An older home has its own charm. A place that has stood the test of time has a certain look and feel to it. Structures built decades ago will eventually show signs of aging.
Rain is especially bad.
Older homes often have leaky window frames. Regardless, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Water corrodes buildings rapidly. A small leak can lead to structural damage or mold growth.
Drywall water damage and mold remediation can both be intrusive and costly. For mold to grow, all it needs is moisture and organic matter.
A leaky window makes it oh-so-easy for mold to grow inside walls—completely out of sight—for some time before it becomes noticeable.
We’ll explore why your window is likely leaking in this article. We will explain how to determine the source of the leak. Furthermore, we can recommend the best course of action for repairing or replacing a leaky window.
Let’s get to it.
Although more common in older homes, newer homes can have issues with leaky windows, too. Even the very best building materials don’t last forever. Almost all windows will start to leak eventually.
There are several reasons a window might spring a leak.
Buildings settle over time. Years of fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions cause wood to shrink and expand. This is all very normal.
However, sometimes this shifting causes a window to misalign with its frame, creating gaps.
Correctly installing window flashing is essential. Not installing it properly can cause a leak. Moreover, housewrap or building paper are not suitable alternatives to specially designed waterproof flashing.
You might end up with an ineffective barrier if you used either one of these.
Broken caulking at the window seams, cracked glazing putty between panes, and an inadequate paint seal along the edges of the glass can all lead to water infiltration.
Some of this is to be expected over time.
Once you’ve spotted a leak, you need to know what’s causing it. After all, new caulk won’t stop the leak if the issue is caused by a misaligned frame.
Before you can fix the problem, you need to fully understand it.
A structural issue elsewhere in the house may result in window leaks. Check the roof, roof deck, and upper floors.
The presence of water stains on the wall above the window or along the top or bottom of the frame usually indicates a leak inside the wall. From the point of entry, water will run downward, enter the frame, and collect along the flat surfaces of the top and bottom.
The source of a leak like this can be difficult to identify. If you can’t determine where the water is getting in, contact a window professional to help diagnose the issue.
Windows leaking at the bottom corner of the frame or where the glass meets the sill typically indicates cracked caulking or glazing. Caught early, this issue can usually be repaired by stripping the old sealant and replacing it.
Unless you’re comfortable around a caulking gun, fixing old caulk or glaze should be left to the professionals. At best, mistakes will look messy. And at worst, your hard work won’t stop the leak.
Sealant can be fixed without replacing the window. But if the problem is more complicated, new sealant may not be all that’s needed. This is often the case for wooden windows, which are common in older construction.
Start by probing the frame with a screwdriver. Then open the window to check the inside of the frame and sash. If the wood gives under light pressure, it has started to decay and needs to be replaced.
If the leak has affected the structure around the window, the best way forward is to call a reputable window replacement company. A window professional will perform a full evaluation to determine whether replacement is in order.
They will also help identify the source of the leak. Although the water may be coming from your window, it could be the result of a larger structural issue as discussed above.
Typically, window installers don’t specialize in finding and fixing hidden leaks in other parts of the house. You might need to hire a plumber or waterproofer.
Keep in mind that replacing the window without fixing the leak will only lead to similar problems down the line.
When a wooden window frame starts to leak, it’s typically time for a new window. Because wood is so susceptible to warping and water damage, consider weather-resistant materials when selecting replacement windows.
Look for materials like …
While the cost for most of these materials may be higher upfront, they’re generally more durable than wood, require less maintenance, and tend to last longer.
Many home improvement projects can be completed by DIYers. However, this is usually not one of them. You should contact a skilled professional if you see water around the window frames after rain.
In the end, proper installation and moisture-resistant materials are the best protection against window leaks.
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