Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Window Panes

My windows are drafty and don’t work!  I don’t know how to fix them and I’m afraid it will cost me too much to do something about it. Help!


This may sound familiar.  Windows are the #1 targeted house component for replacement, sometimes even when it isn’t necessary.  There are more cost effective options than replacement, such as repairing and “tuning.”  Here are six tips, tricks, and techniques to save you money in heating, cooling and costly retrofits:

Inefficiency is based on air loss and heat transfer of a window unit. If your windows are feeling drafty, implement these steps now:

  1. Close It Up. Make sure the window is locked tight and the seals (if any) are engaged.  Close the upper and lower storm and/or windows completely. 


  1. Feel The Breeze. Create negative air by turning on all your exhaust fans, or check airflow on a windy day.  Use an airflow smoke emitter (available on-line or at a local hardware store) to see air movement.
  1. Eliminate Condensation. Condensation is caused by elevated moisture and temperature differences on glass. It’s a sign that windows are not performing well, so start by checking these 3 areas:
  • Insulated Glass. Condensation between insulated glass panes means the seal has broken.  Check to see if the windows are under warranty.  There are also companies that can temporarily “defog” windows.
  • Storm Windows. Condensation on the interior of the storm window means the primary sash, or moving window, is loose and warm air is hitting the storm window.  Use “reversible backer rod” (round foam that comes in various thicknesses) in the primary sash cracks to seal the interior.  Also, caulk the gaps in a storm window, but never the weep holes!
  • Interior of Sash. Air leaks or excessive moisture inside the house causes interior window condensation.  Ideal interior winter relative humidity is about 35% before it gets too dry.  Use exhaust fans to release moisture from living, cooking and bathrooms and consider buying, or moving, the dehumidifier upstairs.  Check windows for air leaks and replace weather stripping or storm windows if necessary.

Operation– The most gratifying house repair is making windows operate again.

  1. Out with the Over Paint. Over paint binds windows.  Provide proper protection, containment, and clean up during any paint disturbance.  Use good quality pull and push scrapers to remove excess over paint from the parts that rub against the moving window. 


  1. Smooth Operation. When using any lubricant, be sure to wipe off the excess from painted window parts or other non-friction elements. Depending on the track your window runs on, use one of these 3 lubricants:
  • Wood Frame. Use paraffin or paste wax on the track.  Apply liberally.  Works great for weighted windows. 
  • Vinyl or PVC Tracks. Use spray on furniture wax. 
  • Metal Tracks. Use a graphite based lubricant.


  1. Ensure Proper Fitting. Fitting issues can get fairly complicated.  Replacement units could have been installed improperly or a house could have moved.  (Yes, your house moves over time!) A professional can help identify the problem and guide you to a solution.


Some windows may require a bit more effort.  Determine your options by contacting a variety of contractors and suppliers, and asking many, many questions.  Use the six tips above as your secret weapon. The answers and solutions will affect how much money you will spend, and most importantly, if you’re your money is spent wisely.


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