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Window Maintenance 101: Three Ways to Keep Your Windows Looking and Functioning Their Best

By Gates Dearen

Fall is a great time to do a thorough check of your home’s windows and frames to assess their appearance and functionality. Even if your windows have been replaced in the last few years, it’s a good idea to do a cleaning and a quick survey of the frames and caulking. If you have drafty windows, now is a good time to address that. Despite the fact that the weather in our area isn’t extremely cold in winter, a windy day with temperatures in the fifties can feel a lot colder if your windows aren’t properly sealed and are letting air in. Additionally, poorly sealed windows can cause your energy costs to skyrocket. Here are a few simple ways to make sure your windows are airtight, as well as some tips for good window maintenance.

Clean
This is one of those occasions when you will be glad you recently replaced your windows – or when you might decide it’s a good time to do so! Vinyl window frames require only a wipe-down once or twice a year. Use a mild detergent solution and a clean cloth, or hose them off. For higher windows, the latter is a better option. Not only is it easier and safer to just spray them with the hose, but higher-level windows – on your home’s second floor, for example – probably won’t be as dirty as the lower ones. Lower windows, being closer to the ground, tend to get splashed on when we have hard rains. Never use a pressure washer on or around windows; it’s unnecessary and could break the windows. If you have older windows, especially those with wooden frames, you can use the same cleaning method as for vinyl frames, but if the frames are chipped or exceedingly dirty, you might also need to apply a new coat of paint. When cleaning your windows and frames, don’t neglect the sill and the tracks. Dirt and dust tend to accumulate in those places and can cause problems over time.
For the windows themselves, you can give them a good inside and outside cleaning with a commercial spray cleaner and paper towels. Interestingly, the less expensive paper towels work best for this, as they have fewer fibers and leave less lint, or you can make your own from common household ingredients. For lightly soiled windows, put a tablespoon of white vinegar into a one-quart spray bottle. Fill the bottle with water. Older generations swore that this mixture, sprayed on and wiped off with newspapers, was the best formula for clean windows. Of course, you can wipe with paper towels instead. For heavily soiled windows, you need a stronger brew: mix a half-cup sudsy ammonia, two cups rubbing alcohol, and one teaspoon of dish detergent with a gallon of water. Wipe with newspapers or paper towels. Your windows will shine like never before!

Silicone caulk can be used as a basic sealant ...
Silicone caulk can be used as a basic sealant against water and air penetration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Assess
There are a few ways to make sure your windows are airtight. Some are more obvious, holding your hand near the window to see if there is a change in air temperature, for example. Movement of windows is also a good indicator that air is going in and out. If your windows rattle when the wind blows, they’re probably leaking. Check out our previous article, “How Do You Check for a Leaky House” and http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/detecting-air-leaks for other tips on finding air leaks and for other energy-saving strategies. If you find a leak, sometimes it’s an easy fix. Check the weather stripping and caulk to make sure they are in good repair. If the weather stripping is damaged, you should replace it or have it replaced by a professional. If you have gaps in the caulk between the wall and the window casing, you can fill them yourself. Remember to apply caulk sparingly with a steady hand. If your weather stripping fits snugly and the caulk seems to be in good shape (no gaps or cracks) then the problem is with your windows themselves. This is an indication that it’s time to replace your windows.

Maintain
As with anything else, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to window maintenance. Regular upkeep prevents small issues from becoming big, expensive ones. It’s a good idea to perform the cleaning and assessment we mentioned above twice a year, on whatever schedule works best for you. Fall and spring are generally good times to plan these maintenance tasks, as we are between the two weather extremes. New windows will require less maintenance to keep looking great, and will also negate the need to constantly check for drafts. New vinyl windows in particular are virtually maintenance free, necessitating only a quick wipe or rinse of the frames. Whichever types of windows you have, it’s important to keep all moving parts properly lubricated. You can do this by spraying on a small amount of oil spray or silicone spray, waiting a few moments, and then working the moving part a bit to make sure the lubricant gets into the parts to keep them moving well. Don’t forget to check that all locks are moving freely; if they aren’t, apply the same lubrication process to them as well.

If you have older windows with wood frames, these twice-a-year maintenance times might be more difficult. If your window frames are peeling or chipping, include scraping and painting as part of your semi-annual window check. If any of the wood has rotted, it will need to be filled or replaced before the problem gets worse. These tasks can be cumbersome, but they’re necessary to keep your windows airtight and you home looking good. 

Clean and well-maintained windows are an asset to your home’s appearance and comfort. Keep in mind that the better the windows, the lower the need for maintenance – and vice versa. High-quality windows allow you spend less time on maintenance, and more time enjoying your home.

In this article we’ve discussed the three most important ways to keep your windows looking and working their best. We gave tips for cleaning your windows, checking them for leaks and damage, and maintaining
them.

If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others. They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget. They know that home improvements projects can be a hassle. They strive to make the process pleasant with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-wining installers that employ the best practices and who respect your home as if it were their own. 

