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8 Things to Think About Before Replacing Your Windows

February 21st, 2024 | 7 min read

By Michael Flory

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Are you contemplating replacing your windows but feeling uncertain about the process, choices, and potential challenges?

At Custom Built, with over 15 years of experience, we have helped hundreds of homeowners replace their windows.

In this article, we dive into what we’ve found to be the top eight things you should think about before replacing your windows:

  1. Understanding Window Materials
  2. Navigating Common Challenges
  3. Replacing Your Window Frames
  4. Climate and Comfort Considerations for Window Selection
  5. Permits and Regulations
  6. Aesthetics and Design Harmony with New Windows
  7. DIY vs. Professional Installation
  8. Full-Frame Window Replacement vs. Pocket Window Replacement

1. Understanding Window Materials

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The days of single-pane windows are over, due to energy codes. Now, the choice lies between double-pane or triple-pane windows:

  • Double-Pane Window: Consists of two layers of glass separated by gas, which forms a vapor barrier, provides better insulation, and helps reduce energy costs.
  • Triple-Pane Window: Features three layers of glass with two argon or krypton gas-filled spaces. Offers superior insulation and soundproofing but tends to be more expensive.

The insulation barrier and seal they create prevent heat transfer, which is significant to energy-efficient windows.

Here are some of the top options you can install when choosing your main window replacement, all ideal for security improvements and weather:

  • Tempered Glass: Treated for increased strength and safety. Breaks into small, blunt pieces if shattered, reducing injury risk.
  • Impact-Resistant Glass: Designed to withstand impact from severe weather conditions. Common in Michigan where storms and blizzards are common.
  • Acoustic Glass: Reduces noise transmission through the window. Ideal for homes in busy or noisy neighborhoods. Comes in double and triple-pane options.
  • Low-E Glass: Low-emissivity coating applied to the glass surface. Reflects heat while allowing light, improving efficiency and reducing energy costs during every season.

It’s important to note that most Low-E glass combines Low-E coating and argon gas, which helps protect against air leakages. Additionally, this combination can also block UV rays from damaging your home’s interior.

2. Navigating Common Challenges

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Replacing windows comes with challenges. For instance, replacing the entire window and frame is much different than replacing just the window glass.

If you replace the entire window and frame, siding work will often need to be done, and possible water damage will be uncovered. If you're just replacing the glass, there are a lot of limitations, including compatibility issues, seal integrity, and aesthetic variation.

Here are a few more common challenges to expect from replacing your windows and how to combat them:

  1. Unforeseen Structural Issues:
  • Challenge: During window replacement, hidden structural problems like rot or termite damage may be uncovered, requiring additional repairs.
  • Solution: Conduct a thorough inspection before replacing to identify any underlying issues. Budget extra time and resources for potential structural repairs, and work with a qualified contractor to address any problems promptly.
  1. Custom Sizing and Fit:
  • Challenge: Existing window openings may not conform to standard sizes, requiring custom-made windows for proper fitment.
  • Solution: Measure window openings accurately to determine the required dimensions. Order custom-sized windows from manufacturers or suppliers specializing in tailored solutions to ensure a precise fit.
  1. Weather Delays:
  • Challenge: Inclement weather conditions, such as rain or extreme temperatures, can disrupt the window replacement process, leading to project delays.
  • Solution: Monitor weather forecasts closely and schedule replacement work during periods of favorable weather. Implement temporary weatherproofing measures, such as tarpaulins or protective coverings, to shield the work area from rain or snow.
  1. Obstacles with Removal:
  • Challenge: Removing old windows can be challenging, especially if they are secured with stubborn fasteners or surrounded by deteriorated trim and siding.
  • Solution: Use appropriate tools and techniques to carefully detach old windows without causing damage to the surrounding structure. Apply penetrating lubricants to loosen stubborn fasteners and trim components, and work methodically to disassemble the window assembly.
  1. Energy Efficiency Concerns:
  • Challenge: Improper installation or sealing gaps during window replacement can compromise energy efficiency, leading to drafts and increased heating or cooling costs.
  • Solution: Prioritize proper installation techniques and use high-quality sealants and insulation materials to ensure a tight seal around the new windows. Conduct a thorough inspection post-installation to identify and address any air leaks or gaps, and consider upgrading to energy-efficient windows with features like double-pane glass and low-emissivity coatings.

