Window Shopping – Yikes… I need to replace my windows!

I’ve been putting it off for years.  I mean, who wants to lay down a small fortune to replace the windows in your home?  It’s not sexy or showy, like redoing landscaping, replacing an old deck with a new paver patio, or remodeling your kitchen.  And it won’t inspire the concomitant envy or reverent awe those projects will elicit in your neighbors.  (There, I’ve said it.)

Still, when you need new windows, you need new windows.  It’s inescapable; like needing new underwear.  And although no one will likely notice it but you (and your energy bill – decidedly a good motivator), it must be done.

And so, having finally accepted that fact (albeit not without the requisite kicking & screaming), allow me to impart my knowledge regarding indications that windows need to be replaced (I managed to ignore them for years, but you shouldn’t, as there are rewards to replacing your windows).  If any of the following is true, you need new windows:


  • The windows no longer work.  The sashes no longer operate as intended.
  • If you have wood windows, the wood may have begun to rot and become moldy.
  • There are drafts or noticeable temperature differences around your windows and fogging of dual pane glass that indicates a failure of the insulating seal. Homeowners who correct inefficient windows can save significantly on energy bills.


  • Older windows were not designed to be maintenance free. For this reason there is a need to periodically sand, scrap, putty and paint older steel and wooden windows. Homeowners who wish to avoid this work often opt for newer vinyl replacement windows or wood windows that have the exterior clad in a maintenance free material like aluminum or vinyl.
  • Due to the need to maintain older windows, eventually windows that are not properly restored will show the effects of all of this scraping and painting and in many cases will start to look their age. By installing a low or no maintenance wood or vinyl window, a homeowner can be assured that it will look nice for the long term.

Now that you’ve determined you need new windows, consider the types of windows that are available.

The two most common types of windows are double-hung and casement. Double-hung windows have bottom and top sashes that slide up and down to open or close the window. Casement windows are typically operated with a crank and open like a door.

Windows typically consist of a single pane of glass per sash over which a wood or plastic grille is placed. Double pane or even triple pane windows will provide substantially better insulation capabilities and reduce your heating and cooling costs.

A true “divided lite” window has a built-in frame (instead of the grille) with separate panes of glass in each segment. True divided lite windows are typically 2 to 4 times the cost of standard windows.

 “Window Shopping”

Now let’s turn our attention to “window shopping” or how to buy replacement windows.  The following tips will ensure that you make the right choice to meet your functionality needs and stay within your budget.

  • Prepare a preliminary budget.  Your budget will determine how many windows you can actually replace based on different window materials, designs and features.
  • Consider what you want your new windows to do.  Are they to be an architectural design feature or merely provide functionality?  Decide whether you would like the windows to open and close, and how they should operate.  Don’t forget that windows also provide security.
  • Factor in the time of year.  In all probability, the project will take at least several days, during which time your home may be somewhat exposed to the elements.
  • Contact several replacement-window vendors and installers for quotes.
  • Discuss the various window types that the vendors offer and the merits and costs of each: wood frames, wood that is vinyl-clad or wood that is aluminum-clad.  Vinyl- and aluminum-clad windows do not require painting, so they are low-maintenance.  However, vinyl clad windows are not always available in a wide range of colors, so don’t assume you can get a particular shade.
  • Discuss the energy-efficiency options (such as standard insulated glass and low-e glass) offered by the vendors.  Consider low-e window coating (a window coating that reduces heat loss through the glass while at the same time allowing heat from the sun to penetrate) or gas-filled windows (argon or krypton inserted between double glazing which reduces heat loss).  Work the additional cost of these features into the estimated savings on your heating and cooling bills.  Do the expected savings justify the extra cost?  Aluminum and vinyl window frames may be less expensive than wood-clad vinyl or aluminum, but they won’t provide the same insulating capabilities.
  • Ask the vendor/installers for references and check them.
  • Select a vendor/installer based upon price, window type, references and your impressions.
  • Make sure that the vendor/installer offers guarantee(s).  If ordering the windows separately from a vendor, make sure that the installer has signed off on the list to verify that the windows specified are correct.
  • Make sure that the installer is properly insured.  Get a valid certificate of insurance from the contractor before you pay any money or before the work begins.
  • Your window installer will likely insist on a substantial deposit.  Always try to negotiate the smallest possible up-front payment and a schedule that matches the pace of work and material deliveries.

Although I’m still not thrilled about replacing my windows, at least I’m now armed and ready to shop.  How about you?

Happy window shopping!

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