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How to Configure and Adapt Replacement Windows for Deep Concrete Walls

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A reader asks us about adapting or configuring replacement windows for a deeply inset opening in a concrete block wall:

"I have 5 aluminum windows (all in bedrooms) that are absolutely horrible. Three are 64" wide with, two lower windows that open up. The [storm windows] are incorporated and they are all those clip and slides with lots of springs and tracks.

"There is a huge space between that fills with dirt and spiders. Two are sliders that go sideways and also have the sliding storms, again lots of tracks and dirt, etc. And besides that they are ugly and terribly inefficient.

"I replaced a kitchen window of the same type, that is a solid window with a 18" side casement. I love it. Trouble is these windows are all in bedrooms and need a much larger opening. So, I've read the casement opinions, so I get that. However, most of my windows are protected by a very deep overhang, and only two would see much exposure to weather.

"Now for the big problem. All of these windows are set into concrete block walls, with sculpted outside sills. There can be absolutely no adapting the opening to a new window. My openings are approximately 64"W by 38" for three and 42" W by 36" for two. The larger windows would have to be the ones to meet egress code, with any opening of 5.7 sq.ft.

"...I just wondered if you might have a suggestion of just how to configure and which type would be best and what the prices should be for the windows. It is very easy to find manufacturers and suppliers on-line; not so easy to find a way to custom design and find a reasonable price."

Our answer: Despite my bias against casement windows, they certainly do have their place. Since you have a wide overhang, that immediately kills off one of my objections about casements: they bear the brunt of weather when open (or closed). So, this is good. It opens up your range of possibilities.

I don't think you'll have any problem finding a window installation company that can exactly fit your openings. Yes, window companies do prefer to fit openings with windows of pre-determined sizes; but they also can order up windows from the factory to fit unusually sized openings. That's one reason why DIY window replacement is tough--the DIYer must live with the pre-determined sizes.

Even if the window company cannot order a window to precisely fit your openings, they will be able to adapt the openings. You might be worried about ruining the look of your concrete exterior or the sculpted overhangs, but trust me--with a good installer, the adaptation will be practically invisible.

You express a desire to find a way to "custom design [the windows] and find a reasonable price." Reasonable prices are an extension of the window company being able to fit your window openings with stock windows of pre-determined sizes. Any kind of custom design will be more expensive. This is inescapable.

I would price out 3 different scenarios and go with the cheapest one:

  • You hire a local handyman to build up the framing so that window company can install closest-sized stock windows. Then, have the window company install the windows.
  • Window company installs the stock windows indicated above, but with the window company building up the frame.
  • Window company custom-ordering exact sized windows from the factory.

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