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Window failure


Robert Jones
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I received a call today from a client that I did a home inspection for the beginning of April 2009. He states that his windows are failing and that the window "specialist" that came out stated to him that the windows have been failing for about a year. There was no visible fogging of these windows when we did the inspection. Matter of fact the home is only 8 yrs old. The windows are obviously covered by the manufacture warranty.

Could you tell if a window has been failing for about a year? If these windows were failing, what could be the difference in appearance between April and now? Fogging/moisture between the glass of course. Anything else?

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You got it Brandon. The call came something like this. "Hi Rob, this is such and such. You did an inspection for me in April, remember? I specifically asked you if the windows had failed and you stated they were in normal condition. We just had a window company come out and he stated that the windows have been failing for about a year and it should have been reported by my home inspector."

I, of course, did not remember that house from the first week in April and told him I would give him a call back once I refreshed myself on the home(went over the report). I don't remember an inspection from that long ago unless there was just something that really stood out with the place. The home is 8 yrs old, I do the usual test and visible inspection of the window/frame/flashing/caulking etc... If there is visible evidence that a window has a failed seal, I call it. I guess I am venting more than anything before calling him back.

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On soft coat low E glass, there may be some visible iridecense as the metals in the coating begin to react to the introduction of moisture into the air space, but that is a big maybe. After that, there will be small spots that look like mildew forming as the metals form patinas at the locations of water droplets. Very often these droplets go unnoticed, and the patina spots are the first evidence of a failure. The next stage will be a visable accumulation of water, or rust/corrosion on the spacer material, or both. The final stage is a mineral haze on the glass surface. If the glazing is uncoated, or a "hard" coating was used, the first evidence of failure is the accumulation of water in the air space.

The metals used in coatings (silver, indium, titanium), and in spacers (aluminum, stainless steel) don't corrode over night. By looking at the level of corrosion you can generalize when the failure occured (silver corrodes in a few days, stainless over several months) but it's pointless. A failed unit is a failed unit, and replacement is the only repair. Your window "Specialist" is a BS artist.

Tom

PS Even the worst window on the market will still be under warranty at 8 years.

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How does one become a "window specialist?"

The window-company dude was simply trying to impress your former clients, like so many other tradespeople/sales-people. He probably works on commission, and was trying to line himself up a sale, unaware that a warranty was still in play.

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On soft coat low E glass, there may be some visible iridecense as the metals in the coating begin to react to the introduction of moisture into the air space, but that is a big maybe. After that, there will be small spots that look like mildew forming as the metals form patinas at the locations of water droplets. Very often these droplets go unnoticed, and the patina spots are the first evidence of a failure. The next stage will be a visable accumulation of water, or rust/corrosion on the spacer material, or both. The final stage is a mineral haze on the glass surface. If the glazing is uncoated, or a "hard" coating was used, the first evidence of failure is the accumulation of water in the air space.

The metals used in coatings (silver, indium, titanium), and in spacers (aluminum, stainless steel) don't corrode over night. By looking at the level of corrosion you can generalize when the failure occured (silver corrodes in a few days, stainless over several months) but it's pointless. A failed unit is a failed unit, and replacement is the only repair. Your window "Specialist" is a BS artist.

Tom

PS Even the worst window on the market will still be under warranty at 8 years.

Your post showed up while I was writing mine. Tom, I think I would have no problem at all referring to you as a window specialist.

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So, I was doing a little leg work prior to calling my client to show that I was working for them and trying to help him resolve the issue. Here is what I have found out. The windows installed on the home from 2001 were manufactured by Weathervane. In 2003 Weathervane Window Company was bought out by Weathervane LLC and they will not honor warranties of windows installed prior to 2003. I also discovered that one of the larger window manufacturer in the area, Milgard, only applies the warranty to the "original" owner, meaning the warranty does not transfer when the home is sold.

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Rob,

It gets more complicated than that. Windows cheap enough to not transfer warranties also tend to not be reglazable, meaning you will need entire sashes and not just insulated glass units. If there is an obvious glazing stop you should be able to replace the glass, but there are numerous clad wood windows that appear to be reglazable that cannot be disassembled without destroying the clading. I'm not suggesting that you should be replacing these, BTW.

That's been my experience here in the East, there aren't many Western manufactured windows here because they don't survive the trip over the Rockies without capilary tubes that defeat the purpose of high performance insulated glazing systems.

Tom

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I had a similar experience on a call back and convinced the folks the fogging they saw in the evenings (I inspected in AM) could come and go and was impossible to detect unless they are fogging at the time of the inspection.

I started adding this to my reports:

Please NOTE... It is not possible to fully evaluate the seals on Double pane (thermopane) windows as conditions can change from morning to evening, and due to temperature and weather... (Internal Fogging is the best indicator of seal problems and it can come and go) thus they are excluded from the inspection. However if we observe any fogging or broken glass in our random check we will certainly note it in the report

that being said our WA SOP states:

Inspectors are required to report on:

(iv) The condition and operation of a representative number of windows and doors.

Inspectors are not required to:

(1) Determine the condition of any system or component that is not readily accessible; the remaining service life of any system or component; the strength, adequacy, effectiveness or efficiency of any system or component; causes of any condition or deficiency; methods, materials, or cost of corrections; future conditions including, but not limited to, failure of systems and components.

