Sponsored by Jeld-Wen
New windows in a home are always a welcome feature. You already know why you need them—that’s probably why this article caught your eye. Old windows can look shabby, open and close only with persuasion, and can be so drafty on a winter day that you’re not sure whether you’re indoors or out.
As a builder, I often get questions from homeowners concerned about their windows. Here's the advice I give them before they go out and shop. First, take a close look at your existing window frames—not the part directly adjacent to the glass (the sash), but the outer pieces of wood on the sides and top, called "jambs," and the bottom, called the "sill." If these wood parts are solid and don’t appear to have any rot, or can be easily repaired, you don’t need to replace the whole window. For these situations, you can buy sash replacements or new pocket windows and save a great deal of money in materials and labor.
These window options don't require the inside and outside trim to be removed during installation, and typically the mess can be handled with a light vacuuming once your window is in place. Typically this low-impact window replacement takes about an hour per window. Note: If your windows or trim have painted surfaces that contain paint applied before 1978, the EPA requires that you test these surfaces before disturbing them. This can be done with a lead swab kit available at home centers. If lead is detected, special precautions are required to contain the lead during remodeling.
Sash replacement requires carefully measuring your existing window and ordering new sashes. You’ll also need to do a few minor tasks like removing the window stop (see cautionary note above) and operating hardware as well as some simple insulating. Your new order will come with jamb liners and hardware, and installation will take less than an hour. Best yet, there are no wall repair issues inside or fussy details with siding outside the house. When the job is done, the new windows will have the appearance of your original windows but they’ll work nicely and keep out drafts.
Pocket windows, sometimes called "replacement windows," go in as quickly as replacement sashes, but instead of jamb liners, these sashes are set in their own new frame, which gets screwed into your existing frame. This option is as easy as the sash replacement option. The advantage of a pocket window over sash replacement is that you can replace your original window with either a casement or double-hung style. The pocket window won’t quite look like the original window because you’re adding another frame inside the original frame, so the glass opening is reduced slightly. Other than that, you’d have to be an installer to really detect whether it’s a full replacement or a pocket window.
Note: When you're replacing windows with new sashes, pocket windows or complete replacements, be sure they comply with building code requirements for minimum clear opening sizes for emergency escape from all sleeping rooms.
Complete window replacement
When your windows don’t work and your frame is shot, or you’d like to install a larger window or just add a new one, your best option is to buy a complete new window. This option will add to the cost of the whole project because you’ll need to remove and replace the trim on the outside and inside. You may also need to repair interior walls and deal with exterior siding, flashing and moisture barrier issues. These factors will increase your cost per window, but complete window replacement will get you the style, function and energy efficiency you're after.
Get the latest information on window upgrades
An excellent place to get more information on replacement windows and new window options along with great buying information is Jeld-Wen.com. JELD-WEN is a major manufacturer and industry leader in window and door products. As you’re planning for new windows in your home, take a close look at new technologies illustrated and explained on its website, many new options that likely were not available when your original windows were built.
All of the above-mentioned methods of replacement, including sash replacement, pocket windows and completely new windows, are available with the same high-tech options. One exciting option is a Retrofit Brickmould vinyl window from JELD-WEN that's designed to make window replacement incredibly easy. The Retrofit Brickmould has been designed to fit into your existing opening, seals to the weather barrier of your home, and, eliminates the need for additional trim around the window.
All of the choices for new windows can be ordered with a Low-E coating applied directly to the glass. This technology can greatly increase the comfort factor by preserving heat in the winter and blocking heat radiation in the summer. Another choice is double-pane technology, which greatly increases the energy efficiency. To keep future maintenance to a minimum, look into exterior options such as aluminum cladding or vinyl when you choose your new windows.
— David Radtke, Contributing Editor