The following post was originally published on Redfin and we were very happy to be contributors to such an informative article!
Replacing or installing windows can be stressful for many homeowners. Whether it’s deciding on which type of windows are best for you, choosing the right type of glazing, or even considering if you need new windows at all, there are a lot of factors to consider. To make the process easier for you, we asked the experts some of the most common questions homeowners have when it comes to replacing windows in their home.
So, how do you know if you need to replace windows in your home? Perhaps you recently noticed that one or more of your windows have become difficult to open, a common problem especially with wood windows. Maybe there’s too much sound pouring in from the street in front of your home, or condensation has begun building up between your double glass panes. Or, maybe you just realized that you’re spending more money each year in heating and cooling costs. These are the most common problems homeowners face and are usually good indicators that it’s time to replace your windows.
1. How do I Know if Moisture is the Problem with My Windows?
When moisture accumulates on the inside of the window, it may be a sign that your windows are starting to fail. If you are seeing condensation or mold inside the window and/or moisture pooling on the window sill, then you have reason to be concerned.
Moisture issues typically show up in the form of fogging between the window panes or condensation on the side of the window facing your home’s interior. Double pane windows are held in place with a special seal which, over time, can harden and then crack. Particularly with vinyl windows, the window frame expands in the heat and contracts during the colder months. This pattern of expansion and contraction causes this seal to crack, resulting in fogging and, ultimately, what we call a failed window.
If you’re experiencing these issues, there are some things you can try before replacing your windows. Make sure you have a moisture barrier in the crawl space under your home. Your whole house must work against cold air rising from the ground below. Ventilate properly when cooking, showering, and doing laundry. Use a dehumidifier if you have one and, if you have blinds, raise them to allow air to circulate against the window. If you have tried these solutions and you’re still seeing moisture inside your windows, it might be time to replace your windows.
Sarah Nelson - Signature Windows
2. How Long Do Windows Last?
Although there are very high-quality windows available in residential new construction and remodeling, it’s difficult to determine how long the windows will last based on appearance and warranty alone. Many economy windows provide lifetime warranties, giving the impression that they will last forever. However, these cheaper windows tend to be lower quality simply because they were mass-produced in standard sizes.
The failures that occur most frequently with economy windows in the first few years are ones with insulated glass that lose their seal and result in operational issues caused by substandard balance systems. If this happens you’ll notice that the window becomes difficult to lift open or you may start to see fogging occur between window panes.
Also, improper installation can result in a short lifespan of a window as well. This is especially true in remodels where windows are better-ordered in custom rather than standard sizes. Poor installations can result in holes in the envelope of your home which allow for wind, water, and insects to penetrate and cause damage to your window frames.
If you’re considering replacing the windows in your home or inspecting the condition of windows in a house you’re interested in, you’ll want to be on the lookout for fogged glass, damaged frames, and drafty rooms.
Ariana Martinez - Brennan Corp
3. Should I Replace All of My Windows At Once?
The answer to this question depends largely on the budget of the homeowner. While windows are often replaced in two or three stages (typically starting with the front of the house and then moving to the back, and finally to the upstairs), it is also important to know that once you order ten or more windows, the cost per window tends to remain the same.
No homeowner should ever feel pressured into replacing all of their windows at once
Maurice - Chattahoochee Windows & Doors
4. How Do You Choose Windows For Your Home?
The decision on which windows to install in your home is a daunting one but can be broken down into four considerations: material, type of window, glass package, and budget.
Most window frames are made of one of three materials: wood, fiberglass, or vinyl. Wood windows are a good choice if you’re looking to match the window to an existing wood trim on your home’s interior. The most durable of the three materials, fiberglass windows (also known as composite windows) will typically have the longest lifespan. Finally, vinyl is the most popular by far, making up about 75 percent of all windows sold, and are available in a number of different colors.
Type of Windows
There are a handful of options available for the type of window you can install in your home as well. Double-hung windows are the most popular of the group. These are designed to tilt into your home and can be cleaned without the need for ladders or stools. Sliding windows are a wider but shorter type of window and are also a good choice depending on your needs. Lastly, crank-out windows should also be considered as not only can they be used in a variety of different openings but are also the most energy-efficient option as well.
