Some house repairs can be put off, such as a squeaky floorboard or a sticky door. Others need to be addressed immediately whether for safety or economic reasons. Window repair is one such task. Problems with your windows can be as simple as replacing worn-out parts, or they can be so involved that they require a professional.
Main Cost Factors
The “window” is the actual opening in the wall. It is designed to maintain the stability of the wall while allowing the installation of a casing with a sill, sashes, glazing, and all of the other parts that help the window (used in the common sense of the word) function. Because the true window is a specifically designed part of the structure of your wall, anything involving more than removing the casing should always be left to a professional.
The two main factors that affect cost are the number of windows and the type of window being repaired.
It only stands to reason that more windows will take more time and material. Of course, the type of repair will also affect the cost, but looking at the most common type of repair, a broken pane of glass, will give you an idea of what most people pay.
Replacing glass is a fairly straightforward job. At about $3.00 per square foot for ordinary, single pane glass, replacing the glass costs about $16.00 to $22.00 after factoring in the glazier’s points (small wedges that hold the glass in place), window putty, exterior caulk, and a caulking gun. This is for a single pane measuring 12 square feet. If you don’t feel comfortable replacing the glazing (glass) yourself, a handyman will cost you about $50.00 to $100.00 for the average job for similar sized windows. Talk to your repairman about a price discount for multiple windows. They might offer you a deal.
Besides the number of windows, also consider the type of glazing you are having replaced. Double-paned, or insulated, windows cost more to repair, as does the type of glass. With these factors included, the average cost of repairing a window is about $288.00.
Finally, the type of damage being repaired will add to the cost. If the frame is damaged, the cost can run as high as $900.00 or more.
Some typical costs based on the number of windows are:
Single pane, one window: about $50.00
Double pane, two windows: $350.00 to $400.00
Bay windows, three panes: $500.00 to $1,000.00 depending on size
Bow windows, five+ panes: $1,000.00 to $3,000.00
Most typical window repairs will fall between $135 and $466, with the average being $299.
The type of window is the other main cost factor. The construction of the entire window can make a repair easier or harder than normal. For example, repairing a frame and glazing on a simple, single pane window is a lot easier than repairing the frame alone on a jalousie window (a louvered-pane window) due to its numerous moving parts.
While there are many different types of windows, here are the most common and where they fall on the typical repair scale:
Single hung: A single hung window is a vertical window with two sashes; the upper is fixed in place and the lower slides up and down. As one of the two most common types of windows, they are at the average cost for repairs.
Double hung: Similar to a single hung, both sashes move on a double hung. They are one of the two most common types of windows.
Bay: Bay windows are extensions that come out at angles and add more space and light to a room. Because they are exposed on three sides to the elements, drafts and rotted wood are the most common repairs done to these windows. They are often not standard sized, which can make repairs a little more expensive than average.
Bow: Bow windows are similar to bay windows except that the window comes out in a curve and can have as many as 8 panes in some cases. Unlike a bay window, which has definitive framing between the panes, bow windows are a bit more dependent on support from the surrounding panes. This makes them trickier, and more expensive, than bay windows to repair.
Skylights: Skylights are windows put into your roof. They provide light to rooms that are not optimally positioned to take advantage of normal windows. The most common repair for a skylight is leaks from worn seals. This is most often a DIY project if you’re comfortable on roofs, making it towards the cheaper end of the scale for fixes. Usually it requires no more than a tube of caulking or some replacement flashing.
Glass block: Glass blocks not only afford ample light with great privacy, they also make for fantastic insulation and are often found in basements and bathrooms. While they rarely need repair themselves, the mortar that holds them in place can deteriorate. Repairs to glass block windows are very inexpensive for all but the most extensive damage (such as replacing an entire wall made of glass blocks).
Garden: Garden windows are like miniature bay windows designed to hold house plants. Glazed on all sides, it’s like a small greenhouse. Because garden windows are designed for your particular house, the cost of repairs puts them all over the scale. Small over-the-sink windows will be on the less-expensive end for repairs while larger windows will always cost more. Custom angles and other such features can also drive the costs up.
Casement: Casement windows are hinged on the side, allowing the sash to open like a door. They are very effective at controlling air flow, but their moving parts involve cranks and gears inside of the casing. This can make them more expensive to repair than average.
Egress: Egress windows are built into basements to allow escape in the event of a fire or other such disaster. If you have these windows, it is imperative that you keep them in good working order. Because they have size and operation requirements, egress windows can be more expensive than average to repair. Because they can save your life, the cost is worth it.
Storm: In the days before double paned insulated windows, people put up storm windows to form an insulating air barrier. While modern insulated glass is more efficient, the historic value of an old home may necessitate the use of storm windows. Storm windows are above average in cost because of the quality of glass and the nearly guaranteed requirement of custom making the frame.
Transom: A transom window is a largely decorative window above a door. It usually doesn’t open and allows in only a little more light. Because it is a fixed pane, repairs are often easy, putting them on the more affordable end of the scale. If the glass is of an irregular shape, you might have to pay a little more.
Jalousie: Jalousie windows are rarely seen these days because of their inefficiency in heat retention. They are glass louvers that open and close like window blinds. While replacing a single louver requires a custom cut, the smaller size makes them affordable. The mechanism, however, is a bit more involved and can cost just a bit below average. Replacing the whole unit runs from just below to just above average.
