Home Inspection – 6 Common Types Of Windows And Their Flaws

By on September 10, 2017

The windows in a house take a lot more beating from the elements outside compared to a door. This is because exterior doors usually have some form of protection like a porch roof.

While something like a porch roof can seem like just a basic form of protection, it has a very big impact on the durability of it.

When inspecting windows, there are typically 3 questions to ask:

  1. What is the type of window?
  2. What are the window frames and sashes made of?
  3. What is their general condition?

If you can clearly answer these questions, you should have a good idea of what you have on your hands.

Type of window

Windows come in all types of systems, shapes and sizes these days. But 7 are most commonly used in a regular residential home.

1) Casement

These windows swing outwards with hinges on one side, and a crank affixed.

These are getting very popular in newly built apartment buildings. They allow maximum natural light to pass through and has minimum view obstruction.

Aluminum frames are often used with tight compression seals to prevent water seepage.

They are perfect for high-rise apartments but can be hazardous in landed houses when the casement opens onto a walkway.

2) Horizontal slide

This is also a very popular choice for apartments with space constraints.

They work like sliding doors and also allow for maximum solar gain.

The main problem with this type of window concerns the sliding sashes. They collect dirt and water causing track problems. Quite a nuisance to clean up.

Because of how it is built, you will never be able to fully open a window as there must always be at least a pane that remains closed.

3) Hopper and Awning

These are the types that swing outward from the top or bottom.

Hopper are hinged at the bottom and swing open from the top. Awning is the reserve of Hopper.

These are often used for ventilation as they can be left open with little care for weather or intrusion.

Miniature versions of them are often positioned on top of horizontal sliders.

The main problem with this is the same as casement windows.

4) Double hung

There was a time when double-hung was the undisputed king of household windows. Even today, you will see a lot of these window types in older houses.

These windows have 2 sashes that are able to slide up and down freely. Note that if one sash is fixed, it’s a single hung window.

This is a window type that has a flurry of challenges. They are difficult to weatherproof and corrosion caused by age tend to have a big negative effect on it.

Reliable insulation can be a huge problem. And it has the same drawback of horizontal sliders in that it can never fully open for maximum ventilation.

5) Tilt and turn

The tilt and turn is the most sophisticated window on this list.

It is a stylish hybrid of casement and hopper. As you might expect, the main draw of this window is the design statement you are making to visitors and guests.

That is not to say that it’s not functional. Because it has a good energy profile, can often seal very well, and offers easy housekeeping.

But with style and complex mechanisms, comes problems. Let’s just say that it has at least twice the number of potential defects that can prevent it from functioning properly.

6) Fixed

As the name implies, these are windows that do not open and stay permanently closed. There is no mechanism to open it at all.

With no openings, you will have no fear of water intrusion or escaping air.

The disadvantages of fixed windows are… do you really need me to elaborate?

Window frames and sashes

The choice of window frame and sash material comes down to the following factors:

  • Insulation
  • Maintenance requirement
  • Durability
  • Style
  • Costs

Unless you are a millionaire with a lot of money to burn, you will undoubtedly find yourself weighing up the factors most dear to you as there are trade-offs you have to make.

Here is a quick rundown of common window materials and their flaws.

  1. Wood – requires the most maintenance
  2. Clad wood – lesser maintenance but expensive
  3. Vinyl – affordable but you cannot expect them to last long
  4. Fiberglass – good choice but expensive
  5. Metal – little insulation and prone to condensation

Now that you have a general understanding of the pros and cons of different types of windows and their frames, you should know roughly what to look out for when inspecting them.

If you still can’t and need help, here are some common defects.

Defects

Instinct should at least tell you to look for cosmetic defects on window frames, sashes, panes, etc. These include chips, scratches, dents, bumps, rust, rot, etc.

Basic cosmetic defects are easy to spot and you don’t need to be a genius to realize that a scratch is not supposed to where it is.

You should also be able to recognize the need to open and shut windows to ensure they can even work. So we will not get into cosmetics and opening/closing here.

Corners of sashes

Poor workmanship often cause gaps to appear on the corners of sashes. Don’t accept any explanation from contractors about it being all normal. They should fit nicely.

However gaps commonly appear between side casing and the window frame. Sometimes even the most precise measurement and fabrication still results in gaps in this area. So if gaps exist after installing, they should be caulked even before you conduct a taking-over inspection.

Flashing of window heads

The ultimate test for a window is how well it withstands the weather, in particular rain.

As rain flows down the exterior wall of a house, it will travel towards the window from the top. This makes the head casing the front line of protection from rain water.

While a properly weatherproofed head casing might do a job nicely, ensure the presence of flashing. The lack of it would render the head casing redundant.

Glazing

I thought that I had a good understanding of what glazing refers to. But I was shocked to find so many varying definitions of what this terms means.

So as not confuse you, lets just use the definition of glazing here as the glass area of a window.

As with the fragile nature of glass, a small minor crack can lead to total destruction if it is not properly reinforced. And when you do find cracks that are widespread, do take a look at the window trim to find signs of structural failure as well.

Condensation between panes is also a common occurrence with defective windows. This phenomena occurs when the seals fail and moisture enters. It can happen to both new and old windows. So don’t make assumptions before investigating them.

It is now a legal requirement to install tempered glass windows in certain areas of a house. You will need to learn more from the local authorities as they can vary from place to place. This means that if a window is newly fixed and in such an area of the house, it has to be of tempered glass. Don’t let your contractors get away with this one.

Double hung windows

Pay special attention to double hung windows as they really are dinosaurs in the modern house. And because they are usually found in older houses and made of wood, they are often in bad condition. Get them completely replaced if you can.

Hinges

Among the popular types of windows mentioned earlier, more than half of them are hinged.

So oook out for corroded cranks as they are often made of metal and sashes that do not fit nicely in the frame. Other than that, you should also do a check that seals are present and in order.



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