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Patio Doors: What You Need to Know

By Gates Dearen

Photo Credit: freera.org
Your patio door is more than just a door; it’s your entry to backyard living and entertaining, and connects your indoor space with your outdoor space. Does your patio door enhance or inhibit your enjoyment of your home? A good patio door lets you view your yard (or, alternately, offers privacy, if you prefer), keeps outdoor air out and indoor air in, makes your home more secure, is attractive from outside and inside, and allows ease of use and maintenance. If your door falls short in any of these areas, it may be time for a replacement. We’ll go through each of these topics in more detail below.

The View
English: Dublin - Merrion Square landscaping
When it comes to how much you can, or can’t see into or out of your patio door, you have several options. We’ll start with the one that offers the most privacy. Obscure glass lets light in while providing less visibility than clear glass, and might be a good choice if you are choosing a door for a bathroom or bedroom, areas where you may prefer less than a full view out or, especially, in. Clear glass is nice for other rooms in the house where you would generally prefer to have a good view of your yard. For either option, it’s important to assess your need for tempered safety glass, which is less likely to break, and if it does, it shatters into granular chunks which will minimize the risk of injury. You have choices not only with the type of glass, but also with the frame of your door. Several color options allow you to incorporate your patio door’s look into the design scheme of your home.

The Air Out There
English: upvc patio doors
A door with a beautiful view.
As with any door, it’s important that your patio door is well-engineered to be energy efficient. If it’s not, you’re throwing away money on cooling and heating costs. There are a few ways to check for “leakiness”. The easiest is the candle test. This test works best on a windy day. Turn off your air conditioner and any fans so they won’t interfere with your results. With your door tightly closed, hold a lit candle near the doorframe. If the flame moves or flickers, chances are you have a leak. How much the flame moves or flickers will tell you how serious the leak is. If you can feel the air coming through or around the door, or if you feel a change in temperature near the door, then you don’t need to do any kind of test; your door is leaking!

Security
Home safety may initially bring to mind thoughts of keeping human intruders out. On this front, new sliding patio doors offer several lock options, such as two-point locks (standard on most doors), four-point locks, and on some models, shoot bolts and exterior key locks. It’s fairly well known that older sliding doors are easy to “pop” or “jump”, but the new models’ improved locks and roller systems make them much more secure. It isn’t just human intruders that should concern homeowners when it comes to patio door security. Especially here in Florida, we’re susceptible to “weather intruders”, particularly rain. If you can hear wind whooshing through (or if your home failed the “candle test” above), your home is susceptible to wind and water damage. For more detailed discussions of this topic, check out our previous articles, “How Do You Check for a Leaky House?” and “Can Storm Windows and Doors Protect Your Home from Natural Disasters?” This is definitely a situation where you want to know you’re protected ahead of time; finding out during a storm that your patio door leaks is bad news!

Looking Good
In addition to the glass and frame options for patio doors, discussed above, there are a few other ways you can add style and distinction to your patio door(s). Various types of grilles (flat or contoured) and grids (closer set or wider set) within the glass allow you to customize your look. Because they are inside the glass, they are maintenance free. These options give you a lot of variety in choosing what works best with your home’s interior and exterior design.

Easy Living
Does your patio door fight back when you try to open it? Old sliders and rollers can’t compete with the newer systems of today’s sliding patio doors. Think about how nice it would be if you had an easy-to-use handle, and your door glided open with virtually no effort. Newer patio doors have large “D style” handles on both the inside and the outside, much better than the old-style straight-bar types. By the way, if you try to replace your straight-bar door handle, don’t be surprised to find that it’s obsolete! This can be a big problem if your old handle breaks, as it compromises the security of your door. Without the right handle, the door will not close or lock properly.

In addition to ease of use, energy efficiency has improved tremendously over the years. Chances are good that if your current patio door hasn’t been replaced for a while, it’s not as energy efficient as a new door. When choosing a new patio door, it’s important to ask about energy-saving options. Low-e glass is one such option. Low-E glass is made with a thin, invisible metallic coating that blocks heat flow, a proven energy saver. Low-E glass reduces air conditioning costs by reducing solar transmissions in the summer. In the winter, it reduces heat loss to the outside and allows solar energy to pass inside. Another option is tinted glass, which also helps to cut down on the amount of heat that comes through with the sunlight.

Glass Sliding Door
A room with a view.

If you enjoy outdoor living or entertaining, or even if you just like to look outside and appreciate the view, a good patio door can make all the difference in your ability to do just that. In fact, if you replace your patio door, you may find yourself admiring the view of the door itself, along with the beauty of nature.

In this article, we have discussed some important qualities of patio doors and have explained each one.
Among the features we highlighted were privacy vs. full view glass, keeping the weather out, security, attractive appearance, and ease of use and maintenance.

If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others. They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget. They know that home improvements projects can be a hassle. They strive to make the process pleasant with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-wining installers that employ the best practices and who respect your home as if it were their own. 

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