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Old 12-03-2009, 11:18 PM   #1
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Bad Window Job - Please Help!

We just bought this house and one of the plusses was that the windows have been updated. However it has turned cold and our heat is struggling to keep up. The thermostat is set to 75 and it is as cold as 64 in many of the rooms, colder near the windows.

I originally assumed that they were bad windows, but I think the install is bad. Touching the pane you can feel that it is cold, but even where the window pieces come together is not terribly below room temperature even " from the glass. Inside the frame (where the second pane slides) is cold, but it is the frame that is cold.

Outside the window, between the window and the trim there is acutally cold air. I marked the worst spot in blue on the first image- it's subtle but you can actually feel the cold air passing. You can see the small gap in the trim- every window is trimmed exactly the same and every window I've felt has the same cold air coming in all around, and worst in the lower two corners. The entire frame lets cold come round, but the worst is at the lower corners where cold air is actually moving.

So I know nothing about windows, but we learned from a neighbor that the previous owner did all the windows himself over the summer. I'm guessing he skipped a major crucial step that involved insulating AROUND the windows during the installation.

So now I have a house full of leaky windows and it's very cold (inside and out), and the outside is way too cold to be pulling walls apart to determine the problem.

First questions are: what do you think it will actually take to fix all the windows properly... is it something I can pull the frames apart and add, or something where I might as well start over? How can I tell if this really is the problem?

Second questions are: I'm thinking temporary fix to get us through the winter and keep the heating bills under $1000... would using rope caulk around all the frames be a good temporary mitigation? Would rope caulk damage the wood trim at all? Any better temporary fix ideas?

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Old 12-04-2009, 05:58 AM   #2
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Rope caulk has oils in it to keep it from getting hard, so it could stain unfinished wood.

I don't know of any way to seal up the windows without removing the trim. But you could be spending money to fix bad windows. Even high efficiency glass may feel cool if the outside temps are cold, but it should not be as cold as the outside. I see condensation on the glass, does it freeze when it is freezing outside?? If yes, it is not good glass. There is no cure for cheap windows.
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:20 AM   #3
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In your situation I would try this: Using the "blue" painters tape, tape over the entire area where the window meets the wood trim on one window. Check this window against one or more of the other windows for air infiltration. If the air infiltration has stopped, then you know you need to do something permanent. If you remove the case molding around the window, and the gap between the window frame and rough framing is open, you can stuff fiberglass insulation in that area to help with air infiltration. Good Luck, David
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Old 12-04-2009, 10:48 AM   #4
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There's a removable caulk called Seal 'n Peel:
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Old 12-04-2009, 04:12 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Thurman View Post
If you remove the case molding around the window...
Would that be the inside, trim and sill etc?

That particular window has/had frost but none of the others, they all have the cold air. In the center of any window it is noticbly warmer... I'm sure they are some of the cheapest available, but that doesn't meant the glass is bad. Hopefully I can get a better indication of that when there isn't cold air pouring around them.
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Old 12-05-2009, 02:56 PM   #6
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Even if your double panes seal is cracked and condensation is building in between the panes, you wouldn't likely feel a draft unless the glass was cracked. My guess is the inside trim needs to be removed and the gaps you'll find between the window and the frame will need to be re-caulked with a silicone laden caulk(assuming there was some caulk originally) and then as Thurman suggested, stuff the remainder of the gap loosely with fiberglass insulation. As long as the window 'seals' haven't been broke I can't think of a reason why you'd have to replace the windows in question. However, the Feds have a program that will pay via a tax credit for up to 30% of the replacement cost if you need new windows. The replacements would have to be gas (argon I think) filled.

Last edited by Alvis; 12-05-2009 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 12-05-2009, 03:33 PM   #7
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If you can feel wind blowing through the cracks, that's a way bigger problem than any potential problem with the windows.

What I would do is pop off the trim that's flat on the wall and spray Great Stuff Window and Door expanding foam (comes in a blue and yellow can for $5 a can).

Try it on one where you won't see it if you mess up. It's messy stuff. It doesn't take much. Since it expands, it will expand up through the gaps if you use too much. Spray a small bead as deep in the wall cavity as you can get and allow it to expand for an hour to see how it works. If you have carpet, cover the work area! Once Great Stuff sets up you cannot get it out.

It will cure in the application tube, too. Let it do that, and then pull off the part that's sticking out. If the tube is clogged, pull it off and clean it with a coat hanger. There's also a red and yellow can of Great Stuff. Don't use that kind because it expands a lot more, so it would be more likely to foam up through the cracks, and/or bow the trim.

One can should be able to do a number of windows.

If you remove the trim and you see insulation, pull it out so you can see behind it. It sounds like the windows are not sealed to the building, or perhaps there are other openings. You need to get the foam to where the gaps are to seal them, but if you can get the foam all the way out to where the windows meet the building that might help too.

I put in stained wood trim in my bathrooms, and I put a bead of caulk on the back of the jam extensions (the parts that touch the windows) before putting them in, so they're sealed but you can't see the stuff.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:48 PM   #8
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You need to open the offending window trim(s) to determine the issues.
The problems seem to be lack of perimeter insulation from your post.
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