Your Guide to Buying, Installing & Maintaining Storm Windows

November 15, 2018


If you grew up in a region that experienced colder climates, it’s likely your storm windows signaled the change of seasons. In the fall, when football weather came to stay, the storm windows went up. And then, in the spring, when the flowers were readying themselves for a colorful return, your storm windows came back down.

But did you know that your storm windows can easily be a permanent fixture in your home, as they work equally well in cold and hot climates? Today’s storm windows are extremely versatile and are no longer just a winter accessory. In other words, these aren’t your granddad’s storm windows we’re talking about.

What Are Storm Windows?

To put it simply, storm windows are an extra layer of insulation and protection that are mounted either on the outside of your regular windows, or on the inside. They’re usually made of glass but can also be manufactured from hard plastic.

Who Benefits from Storm Windows?

There are numerous benefits to having storm windows on your house, and these include:

  • Increase in energy efficiency
  • Reduction in street noise
  • Increase in personal comfort (no pesky cold drafts!)
  • Protection for primary windows from physical damage (like that which you’d see in a storm. Hence the name!)
     

If your home has energy efficient windows, or if you live in a moderate to warm climate – think, San Diego – your house may not need storm windows. However, for those of you not living in SoCal, the question isn’t IF you need storm windows, but what are the costs, and can you afford a professional or do it yourself? Subsequently, if you live in a hot climate, your storm windows will keep all that cold AC from escaping into your neighbor’s yard.

Your Options for Installation

According to Improvenet.com, the cost of buying and installing storm windows ranges from $164 to $287 per window. That’s for the windows, their installation which takes around two hours per window and some additional supplies.

If you’re installing your own storm windows, you could save around $30 to $65 per hour on labor, or $60 to $130 per window.

Before we get started with a step-by-step breakdown for purchase and installation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have the skills to install my own windows?
  • Do I have the tools?
  • Do I have the time? (An especially important question if you’re in the midst of hurricane season)
  • Which do I value more: my time or my money?
     

In this blog post, we’ll talk about both options, as well as how to maintain your storm windows once they’re set up!

Tips for Buying Storm Windows

When buying your new storm windows, the first thing to know is what kind of windows you have at home. Are they single-hung, double-hung, or slider-windows?

Double-hung windows are those windows where both sashes in the frame move up and down, while single-hung windows have a top sash that is fixed. Slider windows move from side to side and are typically used in window frames that are wider than they are tall.

Figured that out? Good! Because the types of window units you have will help you determine the best storm windows for your home.

The 4 Types of Storm Windows

There are four types of storm windows: Two-track, triple-track, two-track slider, and basement.

Two-track storm windows have a half screen on the bottom and an outer pane on top, neither of which slide up or down. The inside pane, however, does slide to allow fresh air flow. These work for double-hung or single-hung windows.

Triple-track storm windows have two panes and a half screen, all in separate tracks, meaning each can move up and down. This adds a measure of flexibility, as either the top half or lower half can allow air flow; or you can open one half of the window entirely to pass items through it. They’re also designed for double or single-hung windows.

Two-track slider storm windows are like normal two-track storm windows, except they open horizontally rather than vertically. They are made specifically for use with slider windows that also open horizontally.

Basement storm windows are typically a single pane that is held in place by thumb latches.

What Else Should You Know Before Choosing?

Beyond making sure the storm windows you choose are of high quality, Lowe’s recommends examining the corners of all storm windows before purchasing, explaining: ”They should be strong and airtight. Corner joints that overlap are preferable to those that are mitered. If you can see through the joints, they'll leak air.”

Beyond that, there are a few other considerations when choosing storm windows for your home.

  • Do you want storm windows with Low-E Glass, making them even more energy efficient?
  • Do you want them in a specific color?
  • And do you want storm windows with extra security measures, like multi-point locks?
     

Once you decide what kind of storm windows you need, any extra features you may want, and have examined those pesky corners, it’s time to install. Or find a professional to install them.

