Windows and Doors/Fixed frame window leak


QUESTION: Hi Russell,

Thank you for taking the time to share your expertise.

I have  a fixed frame window that is leaking.  It's dual pane.  The seal is apparently broken because there is condensation between the panes.  I've had 2 contractors come out to give me estimates on replacing it.  It's 28 years old so its time to replace.  The first contractor gave me estimates for both retrofit and cut out.  However if I choose retrofit I have to sign a waiver that it may not fix the leak.  

The second contractor only does retrofits.  He said he can't sell me one because I need a cutout because the leak is in the flashing.  This was from just looking up at the window, no water testing. I'm in a condo and the association won't authorize a cutout.  They say it's not necessary.

My question is, are all leaks on fixed frame due to flashing?  Is there a posssibility the broken seal could be creating the leak and a retrofit would fix it?  Any advice would be appreciated.

Many thanks,

ANSWER: Is there any chance you can send me a photo of the window on this site?  Is the window wood, vinyl or aluminum? Is it leaking just inside the two panes of glass or is it leaking unto the inside of the window frame. When the other contractors say "Cut Out" were they talking about cutting out the double pane glass out of the frame and replacing it with new glass? Or do they mean taking the window and frame out? If the seal is broken where the glass meets the frame that should be an easy fix with clear silicon. But only do it when there isn't any condensation between the two panes of glass. if the leak is in the frame, I would need to know if that is wood, vinyl or metal.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Russell,

Thanks for your quick reply.  The frame is aluminum.  I've attached a photo. It's the top window and is leaking down the interior of the wall onto the window sill of the window below it.

I understand the condensation is from the window seal, but I don't know if the broken seal would create water going down the inside of the wall. Possibly, it's the frame or flashing creating the leak.

By "cut out", they mean "new construction replacement".  They replace the window, frame and flashing. In order to do that, they must "cut out" stucco to access the frame and flashing.  I need condo association approval to do that, which they wont agree to.

A "retrofit" window replacement is something I'm allowed to do without approval.  It basically places a framed window onto the existing frame.  They inject foam between. But the existing frame stays in place and so does the flashing.  No stucco is cut out. The new frame would be vinyl.

Thanks for taking the time to assist!

My first question I have is why don't the two contractors take to old window out from the inside? If I were replacing your window, I would cut the drywall about 4 inches wider than the window opening on all four sides and pull the window out from the inside. Fixing the drywall is a lot cheaper than replacing & repairing exterior stucco. If the contractors tell you the window has to come out from the outside, then they are being dishonest. I doubt there are any nailing tabs on that style of window. That means the window is nailed or screw into the plywood sheeting by tabs or fins that extend out an inch or so from the window frame. If there are, they can easily be cut away.
With the window out, you will be able to see if water is coming in from the flashing around the window opening by some discoloration. Unless the exterior flashing was damaged by wind or a storm, re-caulking the seams where the flashing meets the stucco is all that needs to be done if water is leaking through there. You said the window is 28 years old. So the caulking probably is cracking and dried out after 28 years. Especially if that window gets a lot of sun.
Before you go through the expense of taking the old window out, I would have someone scrape out all the old exterior caulking that is around the window frame and flashing. Re-caulk with a good quality caulk like "Quad Caulk", which is oil based and one of the best to use on windows, siding & flashing. Home Depot sells it. Then have him runs beads of clear silicon along the four sides of the window frame where the glass meets the window frame. Do this on the interior and exterior. If the window this gets condensation after that, then the window seal is bad on one of the edges where the two panes of glass are joined together inside the frame. If that is the case, you would have to take the window out to fix that. So if you have to do that, you might as well install a new window.

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Russell Spataro


Construction, home repair, tile, cabinets, flooring, framing, windows, siding, concrete, new construction, remodeling


14 years as a custom home builder

25 years as a carpenter

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