Replacing Windows

Common interest developments more than 30 years old often share a familiar dilemma when homeowners want to replace older single-pane windows with newer windows that are more energy efficient. Prior to the mid-1970s, most housing developments were built with standard single pane, aluminum frame windows because they were inexpensive and easy to install and maintain; however, permeable frames and glazing gave way to condensation, water leakage, and electrical conductivity. Today, technology has enabled manufacturers to produce dual pane windows that increase insulating value and heat reflective qualities. Frames now come in wood, aluminum, fiberglass or vinyl, and windows have a range of designs.

Obstacles to Window Replacement

Governing Documents

Some associations’ governing documents require the homeowner to maintain his or her own windows, while the association remains responsible for replacing and repairing these windows. Unclear governing documents may provoke misunderstandings and conflict between homeowner and assassination.


Unfortunately, Common Interest Developments that do not have a clear set of window replacement guidelines often have a difficult time maintaining safety and uniformity within the CID. Board members must then weigh the costs of replacing the old window with a more energy efficient one, taking into account retrofitting, architectural uniformity and maintenance costs. Furthermore, window installation may require permits and could damage another part of the building in the future, and poses safety concerns.


Two of the most common safety violations that occur when upgrading windows are 1) reducing the size of the window opening for emergency egress in bedrooms and 2) failing to provide tempered safety glass where necessary. When windows are upgraded, the owner or contractor often alters the size or configuration of the openings, and then the window no longer provides a space big enough for emergency personnel to enter and occupants of the room to exit. Additionally, there are new requirements in the California Building Code restricting windowsills close to the floor, which pose a greater liability to the owner and the association if mistakes are not caught beforehand.


Guidelines: Safely Replacing Old Windows

Committee and Board members should discuss issues of safety, permitting, aesthetics, cost and maintenance, before developing guidelines that outline the process of replacing old windows with newer, more energy efficient ones. It is also valuable to address the financial benefits associated with window replacement, such as reduced energy consumption and improved window quality and durability. Once guidelines and standards are developed, the association’s attorney and board should review the documents.



Adapted from:
John Schneider, a licensed general building contractor,
a certified code specialist,
and a member of ECHO. Since 1985, he
has been president of All About Homes,
Inc., a consulting company specializing in
the investigation of construction damage,
defects and safety concerns.


Educational Topic: