Window Replacement

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Window Replacement

Window replacement is one of the largest and most common projects that people do for their homes. Despite the fact that about 65 million windows were installed in 2021 throughout the United States, many homeowners view window replacement as a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. Elite Construction Solutions can simplify the process by inspecting, recommending, and installing the right windows for your home. 

window contractor installing a vinyl window on a home

Common Types of Windows We Replace

Windows in St. Louis

The St. Louis area has an older-than-average housing stock, with 90% of homes in St. Louis City built before 1980 and 75% of homes in St. Louis County built before 1980. That means that the majority of homes are older than their window’s average lifespan. The oldest homes in St. Louis tend to have single pane, wood or steel frame windows. Homes built between the 1950’s and the 1970’s have either wood frame or aluminum frame windows, but typically single pane. Double pane windows became standard by the 1980’s along with vinyl. Vinyl windows now make up about 75% of windows installed today, and are even offered in triple pane

Best Replacement Windows

There is a wide range of windows to choose from, with varying performance and price. If you are considering replacing the old windows in your home, the amount of options could be overwhelming. The 2 main factors to consider are performance and material. Performance typically refers to how well your windows insulate the home during summer and winter months. Most newer windows will be an upgrade in performance if they have a low-e coating (low emissivity), double or triple panes, and have gas filled panes. The frame and casement material is the second main factor in price and performance. When choosing between wood, aluminum, vinyl and composite windows, you must consider overall project goals such as aesthetic, maintenance, etc when weighing the pros and cons of each material.

triple pane wood frame window - cross section view

Benefits of New Windows

There are several benefits in replacing your old windows with new, energy efficient windows. First and foremost is comfort. Especially in older homes, drafty windows make for a rough winter. You may even have to run space heaters in addition to your primary HVAC system. Same is true with hot summers, albeit fans instead of space heaters. The worst part of having a cold home is that you are paying more to have a cold home in the winter and a hot home in the summer. Energy efficiency and comfort go hand in hand. The more your HVAC, space heater, and fans have to work, the more energy you consume and the more you pay for monthly utilities. New windows have been shown to reduce energy usage by 10-30%. That brings us to ROI on the window replacement project. Despite what you may hear, windows alone aren’t going to pay for themselves by reducing your electric bill. The majority of ROI that you get from replacing your windows comes from the resale value. Last but not least is the aesthetic benefit. Updated windows can give your home a much needed facelift and refresh of your home’s appearance. If you plan on spending several years in the home then the aesthetic benefit will be even greater.

F.A.Q.

About Window Replacement

Windows that are well maintained and do not experience extreme weather generally last between 20 and 40 years, depending on the material used. Upscale models obviously last longer than value-price alternatives. It is usually a good idea to have your entire home inspected after severe weather and windows should certainly be included in that storm inspection. As your windows reach the 15 year mark, you should start keeping a closer eye on their condition. A quality wood framed window can last the longest when properly maintained. Wood that is exposed to the seasonal elements should be repainted or stained every 5-8 years to ensure that moisture does not penetrate. A composite window is typically made from a variety of materials. An example of a composite window may be a wood or resin core, with vinyl or aluminum cladding. Composite windows can last 30-40 years. Vinyl windows tend to last between 20 and forty years, depending on the level of quality selected. One of the main selling points of vinyl windows is that they require minimal maintenance and can withstand a variety of weather conditions. Aluminum windows typically last for 20-25 years. Aluminum windows are lightweight and tend to be much less expensive than other materials. Because aluminum windows are much more easily damaged by hail, it is a good idea to have them inspected regularly (every couple years) as part of an overall preventative maintenance schedule, especially after severe weather events. 

 Signs you need new windows

  • Single pane – If your windows are single-pane, it means that they are very old and likely have very poor energy efficiency. 
  • Failed Glazing – Cracked or missing glazing putty on old window panes can allow moisture to penetrate the window and possibly cause further damage.
  • Aluminum – Aluminum windows have become much less common so it is likely that the window is beyond its normal expected lifespan. Aluminum windows are also easily damaged by hail, which can compromise seals and the overall frame.
  • Old Wood – Wood windows that have not been properly maintained risk becoming rotted and warped. This can cause moisture problems as well as rattling glass panes.
  • Sticky – Sticky windows means that the window is difficult to open and close. Windows become “sticky” when hardware fails and when components become bent or warped. If the sticky window is relatively new, a simple repair may solve the issue but the older the window, the less likely it is that parts are available.
  • Condensation – Condensation on the window frame or panes indicates failed seals or glazing. If not resolved this could lead to mold and rot.
  • Water Leak – Aside from broken glass, if the window leaks during or after heavy rainfall then it is likely due to a failed seal, window wrap, or damaged frame. If there is broken glass or a leak following a storm it is a good idea to have your windows, roof, gutters, and siding inspected for storm damage to determine if it is necessary to file an insurance claim.
  • Draft – A drafty window indicates gaps in framing or poor seals. Houses shift or settle over time so this is common on very old homes. Drafts could also indicate failed seals or other gaps in the casement. Replacing drafty windows tend to result in the largest energy savings.

