Window Maintenance Before Winter Sets In

looking out the window coffee cup woman

We have had unbelievably warm weather this fall. I usually do a big yard and home clean up in late September so I can relax about the coming rain and snow. I have not felt the threat of winter, so I have put it off. A significant storm system was finally imminent in early November, so over a few warms days, I put away all the nursery pots, cold frame windows, hoses and tools, and washed all my windows, inside and out.

You can’t help but notice what’s wrong or right with your windows until you are dusting off cobwebs and scrubbing off bird poop. This is the time to do some routine maintenance. You may end up with a few repairs or replacements, but that will depend on the situation and your budget.

Energy efficiency

Remove the screens, rinse them off, and store them. Wash the windows on both sides, and wash and put up storm windows if you use them. Alternatively, you can cover your windows inside with plastic. The air pocket between the storm window or plastic and the window acts as an insulator to keep warm air in. There are kits you can buy that have plastic so clear, it doesn’t obstruct your view out the window. It also lets in sunlight that can heat the room.

Consider replacing single pane windows (and the storm windows that go with them!). They are the least efficient and cost you money in heating bills. They will pay for themselves quickly with lower heating and cooling bills. I can attest to that. Energy efficient windows are also a good selling point if you decided to move.


Examine the window frames. If they are wood, check for rot, which is very common where there is a lot of rain or constant humidity. A bad priming or painting job can also trap moisture in the frame causing rot and decay. You may be able to do spot repairs (part of my wood frame was loose, so I secured it with small nails), but if damage is considerable, you may need to replace the window.

  • Check for gaps between window frames and the siding. This is where cold air enters your house and warm air exits. Rain can also get into these cracks and do damage inside your walls.
  • Remove old caulk, clean and dry the area, and apply a new bead. Silicone caulk for exteriors holds up to the elements by expanding and contracting with temperature changes.
  • Inside, make sure the window frame meets the wall. With time, frames and walls will dry and shrink, creating gaps. Heat goes into the wall cavity instead of into your living area. Windows are sealed up when they are installed, and it’s necessary to re-caulk now and then.
  • Check where the movable part of the window meets the frame. If you can see light through it or feel a draft, add some weather stripping to create an air block.

Broken Seal

If you have double pane windows, it’s possible to have a broken seal. This happens with temperature changes and the expansion/contraction cycle. The window will appear dirty and foggy, but you can’t wash it off. The damage is inside between the panes.

This can’t be repaired. You have to replace the window, but you might be able to replace just the sash (the part that holds the glass) and use the existing frame. It depends on the condition and age of the frame.


Make sure windows will close all the way and lock. If they are wood and warped, you may need to replace them, depending on bad it is. You may be able to force it closed and lock it, but at some point, you will need a new window. Clean out the channels that the sash slides in. Sometimes a window won’t close, because dirt is in the way.

Check the latches and cranks to make sure they are doing their job. Tighten latches, make sure they are locking the window, and replace them if they are old or rusty. The cranking mechanism and hinges of a casement window should operate smoothly. Grease the moving parts, and check that the arm is tight.

window winter view green cup

A little time spent taking care of your windows in fall will ensure a tighter envelope that will keep the elements out. Not only will you save on energy bills, but you will also extend the life of your windows and your home!

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