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Replacement Windows - The Basics You Need to Know


Unless you have owned a house for a number of years, you may never have had any need to know about replacement windows. They are not something that enters your mode of thinking - until it is too late. By that time, rainwater is infiltrating into your house, drafts are blowing, and visitors commenting that your "Windows need painting."

Replacement Windows Do Not Replace Everything

Replacement windows are an odd home improvement item. They do not exactly "replace" your window at all. What replacement windows do is replace a majority of the window - the glass and moving parts - but the framed part of your window stays in place. It is nearly impossible, and not at all advisable, to rip out the entire window and replace it with a new construction window.

When to Use a New Construction Window

However, there are a few instances when you would do this. If you are completely replacing a wall or if the area around the window is so rotted out as to be structurally unsound, then you would want to use a new construction window. In addition to putting in the new construction window, you would construct a substantial frame around the window to hold it in place.

Replacement Windows Not Always Necessary

Many homeowners, experiencing high energy costs, jump the gun and pull out all of their windows and replace them. In some cases, this is premature. The seals on the existing double-glazed windows may have failed, allowing cold or heat to more easily pass into the house. In this case, it is quite simple to repair or replace just the failed pane of glass, saving much money and effort.

Homeowners Often Fearful of Replacement Window Companies

The replacement window installation industry has gained a reputation over the last several decades of being overly aggressive, comparable to the reputation that door-to-door siding or encyclopedia salesmen gained in the latter half of the 20th century. This reputation is not entirely unfounded. Since profit margins can be so high, some companies use less-than-savory tactics to make a sale. Consumers are advised to obtain at least 5 quotes, and to educate themselves as much as possible prior to signing any contracts. There are some companies, though, that are striving to change engrained attitudes towards replacement window companies.

Not a DIY Project

Replacement windows are a prime example of why it is sometimes nice to have professionals take on a home improvement project. Pro window installers do this job day in and day out, and they have the tools and skills needed to knock it out in minutes instead of hours or days. In theory, a homeowner can save money by replacing his or her own windows, but by the time you have mastered your learning curve, you are practically finished with the entire project.

Pella, Andersen, Simonton...or No Name?

Replacement window companies often suggest no-name brand window manufacturers. Before rejecting these "no-names" in favor of big names like Pella or Andersen, weigh their features and cost. Again, because of the high level of competition out there, it is possible to obtain perfectly good no-name brand windows that are comparable with the expensive name-brand windows.

Cost of Replacing Windows Extremely High

How much it costs to replace your windows depends on many factors: locale, window materials, type of glazing, installer, and so on. But it is safe to assume that most homeowners will not escape a whole-house window replacement for less than $10,000. Keep in mind, this is very much a ballpark figure - and is on the lower end. Some homeowners cut costs by hiring a handyman and having him replace the windows. You may save some money. But because the pro window installers have perfected the installation process (and often come in with crews of 10 or more men), the amount of money you save will not be as much as you think, and you certainly will not save time. One nice thing: replacement windows have great resale value when it comes time to sell your house.

Framing Materials Important

Homeowners concerned about maintaining the "classic" look of their own house naturally will reject the idea of installing vinyl windows in favor of wood materials. But vinyl windows are worth a second glance. Vinyl framing materials inhibit energy loss, don't require sealing or painting, and a much cheaper than wood. Metal windows are often architecturally necessary (to match the style of contemporary homes), but they tend to be the worst for energy savings.

Summary - Replacement Windows, A Worthwhile Pain

Few homeowners who have been through the replacement window installation process will say that they care to repeat it. After all, it is necessary to invite 3-5 companies into your home to give quotes, and then invite one of those companies back to spend 2 or 3 days installing the windows (which necessitates being on the premises the entire time ). It is work, but worthwhile. Your house looks better and feels better. Your next round of wintertime energy bills are 10% lower. Your house is quieter.
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