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How to Choose Full-Frame or Retrofit Windows for Your Home

Homeowners decide to replace their windows for a variety of reasons. These reasons include security, better energy efficiency, and aesthetics. After making this important decision, homeowners also need to consider whether to invest in new construction or retrofit windows.

This decision requires evaluating several factors. For example, budget, timeframe, and preference for type of materials all impact the decision.

New Construction Windows

Also known as a full-frame window, a new construction window requires installation by a licensed contractor due to the numerous steps involved. Compared to a retrofit window that only replaces glass, new construction windows replace glass, frames, shutters, and anything else associated with the window.

The replacement process can be especially challenging when the materials used to build the home include stucco, brick, or stone. When the window replacement contractor cannot entirely remove the window and its accessories, the next step is to remove a small portion of the home’s exterior to make room for the new construction window.

Homeowners should be prepared for this possibility and arrange for immediate repair of damage to the home’s exterior if necessary.

Retrofit Windows

As mentioned above, retrofit windows replace only the glass while leaving the frame and other accessories intact. Although the process can be challenging, it is less intense than installing a new construction window and typically does not cause exterior damage. In rare cases, window frames sustain damage and require repair or replacement. This should only happen when the window frame is not plumb to the wall.

Cost and Benefit Considerations

On average, a replacement window costs up to 20 percent more to purchase and install than a retrofit window. Despite this, homeowners should not base their decision on cost alone. A window that shows significant rotting or moisture damage either inside or outside the home is just one example of when new construction is the better option.

Other advantages of replacement windows are that they fit flush to a home and look uniform in appearance. This is because the frames of the windows have a secure attachment to the front of the home. A possible disadvantage to consider is that replacement windows may not match surrounding decor.

Retrofit windows are a good choice for homeowners on a budget whose windows do not require significant repair. Since the original window frame remains intact, homeowners have less concern about aesthetics and future property values than they might have with replacement windows.

One drawback of retrofit windows is that they may be difficult to fit. This commonly occurs if the frame has settled or does not sit flush.

Quality Ratings Should Play a Big Part in the Purchase of Any New Window

The quality rating of a new or retrofit window is perhaps the most important factor when considering replacement. The National Fenestration Ratings Council is a non-profit, independent organization that rates new windows on a variety of factors.

Top considerations include whether window colors match, if metal locks fit well together, whether the manufacturer included heat-welded joints, and energy efficiency. The higher the rating, the greater guarantee homeowners have that the new window will meet their needs.

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