Replacing Windows

Do your wallet a favor. Replacing windows — especially the drafty old single pane variety — will slow the outflow of warm air during winter and the inflow of warm air during summer.

| August/September 1994

  • 145 replacing windows 2 diagram
    Exterior view of basic window replacement procedure.
  • 145 replacing windows - cover
    Making accurate measurements is imperative when you're replacing windows.
  • 145 replacing windows 3 diagram
    Interior view of the basic window replacement procedure.

  • 145 replacing windows 2 diagram
  • 145 replacing windows - cover
  • 145 replacing windows 3 diagram

"Just pop out your old windows and pop in the new!" Those slick, full color ads you get with the Sunday newspaper supplements make replacing windows seem effortless. It isn't ... if done right. But if your house is over 25 or 30 years old, the effort may well be worth making. Before winter winds begin rattling those leaky old windows and sucking out your heat, here are a few things to consider.

The ads also trumpet: "Never Paint Again!" And, window frames of solid aluminum or vinyl—or the better-quality designs made of wood that's covered or "clad" with a thin layer of metal or plastic—have the color permanently baked on or molded in. Inside or out, you'll never again have to paint skinny little wood moldings between panes, labor with a razor blade to scrape overflow off the glass and cut around the painted-in sashes.

Modern widows are genuine energy savers, greatly reducing the 50% of heat or air-conditioning energy a typical home loses through its windows. Frames incorporate space-age weather stripping that stays resilient through heat and cold and virtually halts the "infiltration" of heated/cooled air to the outdoors and of outside air in. Modern tension/balance systems insulate as they keep sashes in place and easy to raise by maintaining a gentle but even side pressure. You'll never again have to "prop up the summer breeze" with a stick, or stir up the mouse nests in an old sash casement as you fish around after an iron sash weight lost when a brittle old sash cord snapped.

You can still buy windows made with single-glass panes in old-fashioned barewood sashes and frames. But that's for un-heated/air-conditioned sheds and barns. Modern house windows contain insulated glass—sandwiches of two or three panes sealed around the perimeter, with the air between evacuated or replaced with an inert gas for greater insulating value. Insulated glass in a modern frame can reduce heat loss by as much as 35%.

Confusion also exists as to what constitutes a "replacement window:" For do-it-yourself installation, a replacement double-hung window is a conventional rectangular wooden frame containing a pair of sashes held in place along the sides by tension/balance strips and with unornamented top-, bottom-, and side-exterior trim boards fastened to the frame. (Interior trim must match house decor, so is left to the homeowner to specify and install after the window is in. Also, crank-out casement windows, picture windows, patio sliding window/doors are beyond this article's scope—and of most homeowners' carpentry skills.)

But, some manufacturers make "replacement windows" that are merely a set of new sashes to go inside existing frames. Other makers apply the term to a thin, formed-vinyl skeleton frame filled with sash; the unit is slipped into an existing casement with the original sash removed.


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