Regardless of the material or type of window you choose, the glass package is the most important part of your decision. Low emissivity coatings (Low-E) are recommended as they play a large role in making a home more energy-efficient by allowing heat into your home in the colder months and reflecting heat away from your home during the warmer months. This means that you save on heating and cooling costs.
When it comes to window shopping on a budget, feel free to choose the cheaper material and style options but do not take shortcuts with the glass package as a good Low-E coating will save you money in the long run.
Ron Meyers - Clearview Windows and Doors
5. How Much Do New Windows Cost?
Calculating the cost for new windows can be tricky as there are a handful of factors that contribute to the final price. The cost to replace windows will vary depending on size, amount of windows needed, style and quality. It’s important that you know what you're looking for before you start calling contractors.
Typically, window frames are made of either wood or vinyl. Cheaper than wood, vinyl frames also have a longer life span and tend to be easier to clean. Wooden frames tend to be more expensive and more challenging to maintain as they can peel and rot as a result of water damage.
For a standard-size, double-hung, double-pane (energy efficient), vinyl window, expect to pay between $450 and $600, including installation. Wood windows are more expensive, costing between $800 and $1,000 per installation.
If both the window and frame have to be removed down to the studs, be prepared to add at least $50 to $100 per installation. This is referred to as "new construction" windows or "full-frame" replacement windows and requires more work.
Kelly - Northwest Exteriors
6. How Do You Measure for News Windows?
The way in which homeowners should measure for new windows depends on their specific needs.
The main thing to keep in mind is that the window will be a ¼” less than the rough opening, between the framing timbers. If you have ¾” jamb extensions on both sides, then measure between them then add 1 ¼” to that measurement.
On a retrofit installation, the existing main frame typically remains. Measure between the smallest point of the existing mainframe, then deduct ¼” from that measurement for the width and the height.
Michael - California Doors and Windows
7. How Do I Determine Which Type of Glazing I Need on My Windows?
There are essentially two main types of residential glass: a 2-coat Low-E and a 3-coat Low-E. Each type is typically available with or without argon or krypton gas filling.
In climates where cooling during the majority of the year is the biggest concern, a 3-coat Low-E is the best option as this reduces the most heat gain from the sun and offers the best U-value, lower SGC/SHGC, and U-value/U-factor numbers.
In contrast, climates requiring more heating during the year, the 2-coat Low-E will allow some heat gain during the winter months but still provide a good U-value for insulating against the cold.
Additional items to consider for the type of Low-E used on glass is the hue the Low-E has. 3-coat Low-E glasses often have a more pronounced hue registering as a bluish or greenish cast on the glass, whereas 2-coat Low-E glasses tend to be clear with little to no noticeable hue. The more coats of Low-E a glass pane has the less light is going to transfer through.
Sean - Martel Windows & Doors
8. When’s the Best Time to Buy Replacement Windows?
Because the weather is warmer, late Spring, Summer, and early Fall are the most popular times for homeowners to replace their windows. Although replacing a window can be quick, having a window removed for roughly a half to full hour can have an impact on your home’s temperature, making the warmer months ideal for anyone who can’t stand the cold.
However, if you can tolerate the cold of replacing windows during the colder months, then you could save some money by opting to wait for sweater weather. The other benefit of replacing windows in the first part of the year is that you get to enjoy their benefits throughout the summer, which is important given newer windows’ ability to reduce heat gain during the hot summer.
Adrian - Lake Washington Windows & Doors
9. How Do I Prepare for a Window Replacement?
Prior to an installer’s arrival, homeowners should remove any curtains or blinds from their openings so that the window installer has access to the interior to set and caulk the windows.
As installers need access to the interior of the windows for replacing, homeowners should also move any furniture to at least 3 feet away from the openings, as well as anything of value located around the windows. If there are alarm systems on the windows, the alarm company also needs to be notified of the upcoming work. The sensors will need to be removed and the alarm company may need to come to the house so that they can be reinstalled.
On installation day, probably the most important thing a homeowner can do is relax, run errands or return to work and let the installers do their job. This will limit any potential stress involved for both the homeowners and installers alike.
Nancy - Chesapeake Thermal