Is this a fair price for new windows?
February 18, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Looking at getting new windows in our house. Replacing 20 windows, got a quote of about $22,000. Had sticker shock but then looked at details, now wondering if it's a fair price.

We live in Illinois (for region cost comparison) in a house that's almost 20 years old. It has the original wood windows and they are drafty, both around the window and through the window. Many of the panes seem to have lost their seal as moisture forms between.

We got a quote on vinyl, white windows (the aesthetic we like) that have the cross-hatch white grill inside. The total was 20 windows, most of which are one-off double-hung windows of the same size, but there is a 3-wide window, an awning window, and one window with a built-in shutter for over the kitchen sink as there's no attractive way to mount a shade there.

The quote came back at $22,000 and I was floored. But the salesman said this includes not just the windows, but the "bricking" (I believe that's the term he used) around the windows so the new windows sealed perfectly and air-tight; he said that's where we're getting a lot of our air. So to install the bricking requires peeling back our siding and then putting the siding back on. The brand he quoted was Sunrise windows with Low-E glass.

This price ALSO included new trim. Our wood trim we painted it white and we wanted it replaced with nice trim anyway, but we didn't realize he was quoting that. He said he could put our trim back up but it would require extra nail holes and not look nearly as good as getting trim that is made to fit the windows specifically and put up only once.

I know the prices i see for windows, but to include this "bricking" that the window goes into, and the trim, I'm not sure if it's fair or not. I've gotten a quote from just "a contractor" using cheap windows from Menards and it was far cheaper; talking to another window person seemed to think the quote was reasonable for all it included.

Any experts or consumers who just went through this able to give thoughts?
posted by arniec to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, not having seen your house or how big the windows are or anything, it's difficult for anyone else to come up with an estimate. For that much money, though, it's worth going through a bit of hassle and talking to a few other companies.

Get someone from another company to come around and give you a quote, tell them you've been getting quotes from different companies and you're expecting them to give you a quote of about $15,000. See what they say.

At least in my area, a lot of companies have "list prices" that no-one ever pays, so every salesman can make a show of offering you discounts and what a good deal you're getting.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:03 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Data point: a colleague here in California has just replaced four windows made-to-measure (aprox 4ftx6ft each) for under $2000. I think your quote is a bit high, unless there's a lot of scaffolding involved, or the siding work is complex.
posted by anadem at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2014

I paid $4,500 for 10 windows in a 1950's built home. Most were double hung, double pane white vinyl guaranteed for life. One was a picture window with 2 side windows that open sideways rather than up. All have screens, tilt out for cleaning and I am not sure of the rating but they were the current going rate for good windows. They were vetted by a local consumer advocate so and he guaranteed the company was sound.

I did not have to have any bricking or anything as my house has shingles. But that is still pretty high for 20 windows. I am in Atlanta GA if that matters.

I would get more company quotes. I scheduled 3 but the first was such a good deal I took it. I have had them for about a year and my heating and cooling bills are lower since my other windows were leaking so much.

I could have gotten the cross hatch white grill but chose the plan window.
posted by shaarog at 2:19 PM on February 18, 2014

I also paid around 4500 for 8 windows, two very large. I have bricks, but I have never heard of bricking. I'm from Oklahoma.
posted by francesca too at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2014

I used to work in this industry. I'd recommend you get a few more estimates.
posted by gentian at 2:40 PM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

We got a quote on vinyl, white windows (the aesthetic we like) that have the cross-hatch white grill inside.

Without knowing more about the specifics, that quote seems abnormally high. Any possibility they accidentally screwed up the above detail and gave you a quote for "true divided light" windows instead of "simulated divided light" windows?
posted by mosk at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, let me restate that. Cross hatch on the inside = true divided light, right? That sounds like a high but not unheard of price for that. See how much the quoted price drops if you go with simulated divided light, i.e., cross hatch applied externally. It looks a bit worse, but is supposed to be much cheaper.
posted by mosk at 3:03 PM on February 18, 2014

That quote seems extremely high to me. Definitely get at least one more and preferably two. I recently had a major-ish home repair project done and was amazed at how much quotes by perfectly reputable contractors varied - as much as 50%.
posted by something something at 3:15 PM on February 18, 2014

I've been looking at window repairs myself and for vinyl windows got an estimate of approx $700 per window to replace my 100+ year old double hung windows with Milgard vinyl.

If you're looking to improve your energy efficiency you'd be better off insulating your walls and ceiling. I recently went through a big energy upgrade and every single contractor said that you don't get that much more energy efficiency from window replacements. And the ROI given the costs of replace and the energy savings you get takes decades.

Before doing any major work aimed at increasing your energy efficiency you should get an energy audit.
posted by brookeb at 3:15 PM on February 18, 2014

Actually, let me restate that. Cross hatch on the inside = true divided light, right? That sounds like a high but not unheard of price for that. See how much the quoted price drops if you go with simulated divided light, i.e., cross hatch applied externally.

