Just as there’s no need to tear an entire house down when the exterior cladding has to be redone, a window doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced every time one or more of its components suffers from overuse or wear and tear.

More and more homeowners are aware of this, and are choosing to refurbish their windows when they show visible signs of fatigue. The reasons can be economical as well as ecological.

A win-win proposition

The best argument for refurbishment over replacement, obviously, is cost. Specialists say that windows can be given a new lease on life for about a third of the cost of a full replacement.

But that’s not all. This option also has the advantage of being more environmentally friendly. You will be sending far fewer waste materials to landfill, and the energy expenditure will be low compared to that required to manufacture a new window.

Four steps to a window facelift

  1. Refurbishing a window begins with restoring its operational and performance qualities. You can achieve this by adjusting or replacing one or more broken or defective components:
  • asement or awning window (wood, aluminum or PVC): compression seal, crank and linkage arm, locking mechanism (latch), glazing (insulated), new lubricant, new sealant, etc.
  • Vertical slider (two or four sashes; wood, aluminum or PVC): brush weatherstripping, cord, spiral or spring balance system for sash opening, tracks, latch, glazing (thermos), new lubricant, new sealant, etc.
  • Horizontal slider (two or four sashes; wood, aluminum or PVC): brush weatherstripping, springs or foam cushions at the head for sash removal, latch, new lubricant, new sealant, etc. 
  •  In some cases, refurbishing will also require repair or replacement of a window component. In the case of a wooden window, you may need a carpenter to fix or completely replace a section of the frame or sash. If you have aluminum or PVC frames and sashes, you will need to contact the manufacturer or a glazier if a section needs replacing.
  • You can also refresh the exterior appearance of most windows in a home. If you have wooden windows, there are two ways to spruce them up: refinish them using paint, stain or varnish, or clad the frames and sashes in aluminum or PVC. The latter option is by far the more popular, because you will never again have to face the chore of maintaining their finish. The seals preventing water from getting in between the glazing and the cladding, however, will need careful inspection to prevent unseen contamination of the wood underneath.

    Aluminum and PVC can also be repainted with good results. 
  • Lastly, don’t miss the opportunity to redo the insulation around the window to prevent air from getting in or leaking out, which in turn will deliver energy efficiency gains. In most cases, you will simply need to carefully remove the indoor moulding around the frame and, as applicable, inject low-expanding polyurethane foam or insert mineral wool insulation into the gaps between the window frame and the building structure.

Until recently, according to specialists in CAA-Quebec’s Approved Residential Supplier network, window upkeep was perceived as a makeshift operation, and most people were unaware of the benefits of a job well done. Mindsets have evolved, however, probably because of economic considerations, but also the growing trend toward environmental awareness, which values sustainability.

Of course, in some cases, saving an existing window may prove impossible and, for one reason or another, replacement may be the preferred option. To be sure, get advice from a specialist.