Picture: Picture windows are almost always large, single panes of glass. They are designed to turn the great outdoors into a living “picture” in your home. Because of the size of the glass, a picture window is on the higher end of repair costs.
Sliding: Also called a “glider,” sliding windows usually have aluminum frames that are prone to damage if the sliding pane has to be forced or is repeatedly closed hard. They can cost a little higher than average for a serious repair such as this.
Arched: Arched windows are almost always custom cut, though with new construction you might buy a premade one and design the opening to fit it. However, they are above average in cost, usually by a couple of hundred dollars.
Hopper: Hopper windows are hinged on the bottom. They are almost always found on basements and other ground-level window sites. They are often textured, but still cost average to below average to repair or replace.
Of course, many other factors affect the total cost of your window repair. These include:
Dual-pane insulation: This requires the injection of insulating gas between two well-sealed window panes.
Custom shaped panes: Because they are, by definition, not a standard size, panes and frames will require specific measurements for your particular construction. They will almost always be one-offs.
Upper floors: The risk of falling will increase the cost of repairs or replacement done on these windows. While some repairs can be done from the inside, those that must be done from the outside will require special equipment, which will add to the cost.
Difficult to reach: Windows that are difficult to reach, such as those on steeply pitched roofs, also require special equipment and often extra insurance if done by a contractor.
Tight spaces: Some older homes have had additions that may put a window into a tight corner or some other less-than-ideal location. This will make the job more difficult due to the confined spaces, which may increase your cost.
Window manufacturer: Some window manufacturers offer warranties and repair/replacement programs. These will add to your initial cost when first installing these windows, but they can save money in the long run. However, if you buy a home with these higher-end windows installed, find out if the warranty is transferrable.
Though all windows are different, there are some repairs they have in common.
Because of constant exposure to the elements, wooden windows are prone to eventually rotting. Fortunately, this is normally an easy repair. It’s as simple as cutting away the rotted piece and either filling it in with wood putty and sealing it or else simply replacing the piece.
If the wood is rotted due to insects such as termites, it’s best to have the situation corrected by an exterminator. Otherwise, all you’re doing is providing more food for the pests and inviting more.
DIY Repair: This repair is often done by applying wood putty designed for exterior use. Small cracks are easily filled in and sanded, and then painted to match the exterior. Large pieces may have to be replaced entirely, but basic woodworking skills are often all that is needed.
Replacing smaller panes is another fairly easy repair. Most involve removing just one part of a glass frame, carefully removing the broken glass, scraping away old putty, and then reversing the job to install the new pane. Larger panes such as picture windows require more people and usually need a professional touch to do correctly and safely.
DIY Repair: These can be replaced by carefully removing the glass and putty, removing one side of the pane’s frame (usually the bottom), replacing the putty, sliding the new pane into place, and replacing the side of the pane’s frame. Generally, any pane of glass that can be easily handled by a single person (approximately 3’x3’, usually) can be repaired this way. It requires patience and enough working room to be able to comfortably move the pane around without bumping it against anything.
Insulated glass has two panes with an inert gas between them for insulation. Sometimes the seals can fail, resulting in a “blown window.” If you see clouding or moisture between the panes, it’s best to call a professional to replace the seals and the gas.
Wooden windows are most prone to sticking as wood expands, especially in humid climes. Paint can also cause these windows to stick. Sliding windows usually stick due to dirt in the tracks. Both of these are easy fixes, requiring scraping away excess paint or simply cleaning the tracks.
DIY Repair: A simple putty knife is usually enough to break the hold the paint has. If any damage happens to the paint, a little touch-up is all that is needed. Dirty tracks are another common cause of sticky windows. Common household liquid cleaners, a paper towel, and a popsicle stick are often all that is needed to clean out the dirt and grime that often builds up in these tracks. If the track is clean, whether wooden or metal, a can of spray lubricant can free things up. Spray it into the tracks and move the window up and down a few times to spread the lubricant.
Windows can become drafty due to a number of reasons. Panes can crack, weather stripping can fail, putty can dry out, or a window may not be shutting as fully as you think. Most causes of drafty windows are easily fixed by the homeowner, and such repairs can create significant savings on your energy bill.
DIY Repair: Windows can become drafty for a number of reasons. Fortunately, most of the fixes are inexpensive.
Replace Weather-Stripping – This involves gently scraping away the old material and applying new material.
Rope Caulk – For long cracks, this pliable material forms to shape and can be pressed into cracks and gaps.
Shrink Film – Shrink film tapes in place and is then heat-shrunk with a hair dryer. It seals drum-tight and forms an insulating barrier. When the cold season ends, you can take the time to do a more long-term repair in better weather.
Nail Polish – Clear nail polish can be applied as a temporary quick fix to a cracked pane. It will dry and form a seal that may have to be replaced a couple of times during the cold season, but it will help keep the draft out until warmer weather when you can more comfortably replace the glass.
Draft Snake – This is a foam-and-fabric kit designed to help seal windows that let cold air in from the bottom. You cut it to fit your window and then close the window down on top of it.
Windows are a necessary part of a house for light and ventilation. Just because a part has failed doesn’t mean they need replacing. However, when a part fails, it’s usually imperative that you fix it quickly. While many repairs can be done by the homeowner, professionals should be called in for the larger or more complicated jobs.