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Metal windows are simply windows made with metal frames (as opposed to wood, vinyl or composite frames). Metal windows are noticeable because their frames are slimmer than other kinds of windows.
Most contemporary metal windows are made with aluminum or steel. Steel is the more expensive material.
Steel windows found in homes built after the 1940's were likely made with galvanized steel, which increases toughness, is more weather resistant, and comes in a variety of finishes. Older metal windows – made with ungalvanized steel, cast iron, bronze or copper frames – are more susceptible to weather-related deterioration.
Metal windows are popular because of their: strength, durability, modern styles, and, slender frames, which allow more viewing space.
"Is it possible to fix old metal windows that don't close properly?"
Yes. How you fix them depends on the type of window and the problem.
Sliding metal windows (usually but not always aluminum) stop working for reasons that include:
issues with the track – dirt, paint, rust or deteriorating metal, insufficient lubrication along the metal sliding surface, ent or misshapen frames, from years of use or natural settling of the home.
Metal casement windows, which can be either aluminum or steel, stop closing snugly for reasons that include: years of paint buildup, deteriorating metal, broken or bent hinges, handles or crank mechanisms, and, bent or misshapen frames, from years of use or natural settling.
Cleaning dirty window frames and tracks is the easiest solution, and one most homeowners can accomplish. WD-40 is a helpful cleaning agent/lubricating solution. Graphite dust also works as a lubricant.
If built-up paint appears to be the problem, you'll need to scrape it off yourself, or find a handyman or window professional to do it.
Small bends on aluminum windows might be fixable by adept DIY'ers, but for the most part, if the frame is bent or misshapen, you'll probably need to contact a window replacement professional, since the frames will likely need to be removed from the wall, inspected, and possibly repaired or replaced.
"Is it possible to paint, refinish or refurbish old metal windows?"
Yes, old metal windows can be refurbished, although it's not an easy job unless you're an accomplished DIY'er. The process involves: scraping off old putty and paint with a scraping tool, inspecting the bare metal for rust and other forms of deterioration, to determine if the frames should be replaced, if the frames are in good shape, they must be treated with a rust inhibitor and metal primer, putty glazing is then applied, to seal and help insulate the windows, and finally, the frame can be painted.
Contact a knowledgeable handyman or window repair specialist if this is beyond your skill set.
"How much heat/energy am I losing through old metal windows?"
The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that windows may account for 25-30% of energy lost in residential homes. However, most of that loss comes from air leaks and window cracks, i.e., drafty windows – not from window glass or frames.
Metal window frames do conduct heat very quickly, which lowers their insulation capabilities … but more energy is lost through window glass than window frames.
If you want to make sure that your metal windows are conserving energy, start by making sure that they close tightly. Replacing single- with double-pane glass can help too, although the cost savings may not be worth the expense (assuming your metal window frames can accommodate double-pane glass). Window frames with thermal breaks also help prevent energy loss.
"Is choosing to repair or restore old metal windows a good choice?"
Many homeowners choose to repair or restore their old metal windows to keep their historic character and charm. Restoration is also typically less expensive than replacement.
When restoring old windows, many homeowners add features to increase their energy efficiency, including thermal breaks, insulated frames, and multiple panes of glass.
The decision to repair versus replace often comes down to the window’s condition. Some windows can be repaired or restored with minimal effort. Others may require a skilled handyman or window expert, which will add to the overall cost of repair.