The typical window replacement process involves 4 stages: measurement, product selection, ordering, and installation. Measurements usually entail setting up an appointment with a qualified contractor or window salesman and takes about 1-2 hours to complete. Product selection varies but could include visiting a showroom, a follow up appointment with a salesman, or DIY research. Budget 1-3 hours for product selection and research. Ordering or fulfillment is the vast majority of the window replacement process. Each window is custom made to within an eighth of an inch of the cut out. Custom windows have their benefits though: such as an endless variety of styles, sizes, and better quality control by the manufacturer. Currently the average lead time to receive a custom window order is 15-27 weeks. This is much higher than the normal 4-15 weeks that were typical over the last several years. When it comes to the installation, it usually takes 1-2 work days, depending on how many windows are to be installed. If there is a lot of interior decorative molding, or additional repairs, painting, etc required, it may take another day or 2. A contractor usually takes 30-60 minutes to fully remove and install a new window. A highly skilled window contractor can install 10-15 windows in a normal day’s work. 

There are a couple factors to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace windows. The obvious factor is cost. The closer the cost of repair is to a full replacement, the more seriously you should consider a replacement. Another factor is age. The older the windows, the less likely that parts are available for a repair. If the window is reaching the end of its expected useful life then you should also consider full replacement. Another factor in deciding between repair or replacement is whether or not the window is under warranty from the manufacturer or installer. If the window is under warranty, then the manufacturer or contractor may actually be the one to determine if the window should be repaired or replaced. If the contractor determines that the window was damaged due to a storm or some extreme weather event, the decision to repair or replace may be determined by the insurance adjuster.

The best time of year to replace windows on your home is during the spring and fall months. Ideally you want to choose a time in which the outside temperature is close to the ambient temperature inside your home. Also, certain caulks, sealants, adhesives, paints, etc have minimum and maximum temperature ranges to ensure proper application. For example, most caulk products require a minimum temperature of 40 degrees in order for the product to adhere and cure correctly. Installing outside of these manufacturer guidelines could cause issues with your windows down the road and even decrease the overall expected lifespan of your windows.

The best way to think about ROI (Return on Investment) for window replacement is using the formula: 

[Resale Value + Energy Savings] / [Total Cost of Window Replacement] = [ROI]. 

The resale value is the dollar amount of the window replacement cost that you can include in the selling price of your home. The St. Louis real estate market typically realizes between 65% and 80% cost recouped from replacing windows. That means for a $10,000 window replacement project, $6,500-$8,000 can be added to the sale price of the home. The true energy savings is not an exact science when it comes to window replacement. Energy.gov states that “heat gain and heat loss are responsible for 25-30% of residential heating and cooling energy use.” Getting a professional home energy audit may be a good option to get a more accurate approximation of the projected energy savings. That being said, a safe assumption on energy savings from new windows is using a range of 10%-30% of total heating and cooling cost per year. To keep the math simple, let’s say your average monthly gas and electric bills combined is $250 per month or $3,000 per year. A 10% energy savings would be $25 per month or $300 per year, while a 30% energy savings would be $75 per month or $900 per year. At this point in the calculation the number of years you expect to remain in your home is a critical piece of the equation (the average duration of homeownership in St. Louis is 13 years). The caveat here is that the longer you remain in your home, the more accumulated energy savings you realize, but probably the less resale value you realize due to depreciation. So let’s build a conservative estimate based on the following assumptions: $10,000 project cost, 70% resale value, $3,000 annual energy cost, 15% energy savings, and a 10 year duration of owning the home. 

[(70% x $10,000) + (15% x $3,000 x 10)] / [$10,000] = 15% Return on Investment (+$1,500)

An added bonus of ROI for window replacement could be extending the life of your HVAC system by 2-5 years by not running it as hard. This could easily save you another $700-$1,200 per year.   

It depends what’s currently installed and the overall condition of the windows. As a general rule of thumb, the expected value a homeowner will recoup on windows from the sale of a house is 65-80%. If the windows detract from the overall visual appearance or curb appeal, and are in very bad condition then it may be worth replacing the windows before selling your house. That said, you should consult with your realtor who may have more insight on the specifics of your home in the context of your neighborhood. 

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