Assess: Repair Existing Windows

A variety of options exist for improving the energy-efficiency of your existing windows. Before investing in these options, check your windows for potential issues that may call for replacement instead:

  • Moisture and mold between window frame and wall: If water and water vapors are allowed to penetrate around the window frame, the moisture can cause wall materials to rot and render insulation materials ineffective. If there are any signs of water penetration around your window frame, consider removing the window to repair any damage and protect the wall from mold.
  • Lead-based paint hazards: If your windows pre-date 1978, lead-based paint may have been used. Lead paint was banned after 1978 and is especially common in homes built before 1960. Single-pane windows in particular are often so old that they present a lead hazard. The dust created from the friction of lead-painted window sashes is harmful to occupants and can lead to lead poisoning among children. If you have reasons to suspect lead-based paint on your windows, consider remedies by experienced contractors such as lead-safe window replacement or hazardous paint removal. For more information regarding lead-based hazards, see Comprehensive information about lead paint exit disclaimer by U.S. EPA and Renovate Right, an EPA program about for contractors lead-safe home improvement.
  • Other issues, such as water leakage through the window itself, rotten or broken window components and jammed sashes also need to be addressed, but skilled professionals may be able to repair these faults.

Whatever their physical condition, most old windows lag behind new windows in terms of insulating value, solar heat control, airtightness and condensation resistance. Whether to tackle these shortcomings by improving the existing windows or by replacing them with energy-efficient windows involves considerations such as potential water and lead issues (mentioned above) as well as aesthetics, maintenance, cost, and home resale value.

If issues such as water leakage, lead paint, or energy efficiency call for window replacement, select efficient new windows as replacement.

If cost is a major factor in your decision, consider utility, state and local incentives.

If your existing windows still hold up to the task, you may improve their energy efficiency with solutions such as:

Lead Paint and Window Replacement: Challenges and Opportunities

In older homes, windows are a likely source of lead contamination in homes. Dust from lead paint can create serious health problems, especially in young children. While window replacement can increase lead dust during renovation, it can also permanently eliminate lead hazards by removing lead-painted windows.