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    Pros and Cons of Replacement Windows vs. New Construction Windows

    The pandemic has created an increased interest in home renovation and remodeling and one of the most popular renovations is window replacement. One of the biggest reasons is energy savings: the US Department of Energy estimates that a typical home can lose as much as 30 percent of its heating and cooling energy through outdated, leaky, and poorly constructed or installed windows. That’s a lot of money flying out the window.

    If window replacement is on your to-do list, there are two routes you can take – new construction or replacement windows. Depending on your specific house, your current windows, and their condition, the choice you make can make you a happy or frustrated homeowner.

    What’s the difference between replacement windows and new construction windows?

    The fundamental difference between replacement and new construction windows is that replacement windows fit right into the existing frame while new construction windows require the existing frame to be removed and replaced.

    Installing a replacement window is fairly easy for most contractors because it requires minimal work and is done without touching the trim or the insulation around the window. The process of doing a low quality window replacement is often referred to by contractors as a “pop-and-drop” – the old window is popped out and the replacement window is dropped into its place. Because a replacement window must fit within the existing frame you end up with less glass, less light, and less view because you are essentially installing a frame within a frame.

    Average cost of replacement windows

    To give you a very general idea of cost, a standard double-hung replacement window, installed, can typically run between $200 and $800 dollars. However, this can be significantly affected by the age and condition of your house, the specific brand of window, and any unique installation issues you might have. 

    Installing new construction windows is a more thorough process requiring the removal of the existing frame and trim, exposing the insulation, and consequently providing an opportunity to fix whatever underlying problems might exist, such as gaps between the window and the frame that can develop over time. Since most energy loss is caused by structural gaps and poor or non-existent insulation, new construction windows enable you to achieve maximum energy efficiency and the ability to resolve a number of window-related issues such as structural water damage caused by leaks behind the siding and flashing around the window. Here in New England, extreme heat and cold can cause expansions and contractions in your home’s shell, enabling ice, water, and air to get in, robbing your home of its energy and potentially causing rot and mildew around your windows. Using replacement windows might not reveal any of this.


    The benefits of new construction windows

    First and foremost is the opportunity to remedy existing and potential structural problems, as we mentioned above, so that your new windows provide the greatest efficiency and maximize your return-on-investment. Even though they can cost a little more, new construction windows provide the biggest bang for your buck. In fact, if your current windows are in bad shape, using replacement windows can end up costing as much as installing new construction ones.

    Here’s an example from one of our clients:

    We remodeled a home for a client who wanted to completely change the look of it: new siding, windows, and a porch. When we opened up the wall and took the first floor windows out on the front of the house, we discovered a three-inch gap around all of them. The windows were not even nailed in and fell out when the trim was removed. By replacing them with new construction windows, we were able to ensure they were secure and filled the gaps by using larger windows and spray foam insulation. If the homeowner used replacement windows the home would have had gaps and unsecure windows that would have caused disruptive and expensive problems later. 

    If you’re looking to change the appearance of your home and add more value, new construction is the way to go because you can change the window style and the trim around them to create a fresh, more attractive look for your home. To make the choice even easier, new construction windows are more readily available, in more styles, materials, and colors, than replacement windows.


    Replacement window challenges

    It’s easy for some homeowners to be swayed by a cost argument for replacement windows because it’s true, when there are no issues at all with the frame, insulation, siding, flashing and other elements, simply putting in replacement windows can save you some money in the short run. However, if there is underlying rot and gaps that have opened up, causing uncomfortable drafts, you haven’t addressed these significant problems and you’ll end up replacing the windows again, sooner than you think. Now what’s costing more?

    Another consideration is the use of window air conditioners. Many homeowners, especially those with older homes, often use these convenient cooling systems. However, window-mounted air conditioners do not fit the same in replacement windows and can stress the frame, eventually compromising it.

    The choice is clear

    There is no situation where replacement windows are better than new construction windows. If cost is your primary concern, it is possible to save some money with replacement windows. But if you factor in long-term value, efficiency, aesthetics, and performance, new construction windows are the clear winners.

    To speak to us about window replacement options and plan your own window upgrade project, contact us today. To schedule a complete home maintenance inspection and assessment to identify any potential problems and recommend effective, cost-efficient solutions that can save you unnecessary added expense down the road. To learn more about home maintenance, please download our FREE eBook - Home Maintenance: This is How Professionals Do It.

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