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Can I Install Replacement Windows Myself?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Heading out to Pennsylvania where Andrew has a question about replacement windows. How can we help you?

    ANDREW: I was calling because I had a house that was built like 1850s. And I have 31 windows in the house, ranging anywhere from 32 inches to 58. Some of them are as big as 4 feet by 7 feet. And I’m going to be selling in five years and I was wondering how much equity in the windows replacing them would kind of add towards the house, if it was worth doing.

    And because the house was 179,000, I put an addition on it; I only got 6,000 back on it when it reappraised. And I just don’t want to stick a bunch of money into something I don’t think I’ll recoup. And my question is – I have a bunch of estimates and contractors. And I was – so, anyway, I had a bunch of contractors and they all range a lot. But the windows are leaking really bad, so I’m sure it could recoup the cost by replacing them. And they range – the estimates range from $22,000 to $39,000.

    So I guess – how much is a fair price to pay? Does it matter who I have to do them? And how do you know a good contractor, because they say – oh, they say different things? You know what I mean? And what’s a good rating to pick on these windows? Should I go triple-pane glass or krypton gas?

    TOM: Those are all really great questions. And let me sort of take them one at a time.

    First of all, in terms of the cost, how many windows did you say you had? About 40 was it?

    ANDREW: Thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, something like that. I forget exactly, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. So what are we averaging here on a cost per window? Is that around – did I do this right? Is it around 600 bucks?

    ANDREW: No, I have 30 windows. I had estimates as high as 39,000.

    TOM: Oh, that’s crazy.

    ANDREW: Yeah $39,000. I had some of them at like – I think the cheapest one was 22.

    TOM: That sounds pretty crazy. So, look, a couple things come to mind. First of all, we want to try to find a way to do this as inexpensively as possible. There are windows that you can buy that are very expensive, that will have a very historic feel to them, but I think that’s not going to be for you.

    So what I think you want is that you want a good-quality, sort of minimal but serviceable grade of window. And what I would tell you to do is to go to a major retailer like, for example, The Home Depot. I’ve bought a number of windows there over the years – replacement windows – and I believe they have a measuring service, as well, where they’ll come out and measure the windows for the order.

    Now, you don’t have to do these all at once because you wanted to, say, perhaps do this yourself. You can install replacement windows yourself. It’s not terribly complicated. But I would start small by maybe doing a couple of windows in one room till you kind of get the hang of it.

    The way it works is you pretty much take out the operable sashes – I presume these are double-hung – so you’ll take out the bottom sash and the top sash. The new window will be built to fit right in what’s left over, essentially. So the jambs of the window and the sill of the window and the head of the window, it’ll fit right inside of that. It will be attached to that, it’ll be caulked in place.

    And then the part that gets a little tricky, that you may not have the tools for, is that most of the time the window companies will do one more thing and that is they’ll wrap the sill and the trim outside with aluminum. And so that takes a bit of skill but you might be able to have a siding company come in and do that after the fact. Just do all the wrapping of the trim and the sills kind of en masse and you do all the installation on the windows. That’s, I think, how I might proceed here. Because I think if you go direct to some of these window companies, where they’re trying to do it all themselves, I think this is going to be really expensive.

    In terms of the quality in window, how do you tell the difference? There’s a rating called the NFRC rating. It’s the National Fenestration Rating Council. And they have certain standards that they check, like UV transmittance, for example. There’s a number – I think there’s five or six different measures of energy efficiency. You get – the label is on the window. You can compare that against other windows and try to make a decision from there. Does that make sense?

    ANDREW: Alright. Hey, I really appreciate that.

    TOM: You’ve got it, man. Take care. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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