Believe it or not, but the age of your home often has more to do with whether you need to replace your windows, than the condition of your existing windows. This is because the wall structure often suffers more from a broken seal than the actual window unit. While the window itself may not show signs of damage, the studs and headers surrounding it may very well be worn out by rot and moisture. A big problem for window installers and homeowners is that this damage may not be visible on the wall and can go on undetected for years.

In the areas where we work, it is not uncommon to come across homes that have 100-year-old windows. These projects often require extra care and attention when it comes to replacing the window and assessing the extent of moisture damage. That’s why the question whether to replace these windows at all comes up time and time again.

It is often difficult to tell if the there is moisture damage in the frame until the window is out. These walls look fine, but it’s a mess on the inside.


Repair Or Replace 100 Year Old Windows?

Century old windows can add a lot of unique character to the home. Often homeowners are interested in preserving the look of these windows first and foremost. Sometimes people who change just a couple of their windows notice that the replacement windows are actually colder than their wood windows, and are hesitant to do the rest.  But an insert installation is not ideal for all windows.

Whether to replace or repair your 100-year-old windows will ultimately depend on how well they are built, and how well they are preventing moisture from entering the surrounding wall structure. Often they perform great because in that era windows were often manufactured from “old growth” wood, which is more durable and less resistant to water damage. Wood windows in the second half of the twentieth century were built from lesser quality materials and often have much shorter lifespans. If the window is allowing water to leak into the wall, it will have to be removed in order to replace any damaged or rotten wood. If there is no water damage in the wall, an insert may significantly improve the performance of your existing window. In either case, properly assessing the condition of your windows will help you figure which option is the best for the comfort of your home and healthiness of your walls.



Wall Structure

The main benefit of replacing really old windows is that the replacement allows the window installers to assess the inside condition of your walls and hopefully pinpoint the source of the leak. Even if the water penetration isn’t coming directly from the window, an installation can often reveal leaks from roofs, or in between stories In an older home you may find yourself needing to address those issues alongside your window replacement to ensure the walls don’t continue to deteriorate from leaking water. What’s important, is that a window replacement ensures your windows aren’t a source of penetration and create a continuous seal with the adjacent walls. This will also have a positive effect on the overall comfort and energy efficiency in your home.



Another factor to consider with replacing 100-year-old windows, is that these windows were not always built to today’s fire code requirements. By law in Canada, every room that can be used as a bedroom must be equipped with at least one window that can be used as an exit in the event of the emergency. These windows need to have openings that have no sides smaller than 15 inches in length, and overall make an opening that is 3.77 sq. feet.

To accommodate new windows, you may have to expand the opening so that it meets fire code requirement. This is usually done by cutting into the structure, whether it is the drywall or concrete. Most window companies perform this work and should be able to determine whether your project requires a cut-out. If it does, it is a good idea to look into municipal permits, as any work where a structure is disturbed requires to be accompanied by the proper paperwork. This is especially crucial in 100-year-old homes, as you don’t want to be putting the well-being of your family and home at risk.


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