Window Replacement Cost in 2021: Window Types and Pros & Cons

Most properly installed residential windows will generally last between 15 and 25 years before requiring a replacement. The materials that make up each window will usually last much longer (up to 50 years), but home windows are about function as much as they are about aesthetics, view, insulation value, ease of use, and security.

via Pella

Note: In this guide, we are not concerned with the new construction windows, as they can only be installed once, while a house is being built. Instead, our focus is on the replacement of existing windows, as that is one of the most popular projects for homeowners wanting to improve the look and comfort of their homes. To this end, we cover current window replacement costs for vinyl, fiberglass, and wood windows. We also explain the factors impacting replacement costs, and pros and cons of different window frames.

Cost

The national average cost to install a typical double-hung, mid-range Vinyl replacement window can range between $550 and $850 per window installed, depending on your home’s location and other variables. Therefore, homeowners can expect to pay between $5,500 and $8,500 for a typical project to replace 10 double-hung windows with mid-range double-pane, Low-E Vinyl-frame replacement windows.

However, depending on the type of the window-frame material, the price can range from $450 to $1,850+ per window installed, which accounts for much of the variation in the window-frame material (from the lowest to the highest: vinyl, fiberglass, wood), window type and size (double-hung, casement, etc.), brand (Andersen, Pella, Milgard, Renewals by Andersen are some of the most expensive brands), and the local differences in pricing from contractor to contractor within the same market.

Practical Fact: Normally, the more replacement windows you purchase for a single project, the less you will pay on a per window basis. Most jobs involve between 5 and 10 replacement windows per project, meaning you can ask for an additional discount for a larger project.

Planning Considerations:Window replacement projects tend to be fairly basic in terms of planning because there are only three main types of windows for homeowners to choose from: vinyl (basic), fiberglass (better), and wood-clad (high-end). Yet, the number of window glass panes, along with the window energy efficiency considerations (Low-E glass, Argon gas filled), and window-frame material’s durability and longevity are all important factors to consider when weighing the replacement costs of different options.

How a Window Style/Type, Size, and Frame Materials Impact Costs

Double hung windows are what most residential homes have. These are characterized by having sashes on both the upper and lower part of the window, and thus both parts can slide vertically up and down. Depending on the material (whether vinyl, fiberglass, or wood frame) and brand of the window, the average unit cost can range from $250 to $950 per window (for materials only).

Classic windows (single-hung) look about the same as double-hung, but only the bottom pane moves, while the upper one remains stationary. Single-hung windows generally cost between $250 to $450 per unit and are less commonly available in today’s market. One exception is the popular brand of fiberglass windows, Milgard that offers fiberglass frame windows as a single-hung fiberglass Ultra series (premium $$$-$$$$) option. Notably, Milgard, also offers vinyl-frame windows available as a double-hung option like many other brands that carry vinyl replacement windows.

Sliding windows slide horizontally and tend to be for larger window sizes, so they range in price from $350 to $1,250, or more.

Then there are the less typical window types such as: awning windows – opens outward on single hinge from the top.

Casement windows – opens inward on single hinge from left, or right.

Specialty windows – round, half round, picture (large rectangular windows), and bay windows.

Window frame materials are fairly basic, with vinyl, fiberglass, and wood clad being the most popular.

Vinyl is the least costly option and entails far less maintenance than wood. Vinyl is considerably less sturdy than fiberglass but is still fairly durable and offers long warranties. Most practical options for vinyl replacement windows are double-pane Low-E windows that offer a good combination of value for performance and energy-efficiency.

Fiberglass is the mid-range option and is the sturdiest option than is more durable than either wood or vinyl. Some examples of premium brands offering fiberglass-frame windows are Pella Impervia (Pella’s flagship mid-range window) and Milgard.

Wood is the most expensive option that offers the authentic classic window look and feel and comes with great insulation properties for superior energy efficiency and street noise cancellation. Wood-frame windows from top brands like Andersen, Pella, and Marvin, will typically feature aluminum cladding for whether protection from the elements on the exterior of the window.

Steel, aluminum, and Fibrex composite (mixture of PVC and wood fibers in Andersen, and Renewals by Andersen (RBA) Fibrex windows) all attempt to capture the positive qualities of all window-frame material types.

That said, wooden-frame windows with aluminum cladding on the exterior from brands like Pella, Andersen, and Marvin are usually the more expensive and premium options compared to the rest of the field.

The one outlier in terms of the window frame material pricing among different brands that is worth mentioning is the Renewal by Andersen (RBA) brand, a separate business unit under the greater Andersen’s Windows umbrella, which sells premium Fibrex composite windows through independent dealers under the RBA brand.

RBA’s sales presentations normally take place directly at customers’ homes, with quoted prices that can be as high as $2,000 for a double-hung replacement window. While RBA’s Fibrex replacement windows are certainly of high quality and undoubtedly look great, it can sometimes be hard to justify their high-ticket price given all the other available options. If the bottom-line pricing is not a factor, then RBA windows can be a great option worth considering.

For homeowners with limited remodeling budgets, though, high quality mid-range or mid-premium windows like Pella’s Impervia fiberglass (mid-range $$$) or Lifestyle wood aluminum clad (mid-premium $$$-$$$$) series windows can typically be installed for some 20% to 50% less than the RBA’s offering.

Granted, Pella’s Impervia and Lifestyle series vs. RBA Fibrex windows is not an apples-to-apples comparison, as these are completely different materials and brands, yet there is something to be said about the authentic value of wood in Lifestyle series, and the fact that the overall pricing difference can be very significant for many homeowners, while the intrinsic quality in the overall performance is probably fairly similar between the Pella’s Impervia and/or Lifestyle series and RBA’s Fibrex windows.

