Cold to blame for Barrhaven's mysterious cracking windows?

A growing number of Barrhaven residents are complaining the windows in their newly built homes are cracking, and some are blaming the recent cold snap that enveloped Ottawa.

Homeowners suspect frigid temperatures, but building experts unconvinced

Mihkel Fortey first noticed this crack in the pane of an upstairs window in his new Barrhaven home on December 29. (Stu Mills/CBC)

A growing number of Barrhaven residents are complaining the windows in their newly built homes are cracking, and some are blaming the cold snap that recently enveloped Ottawa.

Mihkel Fortey said he doesn't know how the mysterious crack in the second-floor window of his new home on Remora Way formed.

"It starts from a random spot on the side and doesn't finish anywhere, so it's still in the process of cracking," said Fortey, pointing to a long, vertical fissure in the Jeld-Wen window.

Fortey and his family moved into the Mattamy Homes-built bungalow last February. He first noticed the crack on Dec.29 when he drew back the curtains to let in light.

Fortey then discovered a growing thread on a Facebook page for residents of Half Moon Bay, a Mattamy development.
Barrhaven resident Mihkel Fortey is blaming the cold for the cracked windows in his newly built home. 0:31

Homeowners blame cold

On the Facebook thread, homeowner Yasmein Ghadban reported a crack in window of the Mattamy home she moved into in June, 2015.

"This happened our first winter," wrote another contributor, Anne Young Jarvis Payette. "(It's a) thermal stress crack caused by the cold temperature," she concluded.
A Facebook group for residents of Half Moon Bay has been taken up with discussion about broken window panes following the recent cold weather in Ottawa. (Stu Mills/CBC)

"Ours cracked after 2 years or so," replied Katarina Zoric. "We called Mattamy warranty people and they sent their contractors to fix it!"

Another resident on Remora Way told CBC News that Mattamy had repaired a cracked window in his home. The homeowner said he had signed a non-disclosure agreement about the repair, and asked not to be identified.

Experts unsure of cause

But while several residents are pointing to the arctic conditions in Ottawa over the past two weeks, building experts are doubtful temperature alone is behind the cracking windows.

If a window is installed normally, there's no way it's going to crack.- Neil Card, building inspector

Neil Card, a Barrhaven-based building inspector with two decades of experience, said breaking window panes are typically caused by shifting foundations, which come with obvious cracks and other signs of degradation.

Card, who has lived in Fort McMurray and Winnipeg, said even in those frigid cities he never saw window panes break simply because of the cold.

"If a window is installed normally, there's no way it's going to crack," Card said.

Barrhaven 'a hotspot'

Windows that aren't installed properly could feasibly crack when temperatures of –25 or –30 C cause the frames to contract, he said. Card said the only way to know if that's the true cause is to inspect the expanding foam in the space between the window casing and the frame to see if it was properly applied.
Jennifer Tessier discovered this broken window in the dining room of her Barrhaven home last week. (Supplied)

Steven Poll of Manotick Windows & Doors said his company has developed a specialty repairing windows with failed seals in Ottawa's southern suburbs.

"The Barrhaven area seems to be a hotspot for it," Poll said.

 He said window seals in the area commonly fail within eight to 10 years of installation, less than half the typical lifespan.

Poll blames mass-produced "builder-grade" windows that are typically protected by a five-year warranty.

Mattamy looking into issue

Kevin O'Shea, division president for Mattamy Homes in Ottawa, said the company is looking into the problem.

"We're working with our supplier of the windows to expedite any claims made from our customers and to get the inserts of the glass swapped out as quickly as possible," O'Shea said.
Yasmein Ghadban discovered a broken pane of glass in her Barrhaven home this week. (Supplied)

O'Shea didn't know how many homes had been affected, and wasn't willing to speculate on what's causing the cracks until he's heard back from technicians examining the windows.

"We're looking into that with [window manufacturer] Jeld-Wen," he said. 

Mihkel Fortey has inspected his home for other signs of damage, and hasn't found anything obvious that might explain the mysterious crack in his window.

Fortey said he plans to contact Mattamy Homes this week to get his window replaced.