3. Replacing Your Existing Window Frames

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PC: Pella Doors & Windows

When replacing window glass, it's also essential to consider replacing the window frames. The window frame plays a crucial role in supporting the glass and maintaining the integrity of the window structure.

Consider the frame's condition when deciding whether to replace the whole window frame or just the glass. Replacing the entire frame ensures the window's stability if it's severely damaged, like rot or decay. If the frame is okay but the glass is damaged, like cracks or fogging, you can replace just the glass, saving time and money.

Consulting a window installer can help decide the best option for your situation.

Additionally, opting for replacement glass to banish broken panes offers a fast, economical solution compared to full window frame replacement costs. Foggy windows, broken seals, or “blown” windows resulting in the oxidization of coatings or condensation between panes can be quickly and easily addressed with a new insert.

Here are the top benefits of installing new window frames:

  • Increased Durability: Vinyl or fiberglass frames are durable, long-lasting, and weather-resistant.
  • Aesthetic Improvement: New frames can enhance the appearance of your windows. This contributes to the aesthetics of your home.
  • Ease of Maintenance: New frames often come with low-maintenance features, making it easier to care for and clean your windows over time.
  • Better Seals: Upgrading frames ensures tighter seals. This reduces the likelihood of air infiltration and enhances the window's long-term performance.
  • Enhanced Insulation: New window frames often have improved insulation features. These new features prevent drafts and increase energy efficiency.
  • Customization Options: You can choose various styles, colors, and finishes. This provides more customization options to match your preferences and home design.

4. Climate and Comfort Considerations for Window Selection

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Climate and, subsequently, comfort play a role in window efficiency requirements.

In a humid area like Michigan with yearly snow and rain, choosing durable and energy-efficient windows is crucial.

Here are some recommended options:

  • Impact-Resistant Windows: Impact-resistant windows can provide added protection against snowstorms.
  • Composite Windows: Composites, like Fibrex, offer the beauty of wood without moisture susceptibility. They are durable and resistant to rot and decay.
  • Vinyl Windows: Vinyl is moisture resistant, making it an excellent choice for humid climates. Vinyl windows are low-maintenance, durable, and energy-efficient.
  • Energy Star Rated Windows: Look for windows with the Energy Star label, ensuring they meet energy efficiency standards. These windows provide excellent insulation and reduce energy costs.

Choosing any of these options helps ensure an energy-efficient replacement that also maintains the comfort level of your home. This is especially important during the cooler months when properly installed windows mean the difference between freezing interior temperatures and cozy living.

5. Permits and Regulations: A Guide for Homeowners

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Navigating permits and regulations is crucial during window replacement. Understanding local requirements ensures compliance and a smooth replacement process.

A permit is typically required to replace your existing siding or framing during a window project.

Here’s how to pursue a window replacement permit in Michigan:

  1. Check local building codes and regulations for specific permit requirements.
  2. Get a permit for a window replacement if it involves altering the structure.
  3. Ensure compliance with energy efficiency standards in the permit application.
  4. Provide detailed information about the replacement process in the permit request.
  5. Be prepared to pay applicable fees for the window replacement permit.

6. Aesthetics and Design Harmony with New Windows

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Harmony in design is essential when replacing windows. Choosing windows that complement your home's aesthetics enhances its appeal.

