Replacement Windows vs. New Construction Windows

Replacement windows have been developed so that the installer does not have to remove any exterior materials of a home.

The first step is to understand window jargon.

● Replacement windows also can be called insert replacement windows or retrofit windows.

● New construction windows also are called full-frame replacement windows.

Replacement windows are defined as windows installed into a pre-existing window opening, while new construction windows are designed for homes that have yet to be constructed or used in the instances where an existing window has to be removed (down to the studs of the walls) before it can be replaced.

Physical differences between replacement and new windows

Replacement windows are designed so that the installer doesn’t have to remove any exterior materials of a home. The windows are measured to fit the existing window opening perfectly and special ordered.

This enables the windows to be installed from the inside of the home without damaging the wall, window trim or siding, which saves time and money because the installation is quicker and less invasive, as the only part of the home that will be touched is the window itself.

New construction windows are designed to be installed into a brand-new home, an addition to a home, or when the studs are exposed. The new construction window has a component called a nail fin frame, which means the windows will be nailed directly onto the frame.

The only time you might consider a new construction window to replace an existing window would be if the studs or frame are damaged (by mold, rot or other factors), or if you are completely replacing a wall or replacing your home’s siding.

What’s cheaper: replacement windows or new windows?

In general, replacement windows are a more wallet-friendly option. Even though new construction windows might appear cheaper in the store, you have to factor in the cost of reconstructing the window opening and replacing parts of the interior and exterior wall. That can increase the cost 50 to 100 percent.

Window Replacements Are a Valuable Investment

Overall, the cost of replacement windows is worth the money you’ll spend—you’ll recoup about 70 to 80 percent of your costs on your home’s market value. So if your window replacement cost is $400, you can expect that to increase your home’s value by $280 to $320. To give you some perspective, replacing a home’s entry door returned around 97 percent of the initial investment, while adding a sunroom returned just 52 percent. Very few improvements recoup 100 percent or more of their costs.

The specific value of your window replacement depends on your area’s market, as well as what kind of window and the type of window frame you choose to purchase. Vinyl window frames are cheaper than fiberglass and composite frames—the cost for replacing and installing a standard double-hung window with insulated vinyl runs between $550 and $1,000 per window. They also offer comparable energy efficiency to fiberglass and composite alternatives, and they’re much more durable than wood. Wooden window frames clad in aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass are also rated highly for attractiveness, but these tend to cost more, and the same windows as above would cost between $750 and $1150 each.