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Worth it to improve old aluminum windows?

tylertervooren | Posted in General Questions on

We have a house full of aluminum sliders from the 60s. At some point, operable aluminum storms were added. They have a number of issues:

1. No air sealing around rough opening at time of install, so they’re drafty.
2. Some of the frames sweat a lot during winter, degrading the stained wood casing.
3. Some fog on the inside of the windows. Others fog on the storm window side.

Of course I could replace the windows with new double panes made of vinyl, fiberglass or wood, but I’ve also heard that, when in good shape, old windows with storms perform almost as well and upgrading is a waste.

And I wonder if a little bit of elbow grease to improve what I already have would achieve the same results as replacing.

My ideas:

1. Pull the trim and air seal the rough openings. Or, even easier, apply a clear caulk to all the interior casing joints.
2. Caulk all the glazing with a silicone caulk to fix any air seepage there.
3. Add some weather stripping to the fixed side of the slider pane to better seal that joint.
4. Pull the storms and replace the gasket between the storms and the main window.

Any other ideas? Am I on the right track?

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  1. walta100 | | #1

    I am rarely the replace your windows guy but aluminum framed windows are evil. If you are in a far northern location and plan on staying in this house I say change them now. If you are in Key West and are moving soon do not even think about it. You are probably somewhere in between and staying more than a year.

    Most replacement windows reuse parts of the old window frame and the part of the window you should be desperately trying to get rid of is the frames. The best thing would be to remove all the aluminum not just trim it off with a saw and install new construction windows. The down side is this would require removal of your siding and new exterior and interior trim.


  2. GBA Editor
    Brian Pontolilo | | #2

    Hi Tyler,

    As Walta pointed out, the decision to replace windows is a tough one. And even if you are planning to stay in the house, it may not be a priority when you consider cost/benefit. For example, if your attic is not air sealed and well insulated, you should probably spend your money on that first. That project yields a lot of bang for the buck.

    That said, if you already have storms installed and you are still getting condensation on the inside of the windows, you probably need to replace them. You could try the air sealing work that you propose and live through a winter to see if it helps, but my hunch is that the glass and aluminum frames aren't giving you the thermal performance that you need.

    As an aside, I once used silicone caulk to seal single pane glazing to wood double hung window sash, and I caulked the upper sash to the frame as a temporary measure. Knowing that I would be replacing the windows within a few years I didn't care that you could see the silicone on the glass or that the upper sash were now fixed. From a comfort perspective, it was helpful and bought me some time to take care of more low-hanging fruit before I replaced the windows.

  3. tylertervooren | | #3

    Thanks Walter and Brian.

    I do want to replace the windows eventually for aesthetic reasons. I like the idea (Brian) of trying this for a winter and seeing if it helps. We're due for some cold weather shortly, so I could perform a test on just one window in one room and see if it makes any difference. I suspect it will, but maybe not as much as I'd like!

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