The old girl needs new Windows..
October 19, 2015 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me all you can about replacing my home's windows.

I have a great, old house in a fabulous neighborhood. I need to replace all the windows. That is not in question. I just need to know what I am about to get myself into as far as inconvenience, mess, time, etc. involved. The money is secured....I have lots of local, great contractors to start getting bids from, I'm thinking it will be cheaper to do it during the cooler months but with the Holidays coming up, am I just asking for a headache? Give my your window replacing stories please. Two story house.... Bedrooms upstairs
posted by pearlybob to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am in Australia and you are probably not, so YMMV, but I just last week had four windows replaced (with nice double glazed ones). It cost just over $2000 for the windows and just under $2000 for the installation. The installers were there from 8am to 6pm (two people) and didn't quite finish. I an having trouble getting them back in to do the last bit of trim.

The bad news is that just about every window they removed revealed damaged wood underneath (presumably from old leaks). Apparently this is very common. But obviously I didn't have a carpenter on hand to fix it on the spot, and couldn't just send the installers away leading giant holes in the wall, so they had to continue with the install and maybe the windows will have to come out again to fix the rot. I don't know what the better solution would have been? Get installers who are also able to do general repairs to walls, maybe?

Also be warned the installation and removal creates huge amounts of dust! And once you have nice new windows, every little smear on the glass will drive you crazy.

Other than that, it's awesome!
posted by lollusc at 3:06 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If the house is pre-1978 (in the US, date may vary elsewhere), you may have lead paint to deal with. The majority of houses built before 1960 in the US have lead paint. You want to make sure you get a contractor who takes appropriate precautions when working with lead paint if your house has it. You will also want to move as much of your stuff as possible out of rooms where windows are being replaced. Make sure the contractor is covering up furniture to protect it from lead dust.

We had some windows replaced in a house with lead paint. We had to move a lot of stuff out, and we stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights while the work was being done.
posted by Anne Neville at 3:17 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: Window installation was the smoothest, most headache-free home project we've ever had. We had 11 windows replaced (10 regular ones and a big picture window) and it took about half a day (really!) with a team of three (the contractor and two helpers). We didn't have any problems like lead paint or rot, which is mostly why it went so quickly. The only post-installation work we had to do ourselves was paint the outside trim, but other than that there was zero mess and no trouble during or after install.
posted by dayintoday at 3:33 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I should add that about 80% of the installation time was actually the removal of the old windows. So whether your experience is more like dayintoday's or mine will probably depend on what your current windows are like and how they are attached.
posted by lollusc at 3:42 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: I'll agree. We've had Windows replaced in our house in two waves of about 5-6 per wave. Each time was less than 1 day's worth of effort. It really wasn't that messy and the thing that you can do to make the process go smoother is to ensure easy access to the windows ahead of time. I'm sure the contractors are used to moving furniture but if you say have a curio cabinet nearby or plates hung on the wall, you might want to move those things ahead of time.
posted by mmascolino at 3:49 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: We had all of our windows replaced and it was pretty pain free. Minimal dust and debris, but probably mainly because our contractor taped off the window areas with plastic and put down drop cloths. We did three days spaced out over a few weeks (our preference). I LOVE our new windows- so much quieter and cooler. Good luck!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:55 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: The only thing I regret about having our old windows replaced was that the previous owners had installed nice custom shades that no longer fit now that there's more than just a pane of glass in there. It's still totally worth it to have had done, and I concur that the contractors were in and out much faster than I expected based on prior experience of helping my dad install them. Ours were done in early winter, so this was much appreciated. If you have pets, you'll want to have a plan for securing; I knew perfectly well that our old cat would just sleep on the bed the whole time, but she made the guys so nervous that I put her away in a room they'd already finished.
posted by teremala at 4:06 PM on October 19, 2015

Response by poster: Great answers so far. I feel better about the time involved. A little more info.... Original house built in 1928, upstairs added in late 80's. So mixed lead issues. Good to know about leak repair too. I'm sure some of the downstairs Windows will have that problem just because of age. Keep it coming.
posted by pearlybob at 4:29 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: We have just committed to a bid and are just waiting to get the installation scheduled so I can't share anything about the installation yet but I can share a lot of the research I've done.

Depending on the type of window(s) you're dealing with, you'll have three options for replacement windows.
1. Sash kits: These replace the glass and the rails that the windows slide in. It's the least expensive and lease invasive option. If the frames are in good shape, you have the right size openings, and the right type of window, it might work okay. A lot of things need to line up right for these to work and they didn't line up for me so I don't know a ton more about them than that.

2. Inserts: This is what most people do. They use the existing outer frames of the windows and just get inserted into them. You lose a little bit of glass space but not much and it's a bit cheaper and easier than a full-frame replacement.

3. Full-frame: Everything comes out down to the frame of the house and all new stuff goes in. It's the most expensive and most thorough way to do it and it gives you the most options since not every model of window is made in an insert version.

Andersen, Marvin, and Pella are the big three and they all have good and bad models. The full wood frame or wood frame with aluminum or fiberglass clad models from each are all very good windows. Or at least, Andersen and Marvin are, I eliminated Pella entirely early on for reasons that I can't quite recall. I think it's that they mostly do vinyl framed windows and they use some aggressive sales tactics. There might be more to it that I don't remember.

