What I'm Seeing Now

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What Do I Do About Broken Window Seals?

I get this question a lot:  What do I do about broken window seals?

For sure, sooner or later, most double-pane windows (gas filled) will develop a broken seal.  The intert gas inside, argon or krypton, will leak out, get replaced by air, and that air will bring in condensation.

People often ask me questions as if I am "the" expert on everything.  For sure I am not!

This colorful display almost looks like it has been painted from the inside for effect.

It has not.

This is a broken seal.

It's also a very large window!  They aren't cheap to replace!

Can it be fixed?  No.

There are some window manufacturers which guarantee their windows and will actually come to the house and repair a broken seal.

This window is not one of them.

What causes the seal to break?

  • Wind can cause deflection of the glass.
  • Pressure washing, a big no no.
  • Putting on those stick-em-up, reflective window coatings.
  • Some window cleaning chemicals can cause the glass to expand and contract.
  • And, of course, plain old poor installation.  This window is only seven years old.
  • I've seen them fail because someone with a heat gun was trying to strip paint and hit the window's edge.

Fogging caused by a broken seal does NOT substantially affect the energy performance of the window.

Don't say that to the window repair company.  They will tell you different.  Of course. 

To the right is a classic bull's eye pattern thermal image of a broken window seal.  It's not too affected by the broken seal.  As the window fills with air the two panes are drawn together, creating the bull's eye.

And if installed right, with proper insulation and framing, do you know what's every bit as efficient as a super-duper, double-pane window?

A single-pane window with an attractive storm window on the outside!

These two components create a pocket of dead air, which acts as insulation.

The cliched photos or drawings that I have seen of igloos have a round dome with a small door protrusion on one side.  That protrusion has a seal on the outside and a second one on the inside.  This creates a pocket of dead air - insulation!

The advantage of the single-pane and storm window combination is that there is no fogginess that develops between the two panes.  And the combination is much cheaper.

So, what can you do with a broken window seal and fogginess between the panes?

Live with it or replace the window panel. 

What would I replace it with?  I think you know.

My recommendation:  when it comes time to make decisions like this check around!   We have the ability today to do substantial research and evaluate many opinions.  Develop your own information and make your own decision!   For a window this size the decision can get very expensive!

 

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 54 commentsJay Markanich • November 23 2014 03:55AM

Comments

Good morning Jay,

I was drawn in with your title and was anxious to hear your take on broken seals. We don't have storm windows in our area of the country we have double pane windows. There is always the debate on if replacing the glass is necessary when the seal fails! Good explanation.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) over 4 years ago

Certainly, Dorie, one size does not fit all.  In some neighborhoods, for example, the single-pane windows with storms may not be allowed.  But if efficiency is the goal, the storm on the outside is a cheaper way to get it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

The windows still work.  That simply have that "eyesore" quality.

This often presents a serious matter with home inspections when a home for sale has windows with broken seals.

This is one of the home maintenance chores that should be done when the window seal fails.

Then there is the question of the warranty on the new home.  MMMMM

Why do home owners expect that everything in a home should last forever?

Just like a vehicle, preventive maintenance lets automobiles last a lot longer.

Double pane windows are a standard feature on most new homes sold today.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 4 years ago

I personally know someone who fixes fogged double pane windows. So, yes they are repairable. 

As for the bulls eye pattern, that is caused by temperature and is a known condition of double pane windows. The image you show is extreme and is common with one manufacture's products. I have spoke to that manufacture about that particular condition after finding numerous bulls eye windows in a house. http://activerain.com/blogsview/283215/these-windows-are-hiding-a-secret-

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

Been there done that, got the T-shirt. They are expensive to replace, but when your better half complains about not being able to see clearly...you change them out and pay the price.

Posted by Raul Rodriguez, Looking out for the client's interest and not my p (Covenant Partners Realty) over 4 years ago

Good morning Jay,

There are many older homes here that people see storms and immediately think they have to be replaced. Yes there are newer homes with newer windows that have to be replaced.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

They are Lenn, but in Virginia the Energy Star standard for new windows is only about R-3, not so great.  What, things don't last forever?

Jim - I do too (he repairs blinds too, and has been to my house!).  And it depends on the kind of seal (there are many) as to whether it can be repaired.  That bull's eye is probably my best example, which is why I included it for instruction.  Most patterns on large windows are like the one to the right.  The problem with repairs, I am told, is that the large windows are very heavy, of course, and have to be removed.  It's not cheap either.

Raul - there are more than one reason to replace them!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Windows are my number #1 hate for repair negotiations! Sellers say windows are fine...buyers see what the inspectors have noted wrong and now one is happy at the end of the day.  

