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When is it time to replace my windows? 3 signs and how to inspect them

March 30th, 2021 | 9 min. read

When is it time to replace my windows? 3 signs and how to inspect them

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After a long work week full of business meetings, emails, and decision-making, you finally sit down to relax with a bowl of popcorn, ready to binge your new favorite TV show on a Friday night. The couch sits perpendicular to a window on your right which you love for the natural light it brings in.

Suddenly, you feel a slight breeze on your forearm resting on the couch arm. It feels like a fan on the lowest setting, its only purpose to keep the air from getting too still. Is the dog panting on me? Is someone pranking me with a hidden fan and camera? But no. You realize that the draft is coming from the side of the window next to your couch. 

How can the window be leaking air? You’ve only been in your house for a few years and never expected to take on a large renovation like a window replacement so soon. While it is a hefty project for any homeowner, it is common for you to experience it at least once in your lifetime. If any window is not installed properly or only meant to last five years, a replacement will come sooner than you think. 

Knowing when it’s time to replace your windows isn’t exactly rocket science, but if you have neglected your windows for a while, it might be time for a checkup. 

The most common signs you will notice that tell you it's time for new windows are feeling drafts, noticing fog between window panes, and other visual signs such as deterioration, cracking, or noticing that something is not working properly.

At Southwest Exteriors, our expert design consultants have examined thousands of windows. We have replaced windows for over 30 years and know what to look for that indicates a window is not working the way it should. 

When we are a guest in your home, our goal is to serve your needs and educate you on your current and future windows. 

In this article, we will go deeper into what to look for that shows it’s time for new windows, how you can inspect your windows to check they are working properly, and what to make sure is included in your replacement windows to ensure they last longer. 

After reading, you will know exactly what to look for to know when it’s time to replace your windows and feel confident in investing in a new project.


3 common signs it’s time to replace your windows

As mentioned before, the most common things you will notice that tell you it’s time for new windows are feeling drafts, noticing fog, and visual deterioration. Now, all of these things can occur simply from old age, but other factors such as climate and installation can shorten the lifespan of your windows. Let’s look at the specifics of each of these signs to better understand what exactly to look for and what causes these problems.

Feeling drafts

If you sit next to a window or walk past one in your house and notice a slight breeze, this is a common sign that your windows need replacing. Drafts can occur from seal failure, deterioration around the edges, or even poor installation. 

If your windows are not custom measured to fit the exact placement in the wall, they will not fit correctly. This can cause excess caulking around the edges or other shortcuts to make it appear fit. 

Poorly installed windows will not last as long as their lifetime and will cause you more problems than anticipated like unforeseen drafts, and you will have to get your windows replaced sooner than expected.

While drafts tell you that your windows are not doing their job, they also mean that your windows are not doing you any favors for energy-efficiency. Air coming into your house means air is also leaving your house, so you are losing air conditioning in the summers and heat in the winters.

 If you notice a draft coming from any of your windows, chances are you have also noticed a slight increase in your energy bills. 

Foggy windows

Foggy windows are another sign of failing windows that can also indicate seal failure or poor installation. When I say foggy windows, I do not mean condensation that can occur on the inside or outside of the window. Condensation is completely normal and occurs when the temperature of your home and the outside come together. We’re talking about fogginess or haziness between window panes, not on the inside or outside.

If the seal is not doing its job around the window panes, it will allow excess moisture and air to get between the panes, causing them to fog or appear hazy. This can obstruct the visibility of the window and also affect the insulation properties of the window. 

If you are noticing this in your windows, you might notice water forming around the window as well, and the window is not acting as energy-efficient as it should. 

Visual deterioration

When you notice a draft or foggy windows and inspect the window, you might find the seal is peeling or something is broken. Noticing a broken part or that the window is not working properly is an obvious sign it needs replacing. In some cases, you may not have to replace the entire window and only need to fix or replace a certain part, but it is still important to inspect the entire thing. 

Look for splitting or cracking of the frame, seal, or window. If you open your window and notice it does not stay up, the balance system will need fixing or replacing. This anti-gravitational system is only found in single-hung and double-hung windows and can stop working due to old age or excess usage. If you’re someone who always likes to have the windows open, you may have seen this to an extent before but never thought it pressing to replace. 

Deterioration can also occur on the exterior of the window if you live in a harsh climate. For my locals in San Antonio and Texas as a whole, you know the extreme summers and cold snaps that occur every year. 

When the weather constantly switches from cold to hot to cold again, the materials of your windows are also going through the constant cycle of contracting when it’s cold and expanding when it’s hot. 

Even excluding the winter freezes, the summer sun in the south is enough to cause deterioration (or rotting in wooden windows) to any window. 

Other signs you may notice that show it’s time to replace your windows are if you hear any clicking, popping, or cracking when you try to use them. Something may have broken internally that needs fixing or replacing.