(2) The inspector is not required to:

#149; Inspect

(b) Safety type glass or the integrity of thermal window seals.

good luck.. Jerry

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Thanks Jerry. I explained the same basic thing to my client. Especially now that the weather has become very cold around here. Another thing I "mentioned", was that he has been living there for the last 6 months, did he notice it before this last week. I think my client is just getting some BS information from "others", and of course they always refer back to us. The main window in question, is a large window on the front of the home. Would have been tough to miss obvious signs of failure on that one.

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. . . Could you tell if a window has been failing for about a year?

If it's the right time of year, yes. For instance, if I saw condensation spots on the glass in the fall, I'd know that the spots had to have been there a least since the previous winter. In our climate, windows don't fog in the summer and early fall months. On the other hand, if I saw the evidence in the early spring, I wouldn't be able to tell if the fogging first happened a week ago or a year ago.

If these windows were failing, what could be the difference in appearance between April and now? Fogging/moisture between the glass of course. Anything else?

Maybe they were dirty then and they're clean now? Maybe nothing. It's possible that the window guy is better at spotting the evidence from failed seals than you are. The evidence can be exceedingly subtle.

Next time a customer expresses concern about failed seals, give him an ice cube and a towel and show him how to do the ice test. It'll make him happy and keep him out of your hair for a while.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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The ice test is always a winner with my clients, not so much the realtors, but the clients think it's "cool". I find it amazing how some of these window companies, well, I guess there are many other type of companies, word their warranties. It's a subtle way for them to get out of paying for defects. Especially in this area, where a mjaority of my clients are military that transfer in and out every 3-4 yrs.

Thanks Jim.

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So, I was doing a little leg work prior to calling my client to show that I was working for them and trying to help him resolve the issue. Here is what I have found out. The windows installed on the home from 2001 were manufactured by Weathervane. In 2003 Weathervane Window Company was bought out by Weathervane LLC and they will not honor warranties of windows installed prior to 2003. I also discovered that one of the larger window manufacturer in the area, Milgard, only applies the warranty to the "original" owner, meaning the warranty does not transfer when the home is sold.

Robert,

FYI, the Milgard warranty is a full lifetime parts and labor warranty for the first owner. No prorating, unreasonable exceptions, or other BS. The warranty is fully transferable to a new owner for 10 years from date of original purchase.

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Good Morning Everyone,

At the risk of sounding like the newbie I am, can you explain what the "Ice Test" is?

Thanks,

Scott

Place an ice cube on an insulated glass pane and leave it there for 30 seconds or so, and then wipe the window dry. If you see condensation on the other side of the glass, the seal between the two panes of glass has failed. You can do something similar with an upside down can of compressed air.

Warning: this will allow you to find seals that have failed but that have not yet fogged. Others will argue about the results.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Good Morning Everyone,

At the risk of sounding like the newbie I am, can you explain what the "Ice Test" is?

Thanks,

Scott

Place an ice cube on an insulated glass pane and leave it there for 30 seconds or so, and then wipe the window dry. If you see condensation on the other side of the glass, the seal between the two panes of glass has failed. You can do something similar with an upside down can of compressed air.

Warning: this will allow you to find seals that have failed but that have not yet fogged. Others will argue about the results.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Scott, I am a newbie as well and was puzzling over the Ice Cube Test all morning.

Great question, and the response was cool as well, pun intended

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Just curious, when do you decide to preform this test?

Rarely.

If a customer is particularly curious, I hand him an ice cube.

If a customer is particularly curious and not there, I do it myself.

If a customer is not particularly curious, I just do a very careful visual check of each window and leave the ice test for those windows where I think I might see some artifacts of fogging, but I'm not sure. I use the ice (canned air, actually) as an arbiter.

Here's the problem with doing this test on every window:

A failed seal in a panel of insulated glass is mostly a cosmetic concern. The failed seal doesn't affect the weather-keeping-out-ness of the window at all. It has very little effect on the insulating ability of the window. The only thing it affects is the clarity of the window. Since one of the primary functions of a window is to be clear, I consider a fogged window to be fundamentally defective.

However, the ice test will often reveal a failed seal *before* the window has begun to fog. If the fogging has not yet begun, and if the window is still clear, with no artifacts of fogging, is it still defective? Should a person replace an insulated glass panel that has a failed seal but that has not yet displayed any visible signs of failure other than those induced by the ice test? I wouldn't do it in my own house. I'd wait till the fogging got bad enough to bug me.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Warning: this will allow you to find seals that have failed but that have not yet fogged. Others will argue about the results.

That's OK. They will argue quite often when there is visible evidence without even using the ice test. I used to get arguments from the other side all of the time when calling out failed seals.

My evaluation of each double paned window does not include the ice test, unless I can't decide whether to write up a particular window. My check includes wiping an area of the glass, sticking my head up at a slight angle to the cleaned area, and then shining my flashlight up at a different angle. Also, I look carefully at the bottom spacer that is between the panes of glass. If there is any any corrosion, deposits, etc. it's usually a dead give away.

Now I'm curious. How many others have not seen a BB (gun_ damaged window until they saw a small chunk of glass lying on the bottom spacer?

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