Replacing Leaky Windows

Energy-conscious carpenters trades old windows and doors for more sophisticated, airtight alternatives.

Jeff Wilson could feel the cold air blowing in through his old single-pane windows. When he touched the glass in winter, the surface was freezing cold. Warm air from inside would form beads of condensation on the windows, which dripped down to the painted sill and caused mold growth, even in the dead of winter.

"If it was windy, you could actually feel breezes coming through," Jeff describes, adding that the leaky windows ushered in southeast Ohio's stagnant summer humidity, causing the air conditioner to work overtime.

Several years ago, Jeff replaced four windows, opting for double-pane glass. "Double-pane is fairly standard now, and those are good," he says, defending his first window replacements. "But the question is, are they going to be good enough in the long haul?"

Jeff will keep those double-pane windows and enhance his home by replacing the rest with the industry best: triple-pane, gas-filled windows. That includes nine more antiquated, leaky windows, plus the front door — and seven windows and three more doors in the new garage/addition.

"I feel strongly that you shouldn't rip out something you did just five years ago and redo it," he says of his thrifty-green approach. "Instead, I built on what I had already done."

Tighter Windows and Doors

As their name suggests, triple-pane, gas-filled windows provide three layers of glass with krypton or argon gas between layers. This gas serves as insulation, reducing heat transfer between panes. The frame material is also important. Jeff opted for vinyl-framed windows, which provide better insulation than metal-clad wood frames. Additionally, the windows have a warm-edge glazing, meaning high-density foam and high-grade silicon sealant is applied between the window and frame rather than a simple metal spacer. This prevents condensation at window edges.

"If I put my hand on the window, it feels only slightly cooler than the temperature of the room, which means the bitter cold air outside is not sucking the heat out of my house," Jeff explains, noting that the layers of glass spaced with krypton gas prevent this air exchange.

Proper window installation is as important as buying the best window. Follow window manufacturers' instructions for how to install, caulk and tape windows to prevent any gaps, Jeff advises.

Jeff replaced three doors in the original house, and installed three doors in the new garage/addition. He opted for fiberglass, foam-filled doors that will maintain the air seal he worked hard to accomplish through window replacements and insulating the walls. The front door is wood-framed with triple-pane, gas-filled art glass detail — a custom piece that is airtight and aesthetically pleasing.

Replacement on a Budget

Replacing every window in your home might not fit your budget, so split this project into chunks you can manage.

  • Identify windows in the worst condition. That's often those on north- and west-facing sides of the house that take a beating from Mother Nature. "Replace windows one wall at a time," Jeff suggests. "Make a plan and break it down based on what you can afford. You don't have to do everything all at once."
  • Install with care. Follow manufacturers' instructions carefully to get a tight air seal. Or rely on a professional for this task.
  • Buy as much as you can afford. "Look at warm-edge glazing and triple-pane, gas-filled windows," Jeff advises. "Aim for as high-quality windows and doors that you can, because you don't want to replace them anytime soon." The windows Jeff chose have a 50-year warranty.

Boosting Efficiency With Windows and Doors

See All Photos

Shop This Look

Next Up

How to Build Airtight Insulated Cathedral Ceilings

Proper construction techniques can help ensure airtight, dry and energy-efficient cathedral ceilings.

What It Costs to "Green" an Existing House

From building an addition with solar paneling to laying new shingles for the roof, Deep Energy Retrofit is not cheap.

Retrofitting an Existing Roof for Energy Efficiency

The lid of Jeff Wilson's Cape Cod was leaking big time. A new roof bolstered with insulation more than doubles its energy efficiency.

Air Sealing a Drafty House

Learn techniques to more than double your home walls' energy-efficiency rating.

Maximum Value Energy Efficiency Projects: Windows and Doors

Just by replacing your windows and doors with more efficient models, you can save energy, improve comfort, minimize condensation, increase natural light, reduce fading and lower HVAC costs.

Maximum Value Home Exterior Projects: Doors

One of the easiest ways to freshen up your home's style and bring major curb appeal? A new front door!

How to Read a Window Energy Efficiency Label

Do the homework when it comes to all those codes and numbers on window energy-efficiency labels.

Choosing Energy Efficient Windows for Your Home

Consider these four factors that can affect a window's performance.

Practical Ways to Add Sunshine

Use windows and skylights to bring natural light into your home.

Demolition: Converting a Window to a Door

Follow these guidelines for removing a window and creating a rough opening.

More from:

Energy Answers

Go Shopping

Refresh your home with stylish products handpicked by HGTV editors.


Good Bones

11am | 10c

Good Bones

12pm | 11c

Good Bones

1pm | 12c

Good Bones

2pm | 1c

Good Bones

3pm | 2c

Good Bones

4pm | 3c

Good Bones

5pm | 4c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Bargain Block

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

10:31pm | 9:31c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

Bargain Block

12am | 11c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

House Hunters

1:31am | 12:31c

House Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.