Window Replacement Basics: What You Need to Know About Cost, Materials, and Process

Windows are much more than just a viewing pane to the outdoors. They’re essential for ventilation, letting in natural light, and adding beauty to your home. We often take our windows for granted until something goes wrong.

Many homeowners don’t put much thought into window replacement, especially with our penchant for moving much more frequently than homeowners in the past. Unless you’ve owned your home for a long time, you likely have never had to have your windows replaced. When it’s time to tackle this project, here are the most important things to consider.


Window replacement usually doesn’t happen very often. However, a few significant issues can signal it’s time to update your home’s windows. They include water or air leaks, dated materials, thermal leaks, insect or pest intrusion, and fogged glass. Not only do these problems look unsightly, but they can impact your home’s safety and energy efficiency.


How hard could window replacement be? It appears you’re just replacing one windowpane and frame with another, right? Well, it’s actually a complex process and not one that many homeowners would want to tackle on their own. An experienced company can help you navigate the basics.


A replacement window sits inside your existing frame. Unlike new construction windows, replacement windows don’t include the structure that sits inside your wall or, in most cases, a sill. They only replace the glass and moving parts.

However, there are still a variety of pricing options for these parts. The window materials, design and type of window, your location, and features like glazing all affect the cost. For example, single panes are cheaper than double panes. Vinyl is often the least expensive, followed by fiberglass and finally wood.

You can also choose single-hung, where only one pane moves, double-hung, where both top and bottom move, or casement (or crank) windows. These factors and any unique shapes, such as half-round windows, can affect your price. While labor certainly makes up a portion of your final cost, materials are generally the most significant consideration.


There are three common replacement window material types.

  • Wood: Natural and classic, but usually the most expensive. However, your investment will typically last a long while.
  • Fiberglass: Can provide a wooden aesthetic, but with less maintenance and usually for less money.
  • Vinyl: Affordable, available in many styles, and functional. However, they can be more susceptible to the sun, temperatures, and weathering.

When it comes to choosing window materials for your home, you’ll need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. Specifically, when it comes to the windows:

  • Cost
  • Appearance
  • Maintenance
  • Durability and lifespan
  • Energy efficiency


When you’ve settled on which replacement windows are going to be installed, qualified installers will work to place them in your existing window frames. Usually, the process goes something like this:

  • The old window will need to be removed. Edges may need to be cleaned up.
  • Holes will be filled, and new pieces, called shims, may be added for sizing and stability.
  • Flashing tape or other materials that help to seal out air and moisture will be applied to the sill.
  • Installers will check the fit once more before moving forward with the installation.
  • Caulk is applied around the edge of the opening.
  • The window will be placed and secured using shims and screws.
  • They will check that the window is aligned correctly and level before filling any gaps, adding drainage (weep) holes, and applying the trim.
  • The last step is to caulk the interior.

Your window replacement is complete!