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Window Replacement Guide

How do you know it’s time to replace the windows in your older home? According to BobVila.com, some signs are obvious – hot and cold air leaks; condensation; warped, rotting or damaged frames; difficulty opening and closing; cracks or breakage; mold growth; noise pollution from outdoors; and high energy bills.

If your windows are cold-to-the-touch in winter or reveal drafts when you place a lit match near sashes, you could get away with re-insulating your windows with new weatherstripping and caulk, but replacement is inevitable.

Replacing windows is a major investment, but will pay off in lower energy bills, less strain on and a longer life for air conditioners and furnaces, more comfort without drafts, and perhaps a higher value for your home when you sell. Be sure to keep before and after photos to explain to buyers why this is a selling point for your home.

Window replacement estimates are subjective, but you can count on $200 up to $2,400, depending on the size, type of window, shape of the window, location of the window and number of panes. Standard sizes are easier to shop for, but odd sizes, leaded glass windows, skylights, and basement windows will be more expensive, largely due to higher labor and cleanup costs. You won’t get much improvement in efficiency from single pane windows, but double pane windows pay for themselves in terms of energy efficiency.

You have a choice in materials for the framing, including vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass, wood and composite (wood plus PVC polymers). If you live in a historic district or a community managed by a homeowners’ association, you’ll might have to go with the most expensive option – wood. Surprisingly, vinyl is affordable but offers good energy efficiency, but the best is composite because it gives a classic look without a lot of maintenance. But aside from the initial cost, you should also consider maintenance costs like painting, durability, and energy efficiency. The style of your windows should complement your home’s structure and design.

While you can save money by installing the windows yourself, a professional window installer may notice problems you may not be aware of. They’ll know the latest codes that are required such as tempered glass for some areas, and they’ll know how to correctly remediate issues such as lead paint which they may have to test for before beginning work. Plus contractors already have the proper safety equipment, tools, ladders and scaffolding to do the work.

Modernize.com recommends negotiating with contractors, which is expected in the industry. Get itemized bids from several window contractors and make sure you’re comparing the identical products, the same grade – architectural or builder grade, and that the same number of windows is included in the bids. Knowing which windows will cost more in labor and materials will give you more room to negotiate. Be upfront that you’re getting several bids before you decide and you could obtain more savings.