DEAR TIM: I have a casement window in my home that has a mind of its own. In fact, now that I think of it, several of my casement windows have some issues. Some are tough to open and close, while others glide easily. Is there a problem with the casement window hardware? Should I be maintaining it in some way? Is there a way for me to repair this myself or do I need new casement replacement window or two? What else should I know about these windows? Bethany H., Charleston, IL
DEAR BETHANY: Casement windows, I sometimes feel, are in my DNA. The house I grew up in had these crank-out windows in each room. They were steel casement windows that were very common in homes built just before and after World War II. I have memories of washing these windows, replacing the putty and watching my mother install this string caulk each fall to stop the drafts as the windows had absolutely no weatherstripping.
The current home I live in has a mix of Anderson casement windows and double-hung windows. I happen to love the casement windows for a number of reasons. First, when you open them, you get the maximum amount of ventilation as the entire surface area of the window is open to the outdoors. With a double-hung window, you only get a maximum of about 50 percent of the surface area open as one sash overlaps the other.
I also prefer the ease of cleaning with many modern casement windows. The windows in my childhood home did not allow you access to the outside of the glass when they were open. However, many modern casement windows are hinged in such a way that when fully open, you can reach the outside of the glass through a gap between the window frame and the sash.
I had the same issue you have with two of my windows. I found it very hard to turn the casement window crank on two of my very large windows in my family room. I traced the issue in one of the windows to some debris that got jammed into the lever that drives the window out. The second problem was a loose piece of hardware where the lever attached to the window sash.
It’s pretty important to keep all of the hardware on your windows lubricated. As the windows get larger, some of mine are nearly 2-feet wide and 5-feet tall, they get very heavy. Most of this weight is concentrated on the lower hinge, and it better be well greased and balanced for the window to open and close with ease.
You can maintain and lubricate the windows yourself. It’s not hard at all. The first thing to do is a thorough inspection of the window, the casement window crank and all casement window parts that you can see. You may even be able to remove a housing from on top of the crank to gain access to gears and parts that are attached to the crank.
Make sure there is no debris in these parts, and that they are in good shape. Remove any rust if it exists. Use a medium-weight oil or one recommended by the window manufacturer if that company is still in business. You don’t need much lubrication, and make sure you coat all the moving parts. Operate the window several times as you do this to see if the performance improves.
If you determine that repairs can’t be successfully made by you or a pro, you may have to obtain casement window prices to see how expensive it will be to replace your windows. I can already tell you that the price will take your breath away. High-quality windows are expensive, but well worth it if you plan to live in the house for a long time. Windows and doors are often the weakest link in the energy-efficiency chain in your home. You want great windows that will not leak lots of energy.
If you prefer little future maintenance, look at vinyl casement windows. Try to find ones that come with the AAMA (www.aamanet.org) certification label as well as the one from the NFRC (www.nfrc.org). These two independent organizations certify the construction and energy aspects of windows and doors.
I also urge you to ensure your new windows are installed correctly. If they are installed in a bind or improperly, they may not operate smoothly nor will they seal properly against the weatherstripping. Take the time to get familiar with the written instructions that come with the window and be sure they are installed that way.