It's not necessarily a true divided light - there are companies that will put the grills in between the panes of dual-glazed windows, but they would have a higher price point than just putting the grills on the outside.
posted by LionIndex at 3:16 PM on February 18, 2014

Whatever you do, don't get the grids that sort of snap in from the inside (ie are removable). We had those on the house I grew up in and they were a nightmare. The grids constantly came apart. My dad once jokingly said the best thing about the new windows in the house was that they lacked separate grids. They're still there, but they don't snap in and out (have no idea what they're called though).
posted by kathrynm at 3:26 PM on February 18, 2014

16 windows that sound very much like yours, no "bricking" but they did all the trim plus wrapped some wood trim around two bay windows with vinyl - Maryland, two years ago, 14K.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:39 PM on February 18, 2014

That quote sounds extremely high to me as well. I haven't had mine done yet, but I'm leaning towards the quote I got from the company who Costco contracts with in my area; the guy who came out and measured my windows was really professional. He explained everything as he went along, showed me the problem areas, brought a variety of samples with him, and explained the pluses and minuses of each option. He was not high pressure or sleazy at all. I recommend you get a quote from whatever vendor Costco uses in your area. Costco's already done the vetting for you and their customer service is legendary, so you know they'll make it right if you have a problem.

I would also get at least two more quotes from local companies that just install windows, not a contractor. The contractor will just tack his fee on top of whatever quote he gets from the people who are actually going to do the job.

Note: Unlike many states, Illinois does not license general contractors or carpenters. There is no test or qualification required to call yourself a general contractor or carpenter in Illinois. However many municipalities, such as Chicago, do require licensing. This provides some oversight, and requires insurance. If a contractor is operating in Chicago without a license, they are violating the law. This should be considered a warning sign for potential customers.

This company's page (not an endorsement) has some excellent tips on what you should do before you hire anyone for the job. Good luck.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Did they separate out the window cost from the labor cost? From the way you describe the windows, it sounds like the labor is more than half of the total cost of each window.

For comparison, in New England we paid about $250 per window in labor just to have the windows and trim installed (the carpenter did not make the new trim).

We bought the windows from a place that only sells them, and does not install them. They recommended the carpenter (who we LOVE). His labor costs are low because his overhead is low. I liked working this way a lot because the pricing is completely transparent at every step of the way.

Get more estimates, and good luck!
posted by orange (sherbet) rabbit at 5:04 PM on February 18, 2014

[the "cross-hatch grills/grids" are called mullions]
posted by mon-ma-tron at 6:05 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

True divided light means the mullions actually separate individual pieces of glass. If you have a "grid" that fits over/in/outside/inside a large piece of glass, that is simulated divided light.

n'thing "get another price", adding I would not spend that kind of money without at least three prices, and suggesting you do some research on whatever brand of window is proposed, if you choose to go ahead.
My boss had top of the line windows made by (I don't think I should name them, they might hit me with the the illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator) installed in the house he designed for himself. Inside of three years, he was ripping the walls open to replace the rotten wood framing underneath them. He's an architect, a real stickler for details, and insists on close observation of the work being built. It wasn't the installation, it was the windows. The company replaced them at their cost. The next set did the same thing. The third set seems to be holding up.
Me? Nice 100 year old wood doublehungs. Weights in the pockets on ropes. Renew the glazing compound every 50 years or so, keep em painted, they'll be around for another hundred. Easy to fix if something does go wrong, you don't tear the whole frame out and start over.
posted by rudd135 at 6:42 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

A few years ago we paid under $10k to replace 18 windows in NYC, installed. They were wood double-hung, primed on the inside, aluminum-clad on the outside, true divided lights (for which we paid an extra $100/window I believe).

I would second the orange (sherbet) rabbit's advice to get the price broken down and to shop around on installation if the window prices are reasonable.

When you talk about trim do you mean all the interior millwork around the windows, sills and all? If so, that's probably where a chunk of money is; that's a lot of wood and carpentry. You might want to get a second opinion on whether it's really necessary for all that to come out (or someone here might have a better idea on that).
posted by torticat at 7:08 PM on February 18, 2014

Seems really high to me.

A few years ago I had 11 windows replaced in my 1940s house with double-paned, single hung, low-E white vinyl Milgard "Tuscany" windows for $8k installed. It would have been more like $6k, but I had a garden window installed in the kitchen. Those are pricey, it turns out!

Call around and get some more estimates.
posted by hollisimo at 7:16 PM on February 18, 2014

Don't know where you are, but that seems super-high to me.

Get a few more estimates, and ask around your neighborhood for recommendations of vendors.

Get more quotes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:14 AM on February 19, 2014

[the "cross-hatch grills/grids" are called mullions]
They're actually called muntins.

The "Bricking" they mentioned around the window is possibly "brick mold(ing)", which is a pretty standard style of window trim (not just used with brick siding).
posted by misterbrandt at 7:19 AM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seems high for vinyl. We replaced 100 year old oversized wood windows with Pella wood windows - their best top-of-the-line - for about $1100 each for 13 windows. We contacted Pella directly. Kolbe was first-runner-up, and lowered their price when we told them what Pella had bid, but still could not meet their price.
posted by tizzie at 8:14 AM on February 19, 2014

Seems very high. We paid $600 per window installed -- double-paned with gas (forgot what kind), extra-heavy duty with an upgraded kind of glass (more heat resistant) from Window World (national chain) -- a few years back. This included all the vinyl wrapping, taxes, fees, etc., and the windows were all 4 ft by 6 ft.
posted by ravioli at 4:03 PM on February 19, 2014

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