How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
What is the average life expectancy of windows?
Sunday, July 1, 2018
Here’s our estimate of average life expectancy for several types of windows. You can click on any one of them to go to an article with more info on that window type:
Aluminum - 15 to 30 years, average 20
Double-Pane (Insulated) Glass - 10 to 20 years, average 15
Fiberglass - 20 to 45 years, average 35
Skylight and Light Tube - 8 to 20 years, average 14
Vinyl - 20 to 40 years, average 30
Wood - 20 to 45 years, average 30
Lifespan is dramatically affected by both maintenance and where the window is located. Here’s a few examples:
- Pressure washing of insulated windows while cleaning the exterior walls of a home can break the seal between the glass and frame. This releases the inert gas between the panes, eliminates the insulation rating of the window, and allows condensation between the panes of glass to gradually cloud the window. We occasionally see houses where all the double-pane windows have prematurely lost their gas and become clouded shortly after the homeowner tried out his new pressure washer on them.
- Thermal flexing hot/cold cycles of double-pane windows in direct sun can also shorten their life somewhat, but eventually they all lose their gas and become clouded. One window repair company in our area offers a temporary solution: they remove one of the panes of glass. This solves the problem of cloudiness on the interior surfaces of the glass between the two panes and extends the life of the window, but eliminates any insulation benefit.
- Landscape sprinklers that spray on a window will reduce its life, especially wood windows. Heavy condensation is also detrimental to windows.
- Poor installation or structural settlement will cause windows to be difficult to operate. The stress on the window frame will also shorten its life.
- The quality of the operating mechanism and how often it is used will affect the life of the window.
- Exposure of the window to sun and rain due to location will also affect lifespan. Windows in direct sun for most of the day and with minimal roof overhang protection will have a shorter life. Skylights are an extreme example of this. Thermal pumping, noted above, is one the multiple exposure variables.
Windows sometimes last much longer than these estimates with luck and careful maintenance, but end up being replaced for cosmetic reasons. New windows make an older house look fresh. One popular strategy that flip house investors use to increase an older home’s curb appeal is to replace the windows across only the front of a house.
Go to our blog post What is the average lifespan of the parts of a house? for rating of other house components. To understand the basis, potential use, and limitations of lifespan ratings, see our blog post ”How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful?”
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To learn more about doors and windows, see these other blog posts:
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