Ask the Carpenter: Help! The windows in this Cape are exploding

Ask the Expert
Several windows in this home have exploded, sending glass flying across the room. Handout

Q. I’m hoping you can help with a major problem at my son’s house. He bought a Cape-style home in Norwood about three years ago. The house has replacement windows that have no identifying markers on them as to the name of the manufacturer. They are a PVC-type of material, and the screens are encased (as part of the window) in a metal lip. (It is very difficult to remove the screens). Suddenly, the windows have started to explode. Yes, explode. There are random panes exploding and in various rooms in the house. The windows are not shattering as I’d expect tempered glass (triple panes) to do, but large shards are traveling across the room. One ended up close to my granddaughter’s crib. I’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions you have on this.


A. I’m very concerned. I wouldn’t give up on trying to figure out who owns these windows. On a window that is intact, look at the lower corners of the glass for numbers or a logo. Also look inside the metal trim piece between the two layers of glass. If these windows tilt in, look along the sash edges and the upper jamb section (where the upper sash touches the frame) for a manufacturer’s label.

Bottom line: Regardless of the warranty, these windows have got to go. Have you contacted your insurance company?


Q. We have an old house (mid-1800s) with the original windows, but I think the storms and screens are at least 25 years old. They do not seem to fit properly, perhaps because of mild settling of the house, with gaps at the tops in some places. They frequently come out of the tracks. This is more of a nuisance than something that decreases their utility, but I would like to find someone to evaluate whether we should have them replaced or whether they can be made to fit more tightly. Whom can I ask that isn’t going to sell me something or feel that replacing them is the line of least resistance? Are more modern storm windows and screens so much better now that replacing them would be wise?


A. I’d ask your local carpenter or handyman to look at them. The screen frames could be bent as a result of forcing them into an opening that was too tight. They also could have been installed wrong (due to mismeasuring) from the start. If the house has settled significantly, you have bigger problems.

Dear Rob

From Steve Ruzich: Regarding Mike’s dryer venting question in the Dec. 9, 2018, Globe: “Ask the Carpenter: Dryer vents, damaged ceilings, and frosty attics’’): Regardless of where the dryer vent is positioned, it is vital that the homeowner has easy access to it.

My dryer vent has a grate, presumably to keep out small animals and collect lint. I pass it every time I go out the back door, so every couple of weeks, I remove a wad of lint.

If the vent is difficult to access, or even hidden so that Mike doesn’t remember to clear it out regularly, lint could clog the dryer exhaust. That would not be good.

From Rob: Thanks for your comment. Dryer vents should not have anything restricting the air exhaust vent pipe. Make sure that the outdoor vent flap is opening when the dryer is operating. I highly suggest having a screen and regularly cleaning the vent hood, like you are doing.

Remember: If your dryer is taking longer than usual to dry your clothes, you are probably overdue for a duct cleaning or replacement.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to [email protected] or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at