Bulging Vinyl Windows: Structural Problem
LESLIE: Listening in on KKBJ from Minnesota we’ve got Elizabeth. What can we do for you today at The Money Pit?
ELIZABETH: Yes, I have three main problems with some all-vinyl windows …
ELIZABETH: … in my home that was built in 1996.
ELIZABETH: The window – two of them – bulge and you can see them from the outside; like the window is about to pop out.
ELIZABETH: And then the balance came out of one of my windows. We had to pull it completely out because the window started jamming and wouldn’t shut.
ELIZABETH: And you’d often have to push it in at the very bottom; almost like it had a too-big old stomach or something. You’d have to push it in to get it to go all the way down in order to lock it. Now those are single-hung windows. And then in the basement we have sliders and dust and dirt accumulates right on the window sill and we’re trying to figure out, you know, where all the dust comes from.
TOM: Alright, let’s talk about the upstairs windows first. Elizabeth, this is a home that you own?
TOM: OK. So the windows you guys put in during your tenure here or they were here when you bought the house or what?
ELIZABETH: They were already in. When we bought the house it was about a year old.
TOM: 1996 vinyl clad windows is probably – they’re probably sort of what we call first-generation vinyl. Before that most of the windows were metal. The windows were usually aluminum thermal pane windows and they were kind of junky, too. And now the first-generation vinyls came out. So you’re really looking at 12-year-old vinyl windows here and it sounds, clearly, like you have a lot of wear and tear in the infrastructure for those windows; the springs and the balances that make them work.
The thing that’s throwing me is you’re talking about this bulging. And I’m just wondering whether or not there’s any structural issues associated with this; whether there’s additional pressure on the window that shouldn’t be there that’s causing …
LESLIE: As if maybe a header is broken down or …
TOM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. The bulge is – can you just sort of describe that? Is the window bulging in the middle like there’s too much pressure from the top?
ELIZABETH: Yes, you can see it from the outside.
TOM: Then I would have a professional home inspector or a licensed engineer take a look at this just to make sure that you don’t have a structural issue going on above it. If it’s just the window itself that’s breaking down then that’s not as big of a problem. Replacement windows today you can buy for as little as, you know, maybe $300 on up. So it doesn’t have to be terrible expensive. But I think that you’re going to have a very difficult time finding replacement parts. I mean certainly it would be nice if you could just hop down to the hardware store or home center and buy new balances for these windows. But there’s just so many, you know, hundreds of different models of vinyl replacement windows. It’s almost impossible to find parts to rebuild them and you end up replacing them rather than rebuilding them.
ELIZABETH: We have the name of the person – the manufacturer that put these windows in.
TOM: Well, that’s a good thing. Now have you talked to those folks about maybe some repair work? Because that sounds like what you need.
ELIZABETH: Yes. They’re planning on coming out to look …
TOM: Well, I think that’s probably the best solution. Because you know, if you can – if you’re lucky enough to know the exact manufacturer, maybe the parts are available. The trouble is that usually when you buy into a house it’s already got the windows up; you don’t know who that is. And in the replacement window business there is – there are as many manufacturers as there are window contractors out there and sometimes it’s hard to nail it down. So I think you’re on the right track, Elizabeth. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.