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Thinking About Replacing Your Windows? Five Things You Should Know

by Harry Martin

If you've been thinking about replacing the windows in your home, you know it can be a fairly large expense. Here are some good reasons to go ahead and spend the money, as well as extra information you might want to know about window replacement remodeling.

Why Replace Your Windows?

There are a host of reasons why you may want to replace your windows, some of which are addressed in more detail below:

  • to improve the aesthetics of the home
  • to reduce heat loss and make the home more energy efficient
  • to have windows that are easier to open and close
  • to eliminate noise from old, rattling windows
  • to make a home for sale more appealing to buyers

Know that your original window frame must be in good condition to install replacement windows. If there is any rot or warping in the frames, they will have to be removed as well, which is a much more expensive and time-consuming job. Surprisingly, older homes often have better quality wood frames than newer construction built after the 1970's.

What Are All These Different Windows Anyway?

To go shopping for replacement windows, it helps to know some basic window terminology:

A fixed window is one that doesn't open, as opposed to an operable one, which does. Fixed windows are often seen next to front entrances and on staircase landings.

Double-hung windows are familiar to most folks; they have a bottom sash that slides up and a top sash that slides both up and down (if it isn't painted shut, as many accidentally are).

Sliding windows slide horizontally, while casement windows crank outward or inward.

Glass block windows are often found in bathrooms, where their thick, sometimes bubbled glass lets in light while maintaining privacy.

You may need some specialty windows in your home, too, such as large, pane-less picture windows, bowed or bay windows or skylights that illuminate from the ceiling.

What About Energy Efficiency?

Replacement windows should help with the energy efficiency of the home, especially if the old ones are poorly fitting. All windows let out heat to some degree, but you can reduce the amount of heat radiation leaving your house by installing windows with low-E glass. Low-E glass (short for low-emissivity) is coated with a microscopic film that reflects heat back into the home in the winter and prevents the sun's heat (but not light) from penetrating in the summer.

If you live in a northern climate, consider adding storm windows to your home, as well. Storm windows provide an extra layer on the outside of the house that also keeps heat inside and helps you save on fuel bills. To really up the ante, you can purchase storm windows with a low-E coating. Storm windows can be removable or integrated into the window, so they slide up and out of place in the summer.

What If You Are Selling Your Home?

If you are selling your home and the existing windows are in poor condition, give serious thought to replacing them. Not only will the new windows give your house improved curb appeal, they should help you get a higher asking price, too.

Can You Do It Yourself?

While most homeowners opt to have window professionals or a contractor install their replacement windows, you can do the job yourself if you have a bit of remodeling experience. You will need, at minimum, the following supplies:

  • measuring tape
  • pry bar
  • chisel
  • hammer
  • drill
  • screwdriver
  • utility knife
  • square
  • caulk and caulk gun
  • shims
  • replacement windows
  • ladder or step stool