Why do your window sills have water damage?

There are several possible reasons why your interior window sills may have water damage:

  1. Condensation: If your windows are not properly insulated or sealed, condensation can form on the interior surface of the glass, especially during cold weather. This condensation can then drip onto the window sills and cause water damage over time.

  2. Leaking windows: If your windows are old or damaged, they may be leaking water into the wall cavity around the window, which can cause water damage to the window sills and surrounding walls.

  3. Roof or plumbing leaks: If there are leaks in your roof or plumbing system, water may be seeping into the walls around your windows and causing water damage to the sills.

  4. Improperly installed or damaged flashing: If the flashing around your windows is improperly installed or damaged, it may be allowing water to seep into the walls around the windows and causing water damage to the sills.

  5. High humidity: If the humidity level in your home is high, it can cause moisture to accumulate on the windows and window sills, which can lead to water damage over time.

To prevent water damage to your interior window sills, it's important to identify and address the underlying cause of the problem. You may need to have your windows and/or roof inspected by a professional to determine the source of the water damage and take steps to fix it.


How to inspect your windows to know if it’s time to replace

Visual inspection

A visual inspection is going to be your best friend in telling you that something is wrong with your windows. Look out for deterioration around the frame and seals, fogginess between panes, and any drafts coming from the edges of the window. 

Checking the temperature

In the times we are in now, directional thermometer guns have become extremely popular and widely accessible for anyone to get their hands on. You might have had your temperature taken with a thermometer gun if you’ve gone out to a restaurant, park, or any public place. 

If you want to measure the energy-efficiency of your windows, you can use a thermometer gun to take the temperature of the inside of your window and compare it to the temperature of the wall. 

If the difference is around 15-20℉ or more, your windows are not as efficient as they should be in blocking external heat from your home. If the difference is near 5℉, then your windows are doing a good job in insulating your home. 

Now that you know the most common signs that show you it’s time for a window replacement, you can properly check your windows and know when it's time to replace them. When it comes time to get your new windows, what should you make sure comes with them to make sure they will last even longer than your previous windows?


What to consider for your next windows to make them last 

The lifetime of your windows depends on the quality of the manufacturer and how they are installed. If you are looking for the least expensive window, do not expect them to last your lifetime. Builder-grade windows typically last 10-15 years. 

When looking to replace your windows, keep these factors in mind to expect how long you can expect them to last. 


A window that is only $300 and has no energy-efficient qualities is likely to fail you before a $900 with ensured UV protection. Energy-efficient windows will be slightly more expensive than a standard window with no extra features. However, the money you put into windows to keep your house insulated will save you from higher energy bills.

Window type

Different window types are going to have differing prices. Vinyl windows are the least expensive window type, but a more expensive aluminum or vinyl composite will be more durable and last longer. Wooden windows are the oldest and most durable type of windows, but they are also the most expensive. 

Consider what material you would like your new windows to be made of when also considering how long you want them to last.


As we’ve discussed earlier, seal failure and functionality failure on your window can occur from poor installation. Installation should also be considered in the cost which will reflect in the lifetime of your windows as well. 

For example, a less expensive foam can be used to seal windows as opposed to a high-quality caulk which will last much longer. It is important to ask what materials are used during installation to make sure there is not anything that can go wrong or that will cause problems in the future. 

The installation process is just as important. Even if high-quality materials are used to install the window, you can still run into unexpected issues and a possible replacement sooner if not installed properly. 

It is important to have realistic expectations when considering the cost and quality of windows. Know that what you get is what you pay for. 


So, do your windows need replacing?

We’ve covered a lot of information about the quality of your windows, how to know when they need to be replaced, and what to look for in your next windows to make sure they last. 

To recap the biggest takeaways: 

  • If you feel a draft coming from your window, notice fog between the panes, visual deterioration, or broken parts on any part of the window, it is time to get it replaced. 

  • When looking for new windows, remember that what you pay for is what you get. If you want to make sure your windows are made of great quality and will last, you’re going to have to pay a little more. 

  • Proper installation is a key factor when looking for new windows. If your windows are poorly installed, they will not work the way they should and will need replacing sooner than their lifetime. 

If you notice anything wrong with your windows, do not hesitate when looking for the right company to replace them for you. Problems with your windows can lead to water leakage, lower energy efficiency, and even security issues if windows do not close or lock completely. 

Southwest Exteriors offers many different styles and types of windows from affordable vinyl to beautifully crafted wood. Your window replacement will include expert consultation, installation, quality products, and a warranty to cover your windows for the entirety of your life in your home.

Do you notice a draft, fogginess, or broken or deteriorated parts on your windows? Fill out the form on our website to schedule a free consultation in your home. Virtual consultations are available for your safety and convenience.