How to Repair Aluminum Storm/Screen Windows

Self-storing storm/screen windows will give you years of useful service with minimal maintenance, keeping your home insulated in cold weather and breezy when it's hot. The few repairs you may need to do are inexpensive.

Keep screens clean

  1. Remove screens yearly. Lay them on a flat surface to clean them with a soft-bristle brush. Then stand them up to rinse them with a fine spray from a garden hose.

  2. Clean the outside of storm windows from the ground, using a garden-hose cleaning attachment.

  3. Remove the storm windows from the inside for simultaneous interior and exterior cleaning. Typically you'll need to do this less often because the inside surface is protected.

Prevent excessive condensation

  1. Inspect the small vent holes, usually located between the bottom of the aluminum frame and the exterior wood windowsill (or sometimes cut into the frame itself). They must be open to allow the escape of moisture-laden air from indoors and proper drainage when storm windows are open.

  2. Use an awl to open holes clogged with dirt, paint or caulk.

Replace cracked, scratched or broken glazing

  1. Remove the screen sash or storm sash.

  2. None
  3. Remove the glazing (glass or sometimes acrylic plastic). If metal keys inside the frame secure the corners, remove the screws to take out one or two corners (see A). If the corners are crimped (see B), use an awl to remove the vinyl splines that secure the glazing.

  4. Install new glazing that's 1/16 inch (2 mm) smaller than the inside frame dimension to allow for expansion and contraction. Lay the glazing vinyl onto the glass and press it into the frame; assemble the corners. Or for crimped frames, lay the glass in the frame and press the vinyl weather seal into the joint between the glass and frame.

Make the sash slide more easily

  1. Remove the sash and clean the channels with a stiff-bristle brush. Clean the sash frames with No. 0000 steel wool to remove dirt and oxidation.

  2. Wipe the sides of the sash using a cloth sprayed with silicone lubricant before reinstalling the sash.

Update the sash's look with paint

  1. Remove the screen sash or storm sash.

  2. Use No. 0000 steel wool to remove light oxidation from the frame's outside face (and inside, if you plan to paint it or just want to spruce up its appearance). To remove excessive oxidation, brush on gel formulated to dissolve aluminum oxidation.

  3. Remove any old, dried caulk along the frame's perimeter with a scraper or an old screwdriver or chisel.

  4. Wipe the frame clean using a cloth slightly dampened with mineral spirits or a tack cloth. A tack cloth is a slightly sticky cloth used to remove fine dust from surfaces just prior to painting.

  5. Apply a primer formulated for galvanized metal with a brush. When the first coat dries as directed for recoating, apply a second coat over any surfaces not fully coated.

  6. When the primer has fully dried, use a caulking gun to caulk the perimeter with siliconized exterior latex caulk. Don't caulk over the vent holes.

  7. When the caulk has cured (see its label for the time required), apply two topcoats of 100 percent acrylic-latex exterior trim paint. Use only 100 percent acrylic-latex paint for a topcoat. It's superior to the less expensive ones made with other binders, and many brands now offer lifetime warranties.


  • Set your ladder on firm soil. Use a board if necessary to prevent its feet from sinking or to level it.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands when replacing glass and when scrubbing the frames with steel wool.
  • Never paint the sash frames or the channels, or the windows will no longer operate smoothly (or at all).
  • Do not use any primer on aluminum other than one formulated for galvanized metal, regardless of what the label or salesperson says. It will not bond as well (or maybe not at all).
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