plastic window on a house

How Long Do Windows Last?

The window is a miraculous invention and one that we modern world-dwellers can’t imagine our lives without. Windows provide us with a view, fresh air when we want it, protection from the weather and extreme temperatures, and shelter from other external things, such as bugs, insects, and other creatures.

In the past, windows were fragile, susceptible to damage, wear, and tear, and despite their usefulness, they didn’t have anything close to the advantages of modern windows. The windows that professional companies install these days are durable, energy-saving, and impact resistant. But for how long?

The answer depends on many factors and can be quite complicated.

How Long Do Windows Last on Average?

If we’re talking about averages, the answer is around 25 years, but as we’ve mentioned before, it depends on many things.

Firstly, you must understand the structure of a window. We all know that windows have glass panes in them, but there is so much more to it than that. For example, is there one pane of glass or two, what is the window frame made of, and what quality are the glass, frame, and hardware?

Secondly, it must be borne in mind that all windows require maintenance. Some less than others, certainly, but every window type will need some care over the years. Other factors affecting the lifespan of a window include:

  • the weather,
  • how regularly and in what conditions the window is used,
  • and how much the building shifts naturally over the years.

As vague as this sounds, dependent on all these factors, you should expect your new windows to last anywhere from 20 to 50 years. Don’t worry, we’ll explain – keep reading.

Factors Determining the Lifespan of a Window

Materials

Let’s start with materials. There are a number of different materials the frame of a window can be made from, and historically this was not the case.

Wooden Windows

wooden windows

Wood is beautiful and has a number of other advantages, such as a good lifespan if maintained properly, but it also has some downsides, including the high price, high maintenance requirements, and its susceptibility to damage and rot.

Despite these, it is still a very popular material for window frames, and if you choose to go with wood, you must be willing to do the work, or your window frames will not last as long as you hope.

Wooden window frames can last anywhere from 15 to 50 years.

Vinyl Windows

plastic windows

Vinyl window frames are economical, low maintenance, and long-lasting, but vinyl can warp under extreme temperatures.

Vinyl windows should last anywhere from 20 to 40 years, and a simple wash and oiling of hinges every now and then should be all the maintenance they need.

Aluminum Windows

aluminum windows

Another common material for window frames these days is aluminum. It may not be the most beautiful option, but it can be painted to suit the building. It is rust-resistant, lightweight, and low-maintenance.

However, aluminum window frames are susceptible to damage, easily showing dents and scratches. It is easily affected by salt spray, and because metals conduct heat, it is not the most energy-efficient option on the table.

Expect your aluminum window frames to last 20 to 30 years.

Quality

Choosing the right materials for your window frames is not as simple as selecting one of the above and running with it – each of these options comes in both cheap and expensive alternatives, and choosing the cheap one will ensure that you have to replace your windows far sooner than you had hoped.

A good way to tell what you are getting is by checking the product warranty. The longer the warranty, the longer you can expect the materials to last.

Choosing high-quality window frames, no matter which material they are made from will ensure a long lifespan and better use. High-quality windows will be easy to open and close, completely sealed when closed, and will prevent drastic changes in temperature inside your house, saving you money on your electrical bill.

Installation

window fitter at work

Your windows will never last long, no matter how much effort you put into maintaining them if they are not properly installed at the start.

Windows must be perfectly fitted, properly sealed, and correctly placed in order to have a good, long lifespan.

You want your windows to keep out water, heat, cold, and pests, and they can’t do that if they are not properly installed.

DIY window installation, or hiring a friend or family member, might seem like a good money-saving idea at the time, but it is very likely that you will end up with problems very soon, if not immediately if you do not rather choose to hire a professional.

Local Climate

Perfect installation and all the maintenance you could possibly offer your windows cannot save them from the slow destruction of time and the weather. Choosing the best quality windows you can afford, and having a regular maintenance schedule, will ensure they will stand up better to the elements than cheaper or unmaintained windows would, but eventually, all windows will be affected by the weather.

  • Moisture – This is the biggest enemy of wooden windows, and the reason they must be so carefully looked after. Once the paint or finish of a wooden window frame wears down, the rain will easily absorb into the wood, causing it to swell and warp. If you live in an area with high humidity or lots of rain, you will need to look after your wooden window frames very well.
  • UV Exposure – The sun beats down on your window frames all day in the dry season, especially if you are far from the equator and have one side of your house that gets all-day sun. Windows on the shady side of your house are certain to last longer than those constantly affected by UV rays. The best way to protect your windows against UV-induced degradation is to buy windows with a UV-resistant coating.
  • Wind – Strong winds beat against your house and can put significant pressure on your window frames. Although modern windows are durable and long-lasting, eventually this onslaught will have an effect. There is likely little you can do about this, but do try to keep your windows closed during high winds, to prevent the open window from pulling against the hardware and frame.
  • Salt Spray – Residents of seaside towns are familiar with the fact that air blowing in from the ocean contains salt particles. Salt is highly corrosive and will wear down the finish on your wood or aluminum window frames. Although vinyl window frames are less susceptible to damage from salt spray, they should also be washed fairly regularly to ensure their longevity.

How to Make Your Windows Last Longer?

If you’ve bought a house that has good windows, or if you’ve just replaced your windows, you will likely want to ensure that they last as long as they can. There are a few ways you can ensure you get decades of good use out of your windows before needing to spend the money to replace them.

  • Maintenance – This is the most obvious point. Create a care schedule for your windows and stick to it. Wooden windows need to be repainted every 5 years and window joints need to be oiled every year.
  • Proper installation – Make sure your windows are installed by a professional from the get-go.
  • Be gentle – It is always best to be gentle and careful when you open and close your windows, and even more so with new windows as they move so smoothly. Being rough with your windows could cause premature damage.

Signs That Your Windows Need Replacing

Woman hand insulating old windows

Of course, we all want our windows to last as long as possible, and if we work at it, and repair small issues as they arise, we should be able to keep our windows in use for decades. However, eventually, the day will come when a simple repair job won’t cut it, and the windows need to be replaced. Here is how you can tell that that day has come.

  • Wind is getting in where it never did before.
  • The windows are not blocking outside noise as they did before.
  • You have a hard time opening, closing, or locking the windows due to misalignment or warping.
  • There are obvious signs of wear and tear that make the windows – and by default, your entire house – look old and worn.