Whether the view out your window is of Lake Michigan, farmland, Lambeau Field, or your neighbor’s house you want that view to be clear. One of the most common problems we hear from homeowners is that their windows seem to be foggy between the panes, that water has apparently gotten in there and that they see “ghosts” between the glass. These descriptions are talking about the same issues: Broken window seals.
What is a broken window seal? Since the 1950s, most window manufacturers have been using what is called insulated glass. This means that instead of having just one piece of glass in a window, there are two separate pieces joined together, usually with some sort of metal or flexible spacer between them and an airtight seal holding the whole unit together. The space between these two pieces of glass is then filled with a gas blend, although the type and ratios vary by maker. A broken seal occurs when the airtight seal fails and the gas between the panes of glass is released.
How does a window seal break? There are many ways for window seals to fail and often the cause can’t be determined. The natural shifts in a home’s foundation can cause seals to break. The expansion and contraction in window frame material (due to heat or cold) can also break the seal. One thing that often surprises our homeowners is that power washing, or even high powered spray from a hose, can break the seal.
What can you do about a broken seal? Because we often hear of this issue in windows that should still be in their prime, we encourage homeowners to contact their window manufacturer first. Often times seal failures are covered under a manufacturer warranty (although this may be voided if human error was involved). If there are other issues such as difficult operation or an inability to lock the window, this could indicate an installation issue or issues caused by the window’s framing material. Likewise, if the window is older than 20 years, is drafty, or has rot/mold damage, window replacement should be considered.
Can you refill the gas between the panes? While there are companies out that there claim to offer this service, this is not something that Renewal by Andersen offers and we have not looked into. We encourage you to do full research if you choose to proceed with this method.
How can I prevent window seals from breaking? As mentioned before, because of natural shifts in a home’s foundation and unknown causes, there is no 100% guarantee that a window seal will not break. The best you can do to prevent this is to avoid using high pressure cleaning methods near windows. When it comes time to replace your windows, choose a frame material that is rigid with low levels of expansion and contraction. The less your frame changes shape (warps), the less likely it will be to break the seal.