The Number of Glass Panes and Energy Efficiency

Then there are the number of glass panes considerations that deal with the energy-efficiency of a window. It used to be that all windows were single pane, which made for relatively inexpensive, less insulating windows. And they were everywhere. Not anymore, the single pane window is now rare, while the double pane design rules the market.

Double-pane provides greater insulation and can incorporate additional options, more on that in a moment.

There is also a triple-pane which increases costs, but it does provide better insulation value. With any window, but especially multi-pane, the glass can be treated (Low-E) to increase the window’s energy efficiency or serve other purposes like clarity and brightness that affect visibility. All these options come with an added cost, but the purpose in triple-pane glass is to reduce home energy bills and street noise for improved home comfort and energy-efficiency

  • Low-E coating minimizes amount of UV and infrared light, without lessening the visible light that comes through. So less radiant heat can enter inside a room through a window.
  • Laminated uses clear vinyl layer between multiple panes to increase strength and reduce exterior noise
  • Argon-filled adds a non-toxic gas between multiple panes to increase energy efficiency and reduce both frost and noise
  • Tempered glass is very strong and thus less likely to break during high winds or storms. If it does break, it shatters into tiny pebble-sized pieces rather than shards of glass.

Energy efficiency is a big deal in today’s windows. Efficiency is measured by a U-Factor (lower is better) and an Energy Star label conveys this information. Alternatively, there are NFRC-certified products that communicate U-Factor as well as other criteria. Energy savings are said to average 25% when making use of these window types.

How Professional Labor Impacts Costs

Because labor can be as much as 50% of the overall cost, the single biggest suggestion we can make is for you to get multiple quotes. Three to Five should be sufficient, while less than three may have you paying more for lesser overall quality.

Pricing Info – Part 2

You may ask yourself, why not just do the work myself and save on the costs? While that is certainly an option, window replacement is not a project to go the DIY route. Finding brand windows of various sizes and specific measurements is something most people can do. But a window specialist will be able to obtain all that at a wholesale rate, while the homeowner pays retail, thus more expensive.

Then there is the work, which is where it gets tricky. When encountering mold, rotted frames, areas needing repair, working with imprecise measurements, on top of doing all this at heights higher than the main floor — the non-pro can take either a long time to overcome hurdles or resort to calling a pro to finish off the job!

The basic materials for window replacement are: the window (of course), wood shims, casing nails, (optional) insulation material (typically fiberglass) and caulk. All of this is included in the price of a replacement window installed by a professional. An estimate or quote provided to you may appear as follows:

Please note that this is a general ballpark pricing example, based on the national averages.

10 Vinyl Double-Pane, Low-E, Argon-filled Windows: 4 of which are double-hung, 4 are casement, and 2 that are sliding = $5,500

Labor for Replacing all 10 Windows: $3,000 (includes removal and disposal of existing windows)
*Rates do not include potential for needed repairs to the old window frames
*Labor does include a building permit, caulking and insulating all windows, cleaning up, and installation warranty for 10 years

Total Project Cost = $8,500*

A quote in this vein would actually be nice and is what you would want to look for. It’s simply not possible for a window specialist to quote rates for potential repairs until a window is removed, so they can see the extent of any issues. But they ought to be able to provide information at the time of the quote that helps in understanding their rates.

If the contractor in question is unable to provide this, then consider going with a contractor that does. Also, clean-up and warranty are items that may seem secondary during the planning stage, but once the project is complete, these become top considerations.

Usually, for the interior work installers need to do, you are responsible for moving any furniture or items around the window, while everything around the window or that falls to the floor is their responsibility. Caulking may be an additional charge, but it is usually less than $100 charge (for all windows in a project) and sometimes as low as $30.

Factors Impacting Costs of Replacement Windows

Professional labor and the number of windows being replaced are the two biggest factors impacting installation costs. Essentially, you can plan to pay, at least $200 per window for the actual work of installing it (not including the cost of window itself), and anything over $350 per double-hung vinyl replacement window is steep.

Note that installation (professional labor only) costs to install wooden-frame windows can be 50% to 100% higher compared to vinyl because wood-frame windows take longer to install, as they typically involve more labor. That said, 80% of homeowners getting opt for vinyl replacement windows due to vinyl’s relatively low overall cost compared to fiberglass and especially wooden-frame windows.

The more windows are being replaced, the more likely their rates per window may be adjusted. A single window replaced is probably worth $350 to the installer to come out and do a vinyl window replacement job.

Having 10 vinyl windows done, doesn’t necessarily mean it will come down to $200 per window, but you can get a good idea of the contractor’s rates by asking them to quote you 5 vinyl windows being installed, followed by another quote for 10 replacement windows.

Complexity of the job is another significant factor impacting costs. In our above example, that would likely fit with a home that is single-story. If everything was the same in the order, but it was a two-story house, then the labor charge would be higher. Thus, your total project cost in the example above would likely increase to $9,500.

The Good, The Bad and The Oh So Pretty

Here we explain the pros and cons and the primary reason for choosing to install quality replacement windows.

The Good: Today’s windows offer superior energy efficiency, reduced noise from the outside, and additional options to consider when upgrading. Replacement windows mean less maintenance than older ones, and greater overall home comfort and curb appeal.

The Bad: Unless the replacement is necessary in case of drafty and leaky old windows (high energy bills and low comfort), the project can be fairly expensive, but see below for why the upfront cost of replacement may be offset. Finding the right contractor can sometimes be challenging, though less so if you get 5 or more quotes. If repairs to the old window frames are needed beyond a simple replacement, total job costs can go up significantly.

The Oh So Pretty: The ROI (Cost-to-value return) factor for a window replacement project is fairly good, at 71% to 78%.

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