Let’s Talk Window Replacement

Let’s Talk Window Replacement
Simulated Divided-Lite Replacement Windows
Simulated Divided-Lite Replacement Windows

Wood Replacement Windows With Aluminum Cladding on Outside
Wood Replacement Windows With Aluminum Cladding on Outside
You’ll get dizzy from the myriad window choices in remodeling your home. There are several basic choices you’ll be making.  The first decision is about whether to use replacement windows or new construction windows.

Replacement Windows: With Replacement window the original window frame is left in place.  The new window is a custom construction to just fit in the frame.  You’ll lose about an inch of daylight around the entire window but the installation cost is a fraction of what it costs if you need to or choose to replace the entire frame. I usually estimate approximately $200-$400 in labor to install replacement windows depending on complexity.  This doesn’t include the cost of the window.
New Construction Windows: With new construction windows, the entire frame is replaced.  This might be necessary if you’re increasing the size of the window or if the original frame is rotten.  And even if you replace the same size window, you’ll keep or increase your daylight space because the entire frame and sashes are replaced.  The labor costs to install new construction windows is anywhere from $1000 to $1500 per window.  This doesn’t include the cost of the window.

The second decision has to do with materials.  You can choose between all vinyl windows, metal windows or wood windows clad in vinyl or aluminum or unclad.  I have a personal strong preference for wood windows clad outside in aluminum.  Vinyl windows feel somehow cheap to me and I don’t believe they wear as well as wood windows.  Inside, wood windows feel substantial and “like home”.  They are also more “green” than vinyl.  All the windows pictured in this article are wood windows with aluminum cladding on the outside.  The third decision you’ll be making has to do with whether the windows appear to be a single pane of glass or whether the sash is divided into smaller panes of glass.  And after you make that decision, there are several decisions about how the individual panes are constructed. It wasn’t until early in the 20th century that we had the technology to make large panes of glass.  So prior to that time windows were constructed of smaller panes — called divided lites.  Different architectural styles tended to use different patterns of divided lites.  And some, like craftsman homes, had a single pane on the bottom sash of a double-hung window and multiple panes on the top sash.  The nomenclature is 9 over 1 for example if there are 9 small lites on the upper sash and one lite on the lower sash.  The window below is called a 6 over 1.

6 over 1 historic windows
6 over 1 historic windows
Since home building in the US is heavily influenced by colonial architecture, often new homes have grills that simulate the look of divided lites — except the grill is a snap-in grill only on the inside.  Or the grill is put between 2 panes of glass so you get the look of divided lights but the ease of cleaning a single pane of glass.
Then there are simulated divided lite windows where a grill is permanently installed on both the inside and outside of the windows.  It makes manufacture less costly because the manufacturer is dealing with single large panes and simply adhering the mutin bars.  The replacement windows in the bath, above, simulated divided lites.  They look quite authentic.  You need to have your nose against the window to tell that it’s not a true divided light and even then internal spacers confuse most individuals into believing they are true divided lites.  I work a lot with older homes — built before 1930 — and if the owner wishes to retain the original character of the home, I often encourage them to invest in simulated divided lites.  I also don’t like the compromise offered by snap-in grills.  If you want to save money, I suggest going without grills rather than using snap-in ones.
Simulated-Divided Lite Casement Windows
Simulated-Divided Lite Casement Windows

These casement windows — new construction windows — use simulated divided lites to give authenticity to the Tudor Revival Remodel.

Simulated Divided Lites - Praire Pattern
Simulated Divided Lites – Praire Pattern

In this patio door, we used a praire style lite pattern so increase the expanse of glass but to retain the feel of the lites.

Pella Between the Glass Mini-Blinds
Pella Between the Glass Mini-Blinds
If you’re going for a more modern look, you can also choose conveniences like blinds between panes of glass — like the windows above.  You get the convenience of great light control but without dangling cords, without the blinds gathering dust and the clean architectural look of the windows and trimwork.   The windows, above, are made by Pella.  The other windows depicted were made by Weathershield.
And I haven’t said a word yet about R-values and choices of laminated glass for safety and security, triple glazing, argone filled windows, Low-e windows and the like.  That’s another conversation.  And we’ll also have an additional discussion about weatherizing and upgrading original single-pane windows.  That’s an issue I’ll be dealing with in my own home which is in an historic district.  Some historic districts will let you replace windows with ones constructed in an historically accurate manner — sold wood inside and out and true divided lites.  The historic district I’m located in want to preserve the actual historic materials and most of us need to restore the windows to function and energy efficiency.
All images courtesy of Braitman Design/Build


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