Why Are There Large Gaps Between Window Frames?

You might be noticing large gaps between your window frames. You may have shut your window only to feel the cool summer night breeze where the air isn’t supposed to get in. 

That’s not good.

Most of the time, these gaps result from foundation settlement or heaving. You’ll want to know the causes of large window frame gaps and how they can be addressed. 

Dalinghaus Construction has been in the foundation repair business since 2015, with our employees having over 100 years of combined experience, seeing their fair share of window gaps in that “brief” amount of time. We understand these gaps usually result from some sort of issue with the foundation of a home. We want you to understand this symptom to a larger problem. 

What is the cause of window frame gaps and how often do they happen?

I would say nine times out of ten, window frame gaps are due to some sort of movement of your home from foundation settlement – an area of the home is sinking – or foundation heaving – an area of the home is being thrust upward.

Either way, you’ll notice these gaps from foundation movement. It doesn’t matter if the movement is up or down. 

A foundation settling differentially – an area of your home settling – causes the frame to go out of square. So the frame of the window is shifting, which is why you might also find it difficult to open and close. Since the weight isn’t evenly distributed, more pressure will be on a certain point. 

If you’re able to put a coin in a gap between your window frame and drywall, you might have a structural issue. Hairline cracks are normal for a home. Large gaps are not. 

How your home is experiencing movement will determine the severity of the gap. 

Foundation settlement doesn’t only cause window gaps. You’ll usually see multiple signs to know if your home is dealing with foundation settlement. 

Common signs and symptoms 

  • Drywall cracks
  • Stucco cracks
  • Concrete slab cracks
  • Ceiling cracks
  • Tile cracks
  • Chimney cracks
  • Leaning chimney
  • Sloping floors
  • Doors and windows are hard to open and close
  • Water leaks

Outside of foundation movement

Weather and Moisture 

Sometimes you see window frame cracks because of organic materials expanding and contracting. It depends on the material of your windows and the amount of moisture in the air. These materials are porous and react to weather conditions. 

Sometimes a window sticks when it’s humid and it’s easier to open when the weather is dry.

You might see window frame gaps when the weather is drier, causing the material to contract. But again, it also depends on the type of window you have. 

You have vinyl, metal, wood, etc. All of these materials act differently. Metal doesn’t soak up moisture like wood does. 

Tree Roots

Tree roots can be under the “foundation movement” category. When we say foundation movement, we mean your home moving naturally over time – yes, your home will move naturally. 

When it comes to tree roots, those things are far more powerful than you think. Tree roots search for moisture anywhere, especially under your home. If you have a leak or any moisture under your home, your tree roots will break footings to get it. We’ve seen trees lift a home three inches alone. 

They go for water the same as a man in the desert for three days finding an oasis, except far slower. 

These trees are like the Incredible Hulk without the anger to make them stronger.

Fun fact with Brian – The root systems of trees are smart. They know where the water is. If you see a tree branch out, assume the root system looks the same. A tree hanging over your roof could have its roots under your home. 

Sometimes when trees move your home, opening your window becomes an arduous task while the gap in your frame is the only thing open about your window.

Noticing gaps can be easy depending on the material

Aluminum or metal windows make it easy to find gaps. It will be one pane with barely any weather stripping tomorrow. The pane is less likely to adjust to the rest of the frame during movement. 

Vinyl has more flex in it. Same with wood. Both are closer to being like a gymnast compared to their metal counterparts.

Of course, not all gaps appear the same. Sometimes the gaps between vinyl window frames are more obvious compared to metal. Every situation is different. 

Gaps are not always between the window frame and drywall

Sometimes when you shut a window, there may still be a reveal. This is a sign that the window is no longer level and/or square. You’ll want to either adjust the window or stabilize your foundation before adjustment. 

How are window frame gaps fixed?

Depending on the material of the windows, they can be adjusted. It might not be as level, but you can still adjust them to diminish gaps. 

If there are cracks and gaps between the drywall and window frame, you can always use caulking. This will be a short-term fix if there is foundation movement, but a fix nonetheless. 

You can remove the window and put it back in. You will be continuously doing this over time if you haven’t addressed the issue of foundation movement. 

You can stabilize your home via foundation repair and adjust the windows after the project. 

Finally, you can lift and level the home to have the fame as close to the original level as when it was first built. There is never a guarantee that it will be exactly level (it usually isn’t). Either way, your home is in a better state compared to when you first had unaddressed foundation movement. 

Note – If you had someone fix your windows before you lift your home, your windows can be unlevel after the lifting process, causing you to adjust your windows again. Thankfully, the adjustment afterward should be a one-time fix.

The decision of lifting your home or leveling is ultimately up to you.

Second note – Lifting your home doesn’t guarantee the gap will be fixed naturally. Your home has been moving for years, if not decades. A home is lifted in a matter of hours. 

Things don’t always go back to where they were originally. 

The next step: schedule a free foundation evaluation

You’ve learned about why window frame gaps appear, other causes for window frame gaps, and how they can be fixed. If you’re unsure of why you have these gaps or suspect it may be from your foundation moving, schedule a free foundation evaluation.

Go to as many foundation repair specialists as you can to offer their opinions on their situation. That way you have a better idea as to what’s happening and also compare foundation repair companies.

You can start by scheduling an appointment with Dalinghaus Construction to have one of our Project Design Specialists do a 60-90 minute inspection of your foundation. 

Read the article Should You Get Multiple Foundation Repair Bids? (How You Benefit) to see how receiving multiple bids works in your favor.

Take a crack at reading our article Why Do I Have Window and Doorframe Cracks? (2 Primary Reasons).

For any questions, call Dalinghaus Construction at (877)360-9277, or click the button below to schedule your free foundation evaluation today!


Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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