A Leaking Window
Window leaks are more common than you would think.
When your home has a construction problem, most people want the quickest, cheapest, and easiest fix. If you’re told by the handyman that it can be fixed for $50, why spend $500 with a specialized contractor? Many people do not put a high value on our home when it comes to repairs, and we’re guilty of it, too! After all, who wants to dump money into a project that gives you no return?
No one thinks they have a major problem. It’s a small amount of water collecting on the window sill, bubbled paint, or damp carpet that generates the phone call. The scary thing is that a window could have a serious leak and you would never know it.
We are not always the first company to get the phone call when a home owner thinks there is a problem with their windows. Window replacement companies have been ‘fixing’ window leaks for years. Cut out the old window, slam in the new, and a bead of cheap caulk is the only defense from water intrusion.
On many occasions we have been called out to look at at a home where windows were previously replaced by another contractor. When we show up and see a flush fin or ‘Z’ bar window installed over the exterior cladding, or a window caulked to the exterior cladding, the answer can be hard to swallow: “Sorry ma’am, but the $30,000 you just spent to replace your windows was a complete waste of money and now you have to throw them away and start over.”
Window Replacement Companies
It does not matter what type of exterior cladding you have when trying to decide what to do with your windows. Whether it’s stucco, siding, stone or EIFS, the method of repair should be the same. If you use the cut and caulk method to replace your windows, it is not a permanent fix and often times you will create a much more serious problem.
I hear the ‘used car sales approach’ from siding and window replacement companies on the radio all the time; “Simply the Best for Less” is a commonly heard slogan on our local talk radio station. Window replacement companies are in the business of selling you new windows. They do not make money on the labor and cannot use proper methods because the cost would be way too high for most homeowners. Offering the “Best for Less” should be saved for the local used car salesmen.
The Proper Approach to Window Replacement and Leaks
Many times when we arrived at a home with leaking windows, we will see caulk smeared all over the exterior of home. Attempts to caulk the window to the exterior cladding will not fix the problem. It is important to remember that the vapor and moisture barrier on your home is what keeps water out, not caulk. (to learn more about this, watch our video “What’s Happening behind your Stucco”).
When you cut through the barrier or existing window flashing, you will leave an avenue for moisture entry no matter how much caulk you try to pump into the gaps. The process of tying in the window frame with the moisture barrier is done using specific window flashing materials. The only way to truly replace your windows, or fix a leaking window, is to tear off the exterior cladding around each window and properly integrate the moisture barrier with approved window flashing material and sealant. This process is not easy, and is often costly when working on existing homes. If builders would pay closer attention to the installation of the windows during original construction, the problems we see with window installation could be reversed for very little additional cost. I do not believe that Home Builders skip the important steps when installing windows to save money. Ignorance is generally the real problem. Knowledge = the competent builder.
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