The average lifespan of residential windows is 15 to 20 years. Well-maintained products may last beyond the 20-year mark, but once your windows start approaching two decades old, it's time to think about replacing them.
Here’s our estimate of average life expectancy for several types of windows:
- Aluminum - 20 to 30 years
- Fiberglass - 20 to 40 years
- Insulated (double pane) - 10 to 20 years
- Skylights - 10 to 20 years
- Vinyl - 20 to 40 years
- Wood - 30+ years
Lifespan is dramatically affected by both maintenance and where the window is located.
Here’s a few examples:
- Pressure washing of insulated windows while cleaning the exterior walls of a home can break the seal between the glass and frame. This releases the inert gas between the panes, eliminates the insulation rating of the window, and allows condensation between the panes of glass to gradually cloud the window. We occasionally see houses where all the double-pane windows have prematurely lost their gas and become clouded shortly after the homeowner tried out his new pressure washer on them.
- Thermal flexing hot/cold cycles of double-pane windows in direct sun can also shorten their life somewhat, but eventually they all lose their gas and become clouded. One window repair company in our area offers a temporary solution: they remove one of the panes of glass. This solves the problem of cloudiness on the interior surfaces of the glass between the two panes and extends the life of the window, but eliminates any insulation benefit.
- Landscape sprinklers that spray on a window will reduce its life, especially wood windows. Heavy condensation is also detrimental to windows.
- Poor installation or structural settlement will cause windows to be difficult to operate. The stress on the window frame will also shorten its life.
- The quality of the operating mechanism and how often it is used will affect the life of the window.
- Exposure of the window to sun and rain due to location will also affect lifespan. Windows in direct sun for most of the day and with minimal roof overhang protection will have a shorter life. Skylights are an extreme example of this.
Windows sometimes last much longer than these estimates with luck and careful maintenance, but end up being replaced for cosmetic reasons. New windows make an older house look fresh. One popular strategy that flip house investors use to increase an older home’s curb appeal is to replace the windows across only the front of a house.
While we know the beauty of brand new windows, we also know that spending money unnecessarily is unwise. That’s why understanding the actions that shorten the lifespan of your replacement windows will help you reach 15 years and beyond.