August means it’s back to school for the kiddos and back to work for your windows. Summer may seem like it’s never going to end this year, but we promise that the cold snaps of fall aren’t far off. With them come the brisk autumn winds and hard rains that can really put your panes through their paces. So, before you break out that stylish sweatshirt you got on sale in June, take a second to check in with your windows. It’s quick, easy and you’ll be glad you did when drafts dodge your house on cozy fall nights to come.

Let’s light it up; one of the easiest ways to check for vulnerable points around your windows is to simply hold a lit match or stick of incense near their frames. Take care to note whenever there is smoke movement, keeping tabs on which areas may need caulk, sealant, or weather-stripping. If you do detect a significant breach, there are plenty of solutions that stop short of full window replacement. After all, you deserve to spend that money on one last summer hurrah for Labor Day Weekend.

Before you start caulking everything in sight, take a breath and establish which of the common types of windows your house has. In relatively older homes, you’re likely to find double-hung windows–the classic style that slides up and down to open and close. Another popular variety more often found in newer homes is the casement style window. The Casement style build swings into and latches directly against the window frame rather than sliding vertically. We don’t play favorites, but it’s worth knowing that the casement style’s design makes for an easier time sealing against the wind and colder temperatures.

As with so many of life’s problems, taking Occam’s Razor to your window woes might just solve the problem. That is to say, it might just be a simple matter of—wait for it—shutting them. Seriously! If you’re working with the double-hung variety, triple check that both panels are in the closed position, one fully up and one fully down. You would be blown away how many homeowners don’t even realize their windows aren’t completely shut before calling the professionals out. Most often it’s the upper sash that’s not fully in the closed position. If you notice a small gap at the top of the window, attempt to push the upper sash all the way closed. If it just won’t budge, it’s time to lock and load the caulk gun and get it sealed. While you’re at it, double-check any existing weather stripping. Replace it if any section is missing or appears worn. If that doesn’t satisfy, it may be time to invest in a storm window retrofit. Further caulking around the casings that frame the window opening eliminates airways between the trim and wall finishing. You can also caulk the storm windows in the window opening, but be sure to leave small gaps in the caulk at the bottom to allow moisture drainage. Finally, be sure to also keep your window sashes locked to prevent air entry. The force of the lock holding the sash to the wood reduces draftiness and deters would-be thieves.

If none of the above quick fixes brings out the best in your windows, then it’s time to move on to replacement. In the case of full-on window replacement, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional. A contractor or dedicated window professional’s assessment can help ensure you make the best and most economical decision for your unique situation. Rot, hail damage or chronically fogged glass are all signs you should seek professional care for repairs, especially if you know that your existing windows hold single pane glass.

Depending on the degree of deterioration in your windows’ integrity, you may be able to save by replacing only specific components of the larger structure. Aged glass, sash and jamb liners and rotted wood are three key window elements that may be able to be isolated and dealt with individually. Regardless, we recommend using clad wood or all-vinyl products when you do replace window structure. These materials have proven themselves to be much more durable in the long run.

When the time comes to take action, take comfort in the wealth of window expertise waiting for you in the Members of the Greater Birmingham Association of Homebuilders.