Sierra Pacific is a smaller brand that is very highly regarded and a very good value. They might be a better value as long as they have the features you want.

Renewal by Andersen: A franchised install company. They only sell inserts that us a "Ultrex" material for the frame. It's made from sawdust and glue as a way to use the all the sawdust they create making the wood frame windows. They're fine windows but the local branch of the company is really hit and miss on competence and customer service. And they're REALLY expensive. They ended up being more expensive than full-frame windows from Marvin and might have been more than full-frame top-of-the-line Andersens too.

Thermal performance is measured as the "u-factor" which measures the overall performance of the window AND the frame. Red flags should go up if they take pains to hide this number in favor of something else. Some companies will try to show you other numbers, often ones that just measure the performance of the glass and ignores the frame. The "U-factor" is also what the IRS will go by to determine if you qualify for tax deductions or credits. 0.30 is the magic number for the IRS too IIRC. Lower is better and u-factors as low as 0.24 you can only get to with REALLY high performance glass (triple pane, argon filled, all the fancy coatings, etc.).

We are replacing a 3-in-1 (three windows all in a row) of original double-hung windows with full-frame Marvin New Ultimate Double-Hungs and it costs $4,000. Regular Marvin DH inserts would have been $3,600. The fancier full-frame ones have all the features of the inserts plus they will lock in a vent mode which locks the window with a 4" opening so we'll feel safe leaving windows open overnight if it's nice out. Either option would have a u-factor of 0.29, high-visibility screens and they'll tilt in so both sides of the glass can be cleaned from inside the house. Those features are pretty common to all the top-line windows from every brand.

There is a lot of information out there on the different types of frame materials. The conclusion that I came to is that frames should be wood, fiberglass or some kind of composite. Cladding (aluminum or fiberglass) is a good option too. They have a wood frame, so you see the wood on the inside but the exterior is wrapped in aluminum or fiberglass which has better corrosion resistance with less maintenance than wood. It's important that the installation is done correctly and that the windows are designed well enough so that moisture won't get between the cladding and the wood (which causes rot). The high-quality lines from the brands I mentioned are well designed so it won't be an issue.

Me-mail me if you have specific questions and I'll update after the installation happens.

Which reminds me, be aware that there will be some lead time between when you sign the contract and the install can happen. Both because they'll need to order some windows (which might be made to order just for you) and because they're likely in their busy season.
posted by VTX at 4:33 PM on October 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Oh yeah, that's a good point from VTX. Our lead time was four months! Mainly because the windows had to be ordered from Europe (6 weeks) but then the contractors were very busy and kept delaying. And we had already paid the deposit to them, so we couldn't easily fire them at that point. That is actually a reason to consider buying the windows from one place and hiring unrelated installers, rather than going with a company that does both. Then you can buy the windows, and when they arrive, get the contractor who is available soonest for the install.
posted by lollusc at 5:09 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: You (or someone) will have to remove any window treatments you have. If they haven't been touched in a while they'll need to be cleaned (especially true for hard to reach blinds/shutters/etc).
This also means you'll have no treatment up for a while, so you might feel a bit like you're in a fishbowl.

Delivery may take longer than expected (like with all projects), so you should make sure to e.g. not plan a trip right after they're supposed to finish.

And, uh, if you have an adult kid, somehow all of your conversations with her will be about windows for a month. (Ok maybe that's just my parents-- I'm the kid).

Oh, and my folks are definitely expecting some energy savings this winter in terms of better insulation. I don't think they looked into if there's any monetary incentives from the government in the name of energy efficiency- but you might take a quick peek if that exists for your area.
posted by nat at 5:41 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: Oh and I totally forgot-- my parents had a good experience, but the apartment I'm living in now did not. It's a sort of condo setup, and all the owners got together and had the windows replaced for the entire building a few months before I moved in. It was a total mess, they ended up having to go after the contractor, and even after repairs were supposedly done, one of my windows still leaks a bit.

You have done your diligence in finding a good contractor (I hope), but it's still worth checking up on how the installation went afterwards; if there is trouble reporting it quickly will be to your advantage. Maybe this is a benefit of doing it in the winter months.. you'll know faster if there are issues.
posted by nat at 5:45 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer:
dayintoday: “Window installation was the smoothest, most headache-free home project we've ever had.”
Concur, with the exception that we had to have a couple of custom ones made. Bubba and Dick-Bob who they sent out put them in broke a couple of the panes. It was a bit of a pain to get them replaced, but they honored the warranty.

One piece of advice I would give is that if you have a lot of windows on a wall that also has a sliding glass door, you really need to replace the door too to see much benefit from the new windows in that room.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:00 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: Don't forget to check with your utility provider to see if there are rebates for choosing an energy efficient model. Since you're doing most of the house, if the rebates are out there, you should qualify (many energy rebates for Windows don't apply if you're only doing 1-2 windows at a time).
posted by samthemander at 8:08 PM on October 19, 2015

Best answer: Installation often involves copious amounts of two-part spray insulation foam which can smell and give you a headache; I'd want it done during parts of the year when I can open up the other windows for ventillation.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:17 PM on October 19, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks Everyone.....As usual, y'all gave me some great ideas, info and things to consider that I haven't before.. I appreciate it!!
posted by pearlybob at 6:14 AM on October 23, 2015

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