Ask the Expert
Maybe window fix isn't a foggy idea
"Never say never," I have been told. Problem is, I never seem to get that concept. Just a few months back, in response to a reader's question...
Special to The Seattle Times
"Never say never," I have been told. Problem is, I never seem to get that concept.
Just a few months back, in response to a reader's question about a fogged-up double-pane window, I wrote that the only option was to replace the glass. In the past I have heard rumors about various fixes for a "failed seal" but had never (there I go again ... ) been convinced they were anything other than a scam. But those plucky Canadians have come up with what I believe is a great solution. More than one company has been doing this in the frozen North and has now brought the technology down here. Brett Hutton is the local franchisee of Window Medics. Here's how they work:
The seal between the glass panes in an insulated window is filled with a desiccant that absorbs moisture. This moisture production is a result of "solar pumping" — the relative expansion and contraction of the panes during temperature swings.
After a certain number of years the desiccant cannot absorb any more moisture, so the condensation begins to manifest visually, becoming then a "failed" window.
To repair, Hutton will drill a tiny hole in the glass near the top, fill the void between the panes with a proprietary acidic cleaning solution, then drain and suck it out through another hole at the base.
Once cleaned and allowed to dry, a tiny, clear, one-way valve is installed in the holes. The valve allows moisture to escape, but does not let air enter.
Essentially, this is re-engineering the window and the way it copes with internal moisture and pressure. The valves allow the pressure in the window to approximately equal the atmosphere.
Tempered glass cannot be successfully drilled, and cannot be repaired with today's tools ("cannot," not "never"). As a result, Hutton tells me that windows near an exterior door, sliding glass doors, many windows in a bathroom or glass close to floor level cannot be repaired.
The sooner the condensing glass is dealt with, the better the chance of it actually being repairable. After many years of condensation, the glass actually becomes etched on the inside and gets permanent mineral deposits and "river bedding" that cannot be removed. In these cases, Hutton must recommend glass replacement.
The cost? $80 minimum for smaller windows. Larger pieces are typically $175. The larger the glass, the more it saves over replacement. Hutton repaired a very large pane recently for $325 that had a $1,500 bid for replacement.
While he was repairing several panes on a home in Kirkland that I visited, Hutton's activities attracted the attention of a neighbor who ventured over, saw us chatting and was intrigued by the concept since she had the same fogged-window problem throughout her house. First thing out of her mouth after hearing about the process was, "I always thought this was a big scam to get people to buy new windows every few years!" Maybe. Time will tell.
Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. Send home-maintenance questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry, no personal replies.
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