How to Install Your Own Storm Windows

By now, you’re probably already leaning one way when it comes to professional installation of your storm windows vs. the DIY model. If you’re a hands-on type of person, that’s great! But if the steps below conjure any hesitation, remember that sometimes it pays to have the job done right - and there are plenty of solutions to help make the process affordable!

If you’ve decided to give it a go on your own, these steps will help ensure the best possible outcome. Tom Silva from This Old House recommends the following steps when installing exterior storm windows (which are the most common type):

  1. Measure the inside width of your window at three locations with the window open: near the top of the frame, in the middle, and near the bottom
  2. Choose the smallest dimension from those three measurements
  3. Go outside and take a measurement of the height of the window
  4. Repeat this process for all windows, as sizes may vary by a few inches
  5. Choose the ideal storm windows for your home and order them
  6. Scrape any peeling or chipping paint from both frame and trim
  7. Drill small holes in window sill exterior that coincide with the cavities in your storm window where water can seep out; use a measuring tape for accuracy
  8. Prime and paint the frame and trim
  9. Caulk around the top and sides on the back of each storm window; don’t caulk the bottom edge
  10. Screw the top of the storm window to the frame
  11. Close the bottom sash to position the window correctly, then screw the sides to the frame
  12. Tap down the adjustable expander for a tight fit
     

Measuring your home’s windows is a very important part of this process. Some may appear to be the same size, but it’s always best to measure each and every one. A snug, tight fit will ensure you get the greatest benefit from your storm windows, so don’t discount this step.

Tips for Maintaining Storm Windows

How long your storm windows last will depend on several factors: the quality of the storm windows, the harshness of your climate, and how well you maintain them.

Regular cleaning and upkeep is essential. Take special care of the channels and tracks that can become clogged with dirt and dust, or corrosion and rust. If maintained properly, your storm windows can last for decades.

How to Clean Your Windows

Supplies that you’ll need include:

  • A stiff-bristle brush
  • A soft-bristle brush
  • Silicone spray
  • Automobile wax
  • A vacuum with a tight-space attachment
  • Dish detergent
     

After you gather your materials, follow these steps to ensure the job is done right:

  1. Use stiff-bristle brush to remove dirt from window channels
  2. Make sure to brush off sides and bottoms, then vacuum the debris
  3. Use soft brush, water, and detergent to clean window channels
  4. Spray lubricant into the channels to prevent rust from forming
  5. Use automobile wax to coat the storm windows metal frames
     

Deep Cleaning Your Storm Windows

At least once per year, it’s a good idea to do a deeper clean, which involves removing the storm windows.

For this, all you need is a hose, dish soap, paper towels, and window cleaner. That, and you may want to incorporate the above maintenance routine prior to reinstalling.

  1. Remove storm windows
  2. Set safely on a saw horse, or against your house
  3. Hose off both sides of the windows
  4. Lather up with soap and water
  5. Rinse off all soapy residue
  6. Remove any streaks with paper towels and window cleaner
  7. Reinstall to your window frames
  8. Touch up any areas with smudges or finger prints
     

 A Note About Replacements

Maintaining your storm windows will go a long way to ensuring you won’t have to replace any parts. But occasionally things happen and pieces brake. Some common replacement parts include latches, corners, slide bolts, and even the glass itself.

If you weren’t up for installing the storm windows to begin with, know that fixing and replacing parts is an even more difficult process. In our experience, it’s better to do it right and hire someone with all the tools and know-how at their disposal. However, the DIY pro should have no trouble finding replacement parts at their nearest big-box hardware store, and some helpful instruction on YouTube.

Storm windows have come a long way over the years. Gone are the days of stapling plastic sheeting to a rickety frame and calling it a storm window. And they work great for any climate that has extremes, or even inclement weather, as they are typically much cheaper to replace than your actual window panes.

The long-term savings from use of storm windows can be immense! If you’re considering buying and installing storm windows but are concerned about the upfront cost, Ygrene may offer the perfect financial solution. PACE financing is an easier, more affordable way to pay for your home improvements, and is a trusted alternative to traditional home improvement financing. Get in touch with any questions at 866-634-1358 or browse our website to learn more!