The average cost of window replacement

Image by, courtesy of David Mican

Probably one of the most repeatedly delayed projects of homeowners, window replacement conjures up images of days or weeks without windows, hidden costs that escalate out of control and having to deal with contractors and bid wars that leave consumers confused and wary.

Window Replacement Pluses

Image by, courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt

Although window replacement often takes years off the exterior facades of older homes and can also reduce heating and cooling costs up to 25 per cent, figuring the costs involved is sometimes confusing based on the division of cost and labour and the wide range of materials available.

Getting Estimates

First, the number of windows to be replaced has to be determined; not all windows may need replacement. Next, decide whether only the glass needs replacement or whether the frames need to be replaced as well. Any frame that is bent, warped, damaged or rotted will require replacement.

If the frames require replacement, decide what material you want to use; vinyl is the cheapest and a good choice if you don't plan on living in your home for more than five more years. If you see yourself in the same place 20 years down the road, custom wood frames may be the best long-term investment.

Get three estimates from specialised window replacement companies and three from contractors (preferably referrals from satisfied friends and family members) who specialise in window replacement. Be firm in what price range you want and do not be swayed by pushy fear-mongering salespersons or contractors; insist on hearing the highest and lowest cost estimates.

Cost Expectations

Depending on the cost of living in your area, how many windows need replacement, and whether the glass and/or frames will be replaced, the costs variances are dramatic. It normally costs £195 to £455 (as of fall 2009) per window for windows that do not need new frames. If the frames must be replaced, the cost increases by 50 per cent to 100 per cent, depending on the chosen framing materials. These costs should include the removal and disposal of the old windows and installation and cleaning of the new ones. Be sure all these costs are clearly stated in any contract that is signed.

If windows are non-standard shapes or sizes, costs could be higher. Before agreeing to pay for a custom window, check with several manufacturers to see whether they have a window in stock that meets your specifications.

Doing It Yourself

Some homeowners opt to purchase windows at a large home improvement centre and then either install them on their own or have a local contractor do the work. Although this can reduce costs by up to £65 per window, be absolutely certain you or the contractor can complete the job while meeting sealing and waterproofing requirements. Failure to do so could cost hundreds of dollars in dry rot repair down the road.

Closing the Deal

Once all the estimates have been received, do a side-by-side comparison of the costs. Some bids may have the same brand of windows for different prices, so the labour costs have to be figured into the equation.

Warranties must also be considered. Although independent contractors rarely provide warranties on their work, the window manufacturing companies may offer warranties. Insist on getting a time frame for the work in writing. Except in extraordinary circumstances where many custom made windows must be made, three weeks should be the maximum it takes to replace all windows in a typical home.

It is typical for the contractor or window company to ask for a third of the total cost at the time the contract is signed, a third when the windows are delivered and the final third upon completion of the project. Do not ever pay for work upfront, and red flags should go up if a contractor/company pushes to be paid before services are rendered.