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Windows and doors

The Old House Web




The glazing putty in this window is deteriorated in some locations. Repairs will be time consuming.

Windows and doors are the most complex elements of the building's exterior and should be inspected from the outside as follows:

Exterior Doors

Exterior doors should be examined for their condition, overall operation and fit, andfor the functionality of their hardware. Door types include hinged, single and double doors of wood, steel, aluminum, and plastic with and without glazing. Check wood and plastic doors that are not protected from the weather. These doors should be rated for exterior use.

In warm climates, jalousie doors may also be in use. Check these doors to make sure the louvers close tightly and in unison for weather tightness.

Some buildings use glass framed doors of fixed and operable panels that have wood, vinyl-covered wood, and aluminum frames. Check the track of these sliding doors for dents,breaks, and straightness. Check the glides of operable panels for wear and check thesealing of fixed panels for weather tightness. Note the degree of physical security offered by doors and their locksets and pay special attention to pairs of hinged and sliding doors.

Doors also should be inspected for the exterior condition of their frames and sills. Check doors that are not protected from the weather for the presence of essential flashing at the head.

Glazing on exterior doors should be examined as described in the following section on windows. The interior condition and hardware of exterior doors will be examined duringthe interior inspection. In hurricane regions, check exterior doors, and especially double doors, for the presence of dead-bolt locks with a throw length of no less than one inch.


Windows should be inspected for the exterior condition of their frames, sills and sashes, and for overall operation and fit.

The interior condition and hardware of windows will be examined during the interior inspection. There are eight types of windows and six types of frame material in general use in residential buildings. Frame materials are plastic, aluminum, steel, wood, plastic-clad wood, and metal-clad (steel or aluminum) wood.

Window types are double hung, single hung, casement, horizontal sliding, projected outor awning, projected in, and fixed. In addition to these, there are jalousies: glass louvers on an aluminum or steel frame.

The glazing compound or putty around glass panels in older sashes should be examined especially carefully since this is often the most vulnerable part of the window and itsrepair is time consuming.

Examine glazing tapes or strips around glass panels in steel or aluminum sashes forsigns of deterioration such as hardened sealant or poor fit. Check metal sashes for weepholes that have been blocked by paint, sealant, or dirt. Weep holes are usually easy to clean.

Check windows that are not protected from the weather for the presence of essentialflashing at the head.

For windows close to the ground or easily accessible from flat roofs, note the degreeof physical security provided by the windows and their locks.

In hurricane regions, check all windows and glass doors that are not protected by shutters to determine if they have been tested for impact resistance to wind-borne debris. If they have not been so tested, determine if plywood panels can be installed for their protection at the time of a hurricane warning.

Weather stripping

Window and door weather stripping is generally of three types: metal, foam plastic, orplastic stripping. Check each type for fit. Check metal for dents, bends, and straightness. Check foam plastic for resiliency and plastic stripping for brittleness and cracks. Make sure the weather stripping is securely held in place.


Window shutters are generally of two types: decorative and functional. Decorative shutters are fixed to the exterior wall on either side of a window. Check the shutter's condition and its mounting to the wall. Functional shutters are operable and can be used to close off a window.

Assess the adequacy of these shutters for their purpose: privacy, light control, security, or protection against bad weather. Check their operation and observe their condition and fit. Shutters close to the ground can be examined from the ground. Shutters out of reach from the ground should be examined during the interior inspection when windows are examined.

In hurricane regions, check shutters to see if the shutter manufacturer has certified them for hurricane use. If they provide protection to windows and glass doors, determine if they have been tested for impact resistance to windborne debris.


Windows and glazed exterior doors sometimes have awnings over them, usually for sun control, but sometimes for decoration or protection from the weather. Awnings are usually made of metal, plastic, or fabric on a metal or plastic frame.

Some are fixed in place, while others are operable and can be folded up against the exterior wall. Check the condition of awnings. Assess the adequacy of the attachment to the exterior wall. Fold up and unfold operable awnings and note the ease of operation. If an awning is used for sun control, assess its effectiveness and its effect on energy conservation.

Storm Windows

Storm windows and doors should be examined for operation, weather tightness, overall condition, and fit.

Check the condition of screen and glass inserts; if they are in storage, locate, count,and inspect them. Check also to determine if the weep holes have been blocked by paint, sealant, dirt, or other substances. Opening weep holes is usually easy to do.

Garage Doors

Garage doors should be examined for operation, weather-tightness, overall condition,and fit. Doors without motors should be manually opened and closed. Doors with motors should be operated using each of the operators on the system (key lock switch or combination lock key pad where control must be accessible on the exterior, remote electrical switch, radio signal switch, or photoelectric control switch). Check the operation for smoothness, quietness, time of operation, and safety. Check for the presence and proper operation of the door safety reversing device. Observe exposed parts of the installation for loose connections, rust, and bent or damaged pieces.

Garage doors are made of wood, hardboard on a wood frame, steel, glass fiber on a steel frame, glass fiber, and aluminum. All come with glazed panes in a wide variety of styles. Check wood and hardboard for rot and water damage, check hardboard for cracking andsplitting, check steel for rust, check glass fiber for ultraviolet light deterioration, and check aluminum for dents.

In hurricane regions, examine garage doors, especially single doors on two-car garages, to determine if the assembly (door and track) has been tested for hurricane wind loads orhas been reinforced.

Safety Glazing

Glazed entrance doors including storm doors, sliding glass patio doors, and glazing immediately adjacent to these doors, but excluding jalousie doors, should be fully tempered, wire, or laminated glass or an approved plastic material. In addition, glazing adjacent to any surface normally used for walking must be safety glazing. Safety glazing is a building code requirement that applies to both new and replacement glazing.

Editor's note: This story is adapted from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Residential Rehabilitation Inspection Guide, 2000. Click here for other stories in this series.

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