Posted by Sharon Kowitz, Cary, NC Relocation Specialist ~ Buying or Selling (CRS-SRES-ABR-GRI-E-Pro-CREN Fonville Morisey Cary, NC) over 4 years ago

Raymond - storms are an older school, but a great alternative.  And the new ones are much better looking than the old aluminum ones.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Sharon - having been to many thermal image classes and energy audit classes I can tell you that while it is ugly fogginess isn't the problem most people tout.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

As I'm sure you know, the movement of the glass, particularly in the winter, is causing intensified reflected light, which is melting vinyl siding. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

And as for the seals, Don Hester wrote a great blog on that very subject recently. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

I know Jim!  I have many Smithsonian-quality photos!

The other day the house next door had melted siding from my subject house!  When asked the solution I suggested a tree or two.  What else?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

This is very common and all buyer brokers seem to panic the buyer into needing an immediate window replacement, 

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

Thanks, I'll check.  I'm going to your link now.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Scott - sometimes it is a panic situation!  People see money!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Very interesting post with a lot of good info.  I am with Lenn - we see so much deferred maintenance, it makes me crazy.  

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 4 years ago

Great info, Jay.  I have a few customers needing to replace some old windows.  some of these are over 100 yrs old, so I guess it's about time.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 4 years ago

Silconing around the edges for the seal you think helps does not. Something in the silicone speeds the process in loosing the seal. If you don't want to replace the 1000 dollar window, consider stained glass insert inside. The translucent light will light the back of it. But stained glass unless you do the imported from Germany glass work with lead, do the surgery with the torch and solder is going to cost you more.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 4 years ago

Thanks Susan.  Windows are one of those things people don't do anything about, OR they do everything about and replace them all.

Thanks Debbie.  Those would not be double pane, but adding a storm on the outside of the new ones is great (if the neighborhood allows).

Andrew - I really don't know anything about the R-value of silicone.  But foaming around the windows is absolutely the best seal.  Once the air is controlled the framing will add good R-value.  Probably the best window caulking would be elastomeric.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

For some reason I'm seeing more casements w broken seals, which of course is no good for storms. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 4 years ago

No good all around probably Scott, but especially storms.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay Markanich - The relentless heat here in the desert causese the widow seals to break. I can't remember the last time I sold a house without a broken window seal. They're very common here.

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com (Zion Realty) over 4 years ago

That's likely due to extreme expansion and contraction nearly every day Nicole.  That's about the same as movement from high winds.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

We have some pretty good temperature swings here. Some pretty good sun in the summer as well as some higher altitude area. Vent tubes help for the altitude but thermal pumping does kill many seals here. I agree that it doesn't cause a big loss in performance. Often times the glass can be replaced and the frame can be left in. A bunch of suction cups,a couple ladders, and some ropes have gotten many windows into place.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 4 years ago

I have seen them in many different installations. Discoloration, fogged out, etc. I tell my clients the same thing, replace them! You are right, even with the inert gas gone, they still provide double pane effectiveness. Of course, they usually are discolored or fogged up so if you can't live with that there is the replacement option.

If you stare at your thermal image in your post long enough... I think I see a biblical image!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 4 years ago

Had a lot of broken seals at one home this summer. My buyer, after much thought, let it go. The price of the home was right!

Posted by Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor®, Rothwell Realty Inc. CA#01968433 Carmel-by-the-Sea over 4 years ago

For sure Rob.  They aren't light though!  Or you can just cover it with a nice, flimsy blind!

Fred - at best this one is R - 2 or 3.  I did stare and I think I got the lost disciple Ringo.  Maybe it was Jimi Bar Hendrix.

Hella - if the price is right the other things get smoothed out!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

One of the houses I built for my family developed broken window seals on the two front bay windows three years after we moved in. My solution...keep the drapes closed as it was a southern exposure anyway. Twenty two years later my buyer said they were uglier than ugly and he was going to replace them broken seals or not. 

The only downside was listening to my wife complain about these windows for a quarter of a century. My answer...I told you when we got married that I'm not perfect and now I'm proving it.

Posted by James (Jim) Lawson, DBA, Broker Associate, RSPS, BPOR, HI & PE (DomainRealty.com LLC) over 4 years ago

Jim - now THAT is the right attitude!  She didn't know what she was going to get?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay Markanich - now this is an expensive project for sure!

Good to learn about the option the homeowners can have.

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 4 years ago

Those aren't cheap windows Praful.  And there are options!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I didn't realize that pressure washing could be the cause of a broken seal.  Glad I can tell my homeowner clients to be aware of this!

