Do you cap windows on your rentals?

20 Replies

Hey all! I have a real straight forward question. I am buying my first rental property in South Jersey, in pretty nice working class suburbs. I’m rehabbing the property, and not sure if capping/sealing the windows is worth the extra expense on a rental. Some contractors strongly advocate for it, others say I can do without it  

Any thoughts? Do you cap windows on your rental properties? Why or why not?

Not in Las Vegas. Renters don’t even consider utility expenses when deciding to rent a property. It’s almost 100% location/price & condition/features. (Beds/baths/appliances/yard/garage)

i think its a good idea.  I believe it helps the wood sill last longer.

I have found "contractors" or "construction workers" that will tell you all kinds of nonsense.  Then you watch some 'This Old House' and realize most contractors are terrible and don't do things right (or only some things right) 

Yeah, I've never heard of capping windows either. What does that mean?

@John Teachout  

@Andreas W.

I’m not very well educated on it, but basically it’s applying metal sidings to windows to prevent water and bugs from damaging the wood. It’s supposed to look nice, but more importantly preserve the windows. Some contractors highly recommended it, but apparently it’s rather costly. Upwards of $250 per window, and a few hours of work per window. 

Here’s a wiki article on it:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Window_capping

It means wrapping the wood framing in metal to keep rainwater off of the wood. If done correctly it can greatly enhance the lifespan of the wood frames. If done incorrectly it will trap moisture inside and hide the rot from view. 

I will generally have this done when replacing windows, but I won't do it for existing windows. Most installers will include it in their price. For existing windows I just make sure the wood is caulked and painted well and make sure to check on that every year.

Ah, I know what you mean now. I've always heard it called "wrapping", not capping and that's what threw me off. Probably a regional term.

@John Teachout

Yes, where I come from that is "wrapping" as well.  Thanks for asking the question.

I always cap windows. It prolongs the life of them. Looks much better also IMO.

@Tyler Holzer that seems very expensive! I just got 24 windows installed for $8,000 the wrap was included in the price per window. I also had them wrap my garage door, side door, and back sliding door for an extra $250. Maybe that’s the price where you live but $250 per window seems a little high.

There is no straight-forward answer. I personally have come to loath metal wraps. That said, they certainly have their use. 

Pros:

Almost maintenance free (no rot, no re-paint, occasional re-caulk)

Hides bad paint and failing trim, cheaper than replacing/repainting the trim

Cons:

They are not fastened well (they use small trim nails) and often come apart over the years with high winds. Sometimes fascia and/or soffit  will pull right off.

Easily dented, collect dirt, each of these show - dents are impossible to fix.

Hide the true condition of the trim boards and make it harder to replace the wood members

To conclude, people often wrap because they hate to paint or want to hide a previous bad paint job. The thing is, if the painting was done properly along the way, wrap would not be necessary.

For a rental, I always judge each property on its own. Generally, a renter is not going to even notice such things. And, that often goes for plenty of buyers too.

I wrapped a house where I replaced the windows using the existing jams and trims - I also wrapped the fascia and soffit too - it was absolutely the right call on that one, as the cost of paint was actually more, and the final product looked great - that was a flip house, not a rental. Had it been a rental, I would have done a quicky paint scrape and quicky repaint and called it a day.

@Merritt S.

Thank you for that detailed reply. The trim on this house is in pretty decent condition. I’m not really concerned about the renters caring about them being capped, I’m pretty sure they won’t notice regardless. Most importantly, my concern is the health of the windows. In general, you’re saying that wear on windows can usually be remediated by new paint, caulk, and occasionally trim? 

Originally posted by @Tyler Holzer :

@Merritt S.

 In general, you’re saying that wear on windows can usually be remediated by new paint, caulk, and occasionally trim? 

Absolutely. All wood needs protection from the elements. That is what paint and caulk do. Yes, metal wrap and caulk will do that too. You can take a look at the trim and so long as rot has not already set in, fresh paint and caulk will do the trick. If rot has set in, paint will no longer seal it and then you must either replace and repaint, or cover with metal. The thing is, metal will only slow the rot once it sets in, and it is tough to get the nails that hold the metal on to grab on rotten wood, so you may need to replace the wood anyways.

If you don't mind spending and really want a maintenance free and lifelong product, you can trim out with PVC. That stuff will outlive the house, but it costs a pretty penny. I've been using it on the interior side of windows in bath showers - yee haw.

@Tyler Holzer

My friend @Merritt S. beat me to it. I loathe window wrapping as well. The big hook for homeowners is that they tell you that this will make your window "maintenance-free." That is a black lie.

The cheap caulk the window replacement companies use to caulk around window wraps tends to develop leaks for water to infiltrate, and then the wrapping hides the wood trim as it rots. This takes a few years, so what do the window replacement companies care? I tend to buy older brick-veneer properties. When water gets past the window trim of these properties and starts to get into the designed air gap between the brick and the framing that the window trim covers, the excess water and the humidity attack the old mild steel ties coming out from the framed wall that keep the brick veneer attached to the wall. Some of the ties corrode enough to break, and the brick veneer eventually starts to fail, leaning out and then completely falling off the wall. The only solution to this is to break out the failed brick, replace the failed ties with newer galvanized ones, and build the brick back in, often with new brick. It is a tedious, time-consuming, ugly, and expensive masonry job that is usually done on scaffolding in inclement local weather.

What you should do is prime and paint and caulk the exterior wood trim on your windows with Kilz indoor/outdoor oil primer (used to be sold as Kilz Complete) and an exterior gloss oil paint (like Rust-oleum Professional) and the most expensive and longest-lasting caulk you can buy, and then you make it an item on your quarterly inspections to look at the trim. When you see trim start to fail in exposed areas despite the paint and the caulk, it's time to bring in the PVC, as Merritt pointed out. THAT'S how you keep an old rental property making you money, not by paying the window companies to shaft you.

@Tyler Holzer

If you do have your windows wrapped, do not call a contractor. Keep your eyes open for new construction where people are doing siding. Pull in and ask them if they do side work. You should be able to have the windows wrapped for no more than $80/window. If they say more than that. Go to the next job that’s got siding going up.

Now, in my opinion, If you ever plan on replacing the windows don’t pay to wrap them until you replace them. The metal won’t be saved and you’ll be paying to have them wrapped again.

If I wasn’t planning on replacing them, I’d have them painted and move on. I don’t see where wrapping them adds any value whatsoever.

I say this owning a siding and window business.

@Tyler Holzer $250 per window is too much. I had 10 windows done for $1k and honestly I thought I paid too much.

You need the cheapest and lightest of siding brakes to bend trim, a trim coil, and a utility knife to produce the pieces to wrap windows. You can buy a siding brake for $1000, rent a brake for about $70 a day. A coil will do a house, and a coil costs $50-$100, depending on the width of the trim in it.

It's all a hustle. Like @Merritt S. , great for selling a place to retail buyers, but the markups the window guys stick you for are incredible. That's why they specialize in windows and advertise like mad.

@Tyler Holzer do it. should be $75 per window for materials and labor. make sure they seal all sides, and not the bottoms. 

I don’t think renters pay much attention to it. It may help to better protect your property, though. Anyway, it all depends on how you put it down in a lease with your tenants.

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