Window Pain

May 2023

Aging condominium buildings struggle with outdated and poorly performing windows when they have not set aside sufficient funds to pay for major repairs and replacement.

Visible signs that windows are failing include those that fog up due to failed seals, air drafts and water leaks.  As individual windows fail, communities will replace them until such time as the volume of individual window replacements become unmanageable.

Some reserve fund studies presume that windows will not require replacement or require replacement decades later than is practical.  Most building window systems should be replaced after 30 to 40 years of service life.  Earlier replacement allows communities to benefit from current window technology that is superior to older systems.  Greater energy savings and improved resident comfort justify this earlier replacement.  Newer window systems add to the resale value of condominium units.

Window replacement refers to just the glass.  Window systems include higher quality sealed double-glazed insulating glass, aluminum frames, and sliding systems for opening windows.

“Reserve fund studies can underestimate the cost of window replacement” explains Henry Jansen of Criterium-Jansen Engineers which specializes in conducting reserve fund studies.  “For reserve fund studies prepared prior to 2022, the cost of window and window system replacements has increased by 20 to 30 percent, after annual increases of up to seven percent in prior years.”  Some reserve fund studies plan for replacement of windows only rather than the entire window wall system.

Replacement of window systems are often deferred because of their high cost, causing problems for residents struggling with damaged window systems that fog up, allow cold and hot air drafts, and water entering the unit.  Internal damage and repair costs increase.

Windows and window systems can sometimes be recoated while extending their life for 15 to 20 years.  Replacing windows and window systems can reset the life of windows for 35 years or more with only minor maintenance being required for many years.

When reserve fund studies fail to incorporate the full cost of window system replacement, condo fees are understated.  When the time comes for replacement of windows and window systems, an underfunded reserve fund requires an additional funding source which is most likely a special assessment or condo loan.