supported correctly. I've seen many beams above big window openings sagging to the point that the windows are no longer effective and in some cases are carrying the load of the structure above. Structural problems are difficult to fix but this process can be done more readily during a window remodel.

Dew Point (Danger: Science)

Let's keep this simple. Take it as a fact that warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. Our homes are also moist due to our lifestyles (breathing, cooking, showering). When the warm, moist air in your home hits the cold air of a window surface, the air loses the ability to hold the moisture and it 'condenses' on the window as water droplets. This is the same as if you leave a glass of cold water on the counter on a warm humid day. Improving the insulation of your windows (e.g. double/triple pane, argon-filled) reduces this condensation issue. If you have never had this problem and suddenly do, it could be a sign your window insulation is failing such as broken seals letting your argon gas out.


There are three common materials house glass windows are inserted into: Wood, Aluminium, and Vinyl. Wood windows actually offer a lot of benefits in material dependability and insulation value but they require the most maintenance. Aluminum was the space-age solution to wood maintenance issues but it has a low insulation value and as the wood structure moves, it can become drafty and leaky over time. Vinyl is the newest material in common use and so far, it is doing well. It has a good insulation value, smooth operation, and flexes better than aluminum in a building structure.

We changed the mis-fit, poor sliding, condensation prone aluminum windows in our house last year to vinyl and so far, we have been very happy with the results. If you are frustrated with your window performance, consider this as a capital upgrade to your home and I don't think you will be disappointed with the results. As always when doing home upgrades though, get at least 5 quotes and balance your priorities.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.