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How do vinyl windows go bad?

I've seen many references, here and elsewhere, to how vinyl windows don't last very long, especially cheap ones. Well, I have cheap vinyl windows from the early 90's and it's not clear to me that there is any problem with them, other than weatherstripping and looking less than glamorous.

So, how does a vinyl window go bad? Does the plastic literally just crack and break apart?

Is it the seals? Don't seals go bad regardless of the window frame material? And the glass can be replaced anyway.

I want to know what to look out for.

Asked by Nick Welch
Posted Wed, 03/05/2014 - 14:12
Edited Wed, 03/05/2014 - 14:32

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Nick,
Cheap vinyl windows don't last long. Cheap wooden windows don't last long, either.

Lots of 30-year-old vinyl windows still look just fine. (Here at the NESEA conference in Boston, I just spoke to someone today who said, "I wish I had my parents' 30-year-old vinyl windows in my house. They look great.")

When vinyl windows go bad, here's what happens: Unwelded sash corners come apart. The weatherstripping peels off. The sash locks break. Plastic parts snap off. The springs that hold up the upper sash fail.

Many of the same problems plague cheap wooden windows, of course.

Better quality vinyl windows have welded sash corners and sturdier hardware, so they last longer.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Wed, 03/05/2014 - 16:49
Edited Wed, 03/05/2014 - 16:54.

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