Here are a few tips for choosing new windows that complement your home:

  • Visual Design Tools: Use virtual design tools to visualize different window styles in your home.
  • Attention to Detail: Design your grille patterns, shapes, and divided light options to mirror the aesthetic of your home.
  • Interior Integration: Select windows that complement your indoor design and decor and offer various color options and grille styles to match your aesthetic preferences. Grilles, available in different patterns and configurations, can add character and charm to your home's exterior while enhancing its architectural appeal.
  • Material Coordination: Match window materials and colors to the existing exterior features. Consider the durability and maintenance requirements of different materials like vinyl, wood, aluminum, or fiberglass, ensuring that your choice complements the overall aesthetic while meeting your practical needs for energy efficiency and longevity.

7. DIY vs. Professional Installation: Making the Right Choice

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Deciding between professional installation and a DIY approach is a critical consideration. While some may opt for DIY to save costs, professional installers bring expertise and ensure the job is done right.

Here are a few signs that a DIY window replacement is possible for your home:

  • Single-Story Accessibility: Single-story homes with easy access to windows are more DIY-friendly since they don’t require climbing ladders to get to your project area.
  • Window Type: If you have basic, single-hung windows without intricate designs, they are generally easier to replace, making the DIY process more manageable since fewer complications are involved.
  • Frame Condition: If your window frames are in good shape, a simple replacement may be workable for a DIY project because it reduces the need for extensive repairs or modifications, saving time and effort.
  • Standard Sizing: If your windows are standard sizes, you'll find a broader range of replacement options suitable for DIY, simplifying the selection process and ensuring easier installation without needing custom orders or modifications.
  • Handy Skills: If you have basic carpentry skills, proper tools, and a good understanding of the task, you may consider a DIY approach, as it empowers you to save on labor costs and allows for greater control over the project's timeline and execution.

Here are signs you should hire a professional to replace your windows:

  • Structural Damage: Professionals can adequately address window frame rot, decay, or damage.
  • Lack of Experience: If you lack home improvement experience, hire specialists with good portfolios
  • Complex Window Styles: Hire professionals with significant experience if you have complicated designs.
  • Custom Window Sizes: Homes with non-standard window sizes may need customized solutions. This makes professional expertise crucial for accurate fitting.
  • Multi-Story Homes: For multi-story homes or hard-to-reach windows, hire licensed professionals. They will be equipped with proper safety measures and equipment.
  • Signs of Water Damage: If you notice water damage around your windows, such as mold, mildew, or wood rot, you must call a professional. They can assess the extent of the damage and address any underlying issues to prevent further deterioration and ensure the longevity of your windows.

8. Full-Frame Window Replacement vs. Pocket Window Replacement

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A full-frame window replacement removes everything down to the studs and installs a new window and frame. A pocket window replacement, also known as an insert window installation, fits inside the existing window frame.

Here are some differences between full-frame and pocket window replacements:

  • Cost: Pocket replacements are generally cheaper than full-frame replacements.
  • Energy Efficiency: Insert replacements are less expensive but also less energy-efficient.
  • Glass Area Lost: With a pocket install, the glass area lost is at least an inch around the glass. With a full-frame install, there is absolutely no glass area lost.
  • Ease of Installation: Pocket installations are easier than full-frame replacements. They don't require new window sills or trim and won't damage the outside of your home.

Next Steps to Installing Replacement Windows

As you think about replacing your windows, you might grapple with various concerns that affect your home's comfort, efficiency, and aesthetics. You're dealing with outdated or inefficient windows.

Even worse, they contribute to high energy bills, uncomfortable drafts, or maintenance headaches.

In this article, you learned more about what to consider before replacing your windows.

With over 15 years of exterior remodeling experience, we’ve completed many window replacement projects.

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Now that you know more about what to consider before replacing your windows, let’s explore how Custom Built will approach your project, the best exterior home improvement projects, and the most popular types of home additions in Michigan:

Michael Flory

Michael brings over 2 decades of building and remodeling experience to his position as the Owner and Visionary of Custom Built. Michael’s passion to make an impact on the home building industry has led him to serve for over ten years at the local and state Home Builders Association, culminating as President of the HBA of Michigan in 2020.