Prepping your windows for warmer weather
Shakespeare once famously asked: What light through yonder window breaks? The answer is, not as much light as you'd like if your home's windows are dirty or in need of maintenance -- which is likely the case or will be once winter concludes.
Fact is, it's easy to take windows for granted. While they may not appear to be dirty or in need of attention, the glass, screen mesh, and frame materials take a beating from the elements over time that can compromise the window's operation and longevity. That's why it's wise to inspect, maintain, and repair your windows regularly, especially before spring weather hits.
"It's important to have your windows in good working condition where they're able to open and close properly, with proper screens installed," says David Flax, vice president of operations for Window Genie, a Neighborly Company in Waco, Texas. "Consider as well that windows are often the main source of heat loss and gain all year round, resulting in an inefficient house and an overworked HVAC system."
Brandi Andrews, founder/CEO of National Air Warehouse in Lutz, Florida, seconds those sentiments.
"Homeowners should regularly check that windows are closed tight, there are no drafts around the frame, and the window is still in good shape," she says.
Obviously, you don't want to tackle a window inspection and cleaning/upkeep initiative on a frigid day, so wait until Mother Nature cooperates with a warmer-then-average window of time. But you don't necessarily have to postpone this project until spring. Get a head start on balmier weather to come, and improve the look of your home to boot, by taking recommended steps soon.
First, examine your window screens carefully to ensure there are no tears or gaps, which can allow unwanted pests and insects into your home.
"Open the window and feel around the edges of the screen while applying very light pressure to see if the screen is still tight. If tears or gaps are observed, it's best to replace the screen or you can buy a patch kit that can be applied directly over the existing screen," suggests Gerald Thompson, general manager of Handyman Pro of Northland Kansas City.
Once screen integrity is verified, remove your screen partitions and clean them thoroughly with soap and water in the bathtub or using a garden hose.
Before putting the screens back in place, examine all the parts of each window from the outside, including the frame, jambs, sill, rails, stiles, channel, apron, casings, panes, and sash.
"Consider that overspray from salting or sanding the roads during winter may have made it onto your windows or siding. In addition, your windows may have been exposed to chemicals, acid rain, and hard water, all of which can cause a buildup of debris on your windows, sills, and frames. Window hardware can malfunction and glass can degrade, leading to irreversible damage and the need for costly replacements," cautions Flax. "That's why it pays to do a thorough cleaning."
To properly clean your windows, begin by wiping down windows and sills with a combination of warm water and dish soap to remove minor surface dust and dirt. After soaping the window, rinse with fresh, warm water and use a microfiber cloth or a squeegee.
As you clean, check the tracks of your windows and be sure all sliding mechanisms are clear of debris and dirt," recommends Flax.
Once clean, take time to lubricate all tracks and hinges with a silicone lubricant that safe to use on plastic, metal, and wood.
Next, you want to ensure your windows are sealed shut and not leaking air out or in.
"Do a simple check with the palm of your hand to make sure no drafts can be felt around the edge of the windows or where the window opens from the inside," Andrews advises. "Check to see that the latch is operational and closed tight."
If you feel air getting in or have old or compromised caulk in place, replace the old caulk with fresh weatherproof caulk designed for outdoor use.
"Jam the caulk into any gaps and smooth it out carefully with your finger. If the caulk is too noticeable, add a little light touch-up paint around the windows to conceal it," notes James Morgan, editor of GetRidOfThings.com in Minneapolis.
If, during any of these tasks, you notice broken or compromised window parts, rotted wood, widened gaps, or any other serious or structural window deficiencies, enlist a professional to diagnose and remediate the problem. You may learn that it's time for replacement windows, which will likely cut your energy bills and improve indoor climate comfort as well as enhance the aesthetics of your home.
"Windows are crucial to the enjoyment and function of your home. They need proper maintenance, just like anything else, to keep them in the best shape," adds Flax. "By preparing your windows for the coming spring, your preventing future costly disasters."