Broken windows: repair or replace?

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

The trades have finally picked up, and my family and I are once again able to enjoy eating and playing outdoors. However, there is one family member that prefers the trades stop: our dog, Lilo. When the winds blow, she gets terrified to the same extent as when fireworks explode. We do what we can to help. Although it sounds extreme, when we go to work, we keep windows closed and set the air conditioner on a timer to keep her comfortable. We keep an eye on our security cameras to make sure she is OK.

While checking in last week, I was frightened to find no sign of Lilo. I noticed, however, that our curtains were blowing. This made me second-guess: Did we forget to close the windows before leaving? Upon returning home, I quickly found the answer. Lilo had gotten so frightened during the day that she opened our louvers, broke one of them, and wiggled her way out. Luckily, she was happily playing in our fenced yard.

With a broken louver on one set of windows, my husband and I began assessing other windows as well. Most do not function as they should. Some do not open, some do not stay open, and all of them are improperly sealed. The question now: How do we know if we should repair or replace?

Photo courtesy of Joanne Loos

I decided to consult window expert Matt Houar, of Tropical Wholesale. It turns out that the question does not come with an easy, universal, yes or no answer. Typically, malfunctioning windows can be repaired. These malfunctions include missing wheels, cracked glass, rusting or corroding materials or leaking. However, Houar points out several nuances that point to replacements over repairs, such as materials, hardware and installation.

“If you have aluminum windows, they’re usually only guaranteed for a year,” he said. “So if they are malfunctioning 10 to 15 years later, you should repair them.”

Houar recommends vinyl over other materials.

“If you take a piece of vinyl and throw it in your yard, it will still be there in 100 years. You do that with other materials like aluminum, fiber-glass and wood, and they have no chance,” he said.

However, Houar is quick to point out that choosing the right material is just the first step. He suggests considering hardware as well.

“If your hardware breaks, your window won’t function,” Houar said. “Most companies’ standard hardware warranty is one year, but some have lifetime warranties.”

Beyond materials and hardware, Houar also recommends looking into installation and warns against retrofitting.

“The shortcut install is not the best way,” he said. “Retrofitting involves screwing into an old window and depending on caulking to keep leaks out. In Hawaii, we know this won’t work. If you want it to last, you should have installers take the extra time and do it the right way.”

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.