Window seals can, and often will, fail. It’s just a fact and it’s more prevalent in certain regions of the country. Now that single-pane windows are mostly a thing of the past, double and triple pane options are installed in new homes and buildings. These windows are comprised of two to three panes of glass built into a sealed frame. That seal makes the window air-tight and gives it additional layering against the elements. If the seal fails, the window becomes less weather-proof and less economical when it comes to your heating and cooling bills. The result is drafty windows and you might need to take action.
But what should you do when window seals fail? Is this a major problem that needs immediate attention and, if so, are you looking at a simple repair or is it time to start pricing out replacement windows? Here are some tips and advice on how to detect and deal with a broken seal.
Why Window Seals Fail
Windows sustain similar wear and tear as any other major component of your home. But windows are more fragile by nature, constructed with various moving parts that can become damaged easily. When you consider a seal failure in a double or triple pane window, the main focus is on the Insulated Glass Unit (IGU). This is the foundation of the window and the IGU can fail all at once or through a slow, sustained leak over a period of time.
The multiple panes within your window are combined with caulk. Temperatures cause theglass to expand and contract and that can put undue pressure on the seal. Many replacement windows use a glazing bead to keep the panes in place and the bead is designed to shift with the glass as it expands or contracts. This is done to help keep the seal intact. These windows are typically equipped with alow-emissivity coating to reflect heat and argon gas added in between the panes for improved insulation.
You can tell if a seal is broken when the glass looks foggy or streaky. This is due to oxidization of the coating and the glass, which happens when the seal fails. Repairs can be made if you remove the glazing bead, replace the panes within the window and seal it all back up again with the coating and the argon gas. If your window doesn’t have the spacer bead, the sash was probably built surrounding the glass and removing those panes is pretty much impossible to attempt. That probably means you’ll have to replace the window.
Detecting a Failed Seal
If you suspect a seal has failed, try these simple steps to diagnose the problem.
Clean Your Window
This is the most important step since you’re diagnosing the issue through visual inspection. That includes cleaning the inside and outside of the window in question, so you don’t read a false positive in terms of any moisture that might be detectable.
If you find any evidence of moisture, haze, or fog in between the panes after you’ve done a thorough cleaning of the window, the seal is a failure. But keep in mind that moisture isn’t the only detectable evidence of a failed seal.
When a seal has failed you can tell by the way the sheets of glass within the IGU are positioned. As the argon gas leaks out the panes begin to warp inward. That will give you a distorted reflection and indicate that the seal has failed.