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging that Sells Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) over 4 years ago

Pressure washing is one of the banes of mankind Maureen.  And that includes womankind!  Bad for your deck, siding, sidewalk, roof, windows ... well, bad.  And those pressure-wash guys love it when I say that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Good posting here thank you...BTW...they have spiders down here that are able to enter into any little window crack successfully and emerge into your house

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 4 years ago

Having had to replace the glass on double-pane windows in my own home because of broken seals (minor earthquakes can break the seals) it is quite expensive, but the frame does not have to be replaced. The alternative is ugly fogged up windows. The accumulation of moisture does concern me, so my preference would be to replace the glass with low-e dual panes, which does help with insulation in the hot summer months in SoCal, and I've been told (whether or not it's true) low-e dual panes are more durable. 

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 4 years ago

Richie - there are more spiders in most peoples' houses than there are people in the neighborhood.

See Pamela.  I had not thought about earthquakes as being one of the reasons!  We have them here, but not very often.  We had a 6.1 in 2011, but I don't remember broken window seals as being one of the consequences.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

You are right Jay all Insulated units will fail.  My first career was in the retail and wholesale glass industry, so I tell my clients to consult the expert in their area so that can have the unit replace with the same or like kind of glass.  There are may different kinds of glass and gas that fill the units and only a trained person in the glass industry will be able to tell you what you need. 

Posted by Dalene Sparks over 4 years ago

Dalene - every manufacturer has their own products, seals and recommendations.  It's hard to keep track!  But, yes, consult a trained pro.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay- we had our sliding glass door here in Delray do that and yes we did replace them but with single pane patio door.

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 4 years ago

yes Double pane glass can be a Pane LOL, I have given up on them at this time. Had them replaced one time but the hassle was not worth it again.

Posted by Chuck Mixon, Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR (The Keyes Company) over 4 years ago

Jay, I've got one of those right now. I guess I'll be pulling some siding off this Spring and replace that window. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 4 years ago

Kathy - that and a storm would be efficient and effective.

When I was a kid my mother didn't want us saying pain in the ass Chuck.  So we said pain in the ain.  It worked!

Mike - paint it pretty colors like this window and veeeola!  No replace-o.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I don't know the name of the windows we have but one that has already done that.  We called the builder and it was replaced at no charge.  We learned the window has a five year warranty.  You can bet we have written this down and now know who to call

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 4 years ago

We had double paned windows break and it definitely took away from the enjoyment of looking outside.  We called the company we purchased it from and were able to get free replacements, but I would prefer single pane and storm windows.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) over 4 years ago

The good news is that the window companies are providing longer warranties than in the past. I recently had a listing where my sellers was ready to replace all his windows. I told him to first check his warranty--and he got them all replaced for free. (That seller really likes me!).

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) over 4 years ago

Jay, 

One of the largest cause of loss of seal its thermal expansion and contraction which typically most extreme on the Southern and Western side of the home. Then depending on how the window design (cheaper windows have thinner glass) and type of spacer this can exasperate the situation.

Depending on the window design often the pane can be removed and replaced. I had several windows blow and had the panes replaced.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, this is a great post..i always suspected that about power washing!!

So interesting on the single pain window with the storm on it though...

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Here in Canada we have window seals repaired all of the time.  They drill into the window,  fog it they put in a gasget in the hole and then it clears over several weeks and then it is clear.  The companies that do this and there are several are really good at offering warrantees.  Maybe somebody should buy a franchise there.  -http://www.clearvucanada.com/

Posted by Marjorie & Doug McKay, Calgary & Chestermere - 403-207-1776 (RE/MAX Real Estate (Central)) over 4 years ago

James - great that you can get that done.  Repairing on their dime is the way to go!

Kat - that is the big rub.  And the impetus for most people to get them repaired or replaced.

Nina - that was a huge financial savings for them!   I bet they have your photo on the fridge!

Don - our sun room is a southern exposure but no broken seals yet (!) in 17 years.  We have the butyl edges though, and those are getting sucked in.  Pretty ugly.  That room alone has 23 windows!

Ginny - power washing is a bane to mankind.  Many of those guys haven't an idea of how to do it right.  Damage happens.  I've seen the bumper stickers!

M&D - I might not be buying a franchise anytime soon, but it's neat to know a company is out there that will do that.  That's a business that will always have business!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

this is a very common thing here on inspections...a few months ago, a buyer for one of our listings wrote an amendment that added $500 for the window "expert" to add "an additional seal" as a preventative measure to other windows in the house....never heard of it...asked several other window companies who said it was bogus....and the Seller's told them to "just pay it"....another reason why attorneys should practice law and not real estate.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 4 years ago

That was certainly a bogus claim, S&D.  Nice try.

Hope yours was a wonderful holiday!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

you can repair it. i think it take a some hour ! 

Posted by hien dinh over 4 years ago

Hien - inside the house this window is very high up and very heavy.  There are six different seals for double pane windows (that I know about) and if this window has one of them getting inside there to enter the seal would be quite a job!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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