If there’s one part of our house that doesn’t hide wear and tear in the most immaculate fashion, it’s the windows.

A good pane should be perfectly clear, rid of any scratches and scrapes whilst still being able to open and close with ease. Thankfully that’s not to say that older sets of windows are beyond repair, and you’ll find that most fittings can be polished up to the aforementioned standard or simply replaced.

Indeed, rather than spending hundreds of pounds replacing their existing fittings, homeowners will find that it’s much more cost-effective to repair their fittings with new parts, perhaps a new frame and a bit of elbow grease. This is a decision often made by owners of older homes whose windows have historic value.

Fortunately fixing this integral part of the house is akin to most DIY tasks, in that you can research the solution, purchase what you need and implement the changes yourself.

Perhaps you’re concerned about what your dilapidated fittings could be doing to the value of your home? Maybe you’re in the market for a new property to fix up, have found a suitable match but can’t ignore the state of the windows. If either apply, here’s how you can return your old windows to a previous, more polished state.

General cleaning

While some windows can be cleaned with the old method of a hot bucket of water mixed with detergent, sometimes it takes a little more care to remove every last mark from the pane. By all means remove any clumps of dirt and cobwebs with a sponge soaked in water, but consider a lighter clean for removing the tricky stains.

Glass cleaner and newspaper are your best friends here as using rags or paper towels will only streak the glass. With a light layer of your product, go over the entire window with a circular motion. Rub until all stains on the outside have disappeared.

As for that all important buff, a dash of white vinegar with a soft tea towel should get your windows gleaming again.


You may start to clean the window only to discover that your real problem is fog situated on the inside of the pane.

Remove the insulating pane of glass and take off the seal around the edge of the outer panel. This provides insulation and may require cutting if the fitting is old. Remove this strip from the sash and wipe down all sides of the two panes with glass cleaner and a handful of newspaper. Once the fog has been removed, reinstall the glass pane and seal everything back up with silicone window caulking.


Sometimes it’s not a problem with how clean the glass is but how many parts it’s missing. Unfortunately a shattered pane often means a complete replacement. You can replace a broken pane by heading to your local scrapyard or hardware store and getting a piece cut to your exact dimensions. As for the installation, it’s best to consult with the window manufacturer’s instructions for how to open the frame and fit a new pane inside.

Fortunately some windows aren’t a lost cause, and waterproof silicone sealer is perfect for filling in small cracks or holes. Using the edge of a plastic knife, smooth the sealer out so the liquid gets right into the gap and does not overspill. You’ll then want to clean your blade before spreading it back over the gap, ensuring that everything fits flush.


Any gaps around the outside of the window frame will result in damp appearing on its internal walls. Use a good frame sealant to fill in any cracks you see and wipe around the fitting itself with a clean rag. To ensure your work stays neat and tidy, try applying the sealant without releasing the trigger to pause.

In some cases you may have to seal the gaps up with mortar, which can be done easily with a small trowel or filling knife.


If an old window is creating problems on the inside by letting the air through, you should look at ways of adding extra insulation. One of the easiest methods is to fill any gaps in the interior casing with rigid foam. Equally if the draught is coming between the opener and the frame then a weather-seal will provide good resistance but be careful not to go too far as this could strain the fittings like the handle having to stretch to close. Old windows made from timber always present challenges and are never perfect but will give you some practical benefits with some careful and though-through DIY.


A new handle could be the answer to your troubles if the window still lets in a bit of a breeze. If you turn the handle and the window does not open, there’s a high chance that it is seized. Consult with the manufacturer’s guidebook to identify ways to ease this (if you have one) or invest in a new handle as they are cheap enough and lots of designs are available for the most period looking windows.

Replacement is the best cause of action when dealing with many problems relating to handles. This is mainly due to the part being so small and relatively cheap to purchase. So, before you decide to trawl through manufacturer’s guidebooks in search of the answer, do consider whether you might be better off simply purchasing a new product.

Though before you start to conduct any work on your old windows, always remember what you’re dealing with. Panes of glass are highly delicate objects and rushing in to fix them could have serious repercussions. Make sure you’re fully aware of what you’re doing before deciding to sort the matter yourself.