Windows – Replacement Or New Construction Style


Many people are unaware or unsure what their decision entails. And hopefully with some good guidance from your contractor, he will explore your needs and explain them to you in detail. If not, here are some points to consider. Whether your current windows do not function properly or as you would like or you are concerned about the efficiency of them, or even both.

Once you have decided to explore your need to upgrade, most window remodeling jobs are in the thousands of dollar range, given the usual high quantity of units installed, so many choose to have a Thermal Infrared inspection performed to see where the issues are and the best remodeling method to use. The inspection is basically a thermal x-ray of your house, showing where air infiltrates and temperature differences on the surfaces of walls and ceilings, indicating insulation or moisture related issues.

There are significant differences between replacement or new construction style windows from both a cost and requirement perspective, lets take a look at both styles.

A popular option is the replacement window style, the window unit from a price perspective is similar to, or slightly lower than a new construction style unit, and the Installation costs is less because less labor / time and less materials are used in this installation method.

The window sash units themselves differ little if any, from the new construction style units.

A basic replacement window installation consists of a measurement of the existing window opening, width and height, “accuracy counts” for a proper size replacement unit to be made. Once your windows arrive the first step is removing the existing window sashes and the tracks or guides they operate on. A general cleaning of the opening is completed, and then the replacement unit is “dry fit” to check for any obstructions or other issues.

Once this has been done we are ready to do the install, an application of sealant is applied to the exterior stops, insulation is installed in the adjustable / expandable top and or lower portions of the window unit, the unit is then put in place, shimmed and adjustments for plumb and level are made, then the window is secured with screws in the manufactures supplied holes. If the original sizing was performed correctly there now is a requirement for minimal amount of insulation to be installed in between the unit and the opening, then reinstall any interior stop trim and any needed touch up. And your window is in.

So you ask, then why would I need a new construction style window installed as a replacement?

Here are some possible issues to consider and may be more likely, depending on the age group of your house.

Remember we took out the old sash and tracks on the replacement units, did your contractor remove the interior trim / casing to inspect for the proper, if any insulation in between the window frame and the rough framing of the opening? Likely not and it is generally not part of the replacement window procedure, though in many and especially in older homes this represents a significant amount of heat loss&air; infiltration, possibly equal to the loss that was there with the old windows, if there were old sash weights, did these cavities get filled with insulation? Now let’s take a look from the outside, is the existing window sill and trim in good condition? To many times we see replacement windows fitted into old decaying window frames, defeating the purpose and as the decay expands, it leads back to air infiltration and especially with heavy larger units, structure issues can lead to window failure that will not be covered under the replacement window warranty.

New construction style windows require all the interior trim casing be removed. On the exterior, the siding in the general area needs to be removed and the entire old window unit is then removed from the framed opening, this method gives the opportunity to inspect the framing and sheathing for any water damage, rot or insects.

Once any repairs that may be needed are complete, a new window unit is installed plumb and level and secured with a integrated nailing flange, beaded with sealant and secured around the perimeter, new flashing is installed and house wrap applied prior to the siding being re installed. On the interior new insulation is installed around the window and framed opening. Re installation of the old casing trim or new materials are installed, painted or stained and some wall painting in the area is usually required.

So do I use replacement windows or new construction?

Replacement window advantages:

Generally lower Unit Cost & Lower Installation Costs.

Replacement window disadvantages:

Existing window frame components should be in good condition and be expected to last or to be maintained for the life of the new window. If the house is already seen many years, this may be an unrealistic expectation.

Lacks the opportunity to examine for inadequate insulation and unseen issues in and around the framed window area..

Will likely require maintenance around sealant applied areas at some future point.

New Construction style windows advantages:

A complete factory framed unit complete with new trim and sill. no sealant required around the interior of replacement window frame

Allows for inspection and repairs of unseen issues in and around the window area at the framing level.

Window size changes

New Construction style window Disadvantages:

Price for additional materials and installation labor, Generally a longer installation period.

Having reviewed the differences, Replacement windows are fine when properly measured for and installed, and the existing window frame I sill unit is in excellent condition. And there are no signs or thoughts of damage below the siding. Regardless it is best to have the installer inspect the flashing and apply a bead of sealant around the perimeter of the existing window frame, not only to the replacement window insert perimeter.


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