Replacement vs New Construction Windows

Living room with black framed windows chandelier and shiplap walls and ceiling

This comparison of replacement vs new construction windows will help you see the differences between the two to help you find the best choice for your home. Both styles are available in a wide variety of styles, suitable for whatever your decor and design ambitions may be. Whether you need new construction or replacement windows comes down to several factors.

What’s the Difference between Replacement Windows and New Windows?

Casement windows with built in storageReplacement windows are only considered for installation on existing buildings. All new builds must have new construction windows installed.

New construction windows come with something called a nailing fin. This is also known as an attachment fin or a flange. The flange is meant to secure the window to the exterior wall of the home. This attachment method allows for a larger percentage of the window to be glass.

These are called ‘new construction’ because they are standard when a new building is being erected. The windows are attached while the studs of the building are still exposed; before they have been wired, insulated, and sealed. No exterior siding has yet been applied to the stud frame, leaving it free and clear for the attachment of a new construction window.

After many years, when the quality of the windows has degraded, a homeowner has two options. The first is to take out just the windowpane. A replacement window can then be fitted inside the frame of the old window, increasing energy-efficiency while requiring a minimum of construction effort.

Replacement windows are exactly what they sound like — a scaled down version of your current window that can be horizontally installed into the existing frame. The interior trim will need to be removed, but can usually be replaced if care is taken not to damage it. This is also a perfect opportunity to retrim your windows for an updated look!

Easy, efficient, and quick, replacement windows are a low-stress home upgrade and by far the most common choice window replacement. In fact, replacement windows are almost always the right choice, provided that your existing frames are still in good shape.

Most homeowners will need professional help to determine the relative health of their window frames. A professional will be able to take the history of your home, including previous and current damage, original installation method, and any renovations or replacements that may affect the window replacement process.

Then, they will provide you with a price for the materials and installation for both options — replacement vs new construction windows.

Finally, taking your needs and desires into account, they will recommend a plan of action. Measuring, sourcing, and delivering the windows can usually be done in about four weeks.

The actual installation of the new/replacement windows will take between one and three days, depending on the size and number of windows.

Clean-up and finishing touches should usually be completed no more than six weeks from the date you sign the contract unless unforeseen circumstances interfere.

It is important to note that any non-standard sized windows will increase the cost of both material and installation. See our guide to standard windows sizes here.

However, some homeowners find themselves needing to replace both window and frame, in a home that has already been finished. There could be many reasons for this — water or insect damage are two of the most common.

If you’re in this situation, both the interior and exterior walls around your window will need to be disturbed, in order to remove the old frame and insert the new one. It’s a bigger project than simply replacing the windows, but the results should last longer.

Because a replacement window is made to fit inside an existing frame, it will always be slightly smaller than a new construction window. One silver lining of needing to replace the entire window and frame is that the surface area devoted to glass will stay exactly the same.

Replacement windows have less glass, and so they catch slightly less light than their new construction counterparts. See our gallery of the different types of windows here.

Replacement vs New Construction Window Prices

Master bedroom with casement windows wood flooring walk out balconyMaster bedroom with French doors and casement windows.

Calculating the cost of a construction project requires you to think about both present and future concerns. First, the cost of the materials — replacement windows are slightly smaller and use less material than new construction windows, so they tend to cost less.

Next, the cost of labor — installing new construction windows in an existing home will take longer than installing replacements. You also need to add the cost of repair to the interior and exterior walls, if you choose new construction windows.

Replacement windows or new construction windows should be equally energy-efficient, assuming a similar product is chosen and professionally installed.

The typical cost to replace a window is about $650 for each window. However, this price can vary depending on the type, size and material. The typical range for replacement windows is between $200 to $1600 each. This price includes labor costs.

New replacement windows can help recover lost energy costs, saving you an average of 15% off your utility bill which can immediately help offset the costs.

New construction windows will cost on average about $700 per window.

When to Install Replacement Windows

Dining room with casement windows white wainscotingWhether or not to install replacement vs new construction windows depends first on one question: what is the condition of your existing studs and window frames? If there has been no extreme damage to the frame and surrounding area, it is usually easier to use replacement windows. This allows you to avoid damaging and repairing interior and exterior walls in order to access the studs underneath.

If the frames of your existing windows have been damaged, it’s highly likely there is significant damage to other components lurking behind the surface. Termites and burst pipes rarely constrain themselves to one material in your home. The interior drywall or exterior siding may have been affected by insect damage.

Even your flooring and subflooring may need to be inspected if there has been flooding in the property. If you are already going to expose the inner workings of your home, it is probably worth it to have new construction windows installed. Otherwise, replacement windows are the cheapest and easiest option.

When to Install New Construction Windows

Contemporary living room with french doors and windowsAlways install new construction windows in new homes, add-ons, new outbuildings, or additions. Consider installing new construction windows in your existing home if there is significant damage to the window frame and/or other housing elements.

If the existing frame is in reasonable condition, there is only one reason to choose a new construction window over a replacement window: light. The smaller surface area of the glass in a replacement window is due to the installation method.

If you would hate to lose even a drop of sunlight, it may be worth the extra hassle and expense to replace your existing windows with new construction windows.

For more related content visit our bay window vs bow window design guide.

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