Window Replacement Cost in 2020: Window Types and Pros & Cons

Most properly installed residential windows will generally last 15 to 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 a brand new, full window installation which normally includes building frames where each window is hung, or installed. The costs are similar to window replacement project and there is much overlap in the work that each project entails, but our focus is on the replacement of windows, their costs, the factors impacting those costs and their pros and cons.

Pricing Information – Part 1

Window replacement projects tend to be fairly basic in terms of planning because the frame will likely determine the material of the updated windows. Wood windows in wood frames, vinyl windows in vinyl frames. Yet, types of panes (glass), along with considerations for energy efficiency and potential needs for repair make it so an average cost for replacement only goes so far.

The national average cost for a window replacement is between $500 and $850 per window installed, depending on your home’s location and other variables. The price can range from $450 to $1,450, which accounts for much variation in material type (from highest to lowest: wood, fiberglass, vinyl), window size, window brand (Andersen, Pella would be most expensive brands), and differences in pricing from company to company. More often than not, the more windows you purchase for a single project, the less you will end-up paying on a per window basis.

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

Double hung windows are what most residential homes have. These are characterized by having sashes on both the upper and lower and thus both can slide vertically, up and down. Depending on the material and brand of the window, the average cost can range from $300 to $850 per window.

Classic windows look about the same, but only the bottom pane moves, while the upper one remains stationary. These generally cost $200 to $350 and are less available in today’s market.

Sliding windows slide horizontally and tend to be for larger window sizes, so they range in price from $350 to $1,200, or more.

Then there are the less typical window types such as: awning windows (opens outward on single hinge from top), casement (opens inward on single hinge from left, or right), round, half round, picture (large rectangular windows) and bay windows.

Materials are fairly basic, as in vinyl, fiberglass, and wood being the most popular. Vinyl entails far less maintenance than wood, is usually less sturdy, but still have long warranties.

Wood benefits from its natural look and durability.

Steel, aluminum, and composite (mixture of PVC and wood fibers) all attempt to capture the positive qualities of both the popular options. Wood is usually the more expensive option.

Then there is the pane considerations which brings up energy efficiency. It used to be 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 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 also provides better insulation value. With any window, but especially multi-pane the glass can be treated to increase energy efficiency or serve other purposes. All these options come with added cost, but the purpose in these is to reduce energy bills, and therefore saving you costs over the long haul.

  • Low-E coating minimizes amount of UV and infrared light, without lessening the visible light that comes through. So less radiant heat in a room.
  • 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 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.

Cost 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 and caulk. All of this is included in the price per window installed by a professional. An estimate or quote provided to you may appear as follows:

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

10 Vinyl Double-Pane Windows: 8 of which are double-hung, 2 that are sliding = $5,500

Labor for Updating all 10 Windows: $3,000 (includes removal and disposal of existing windows)
*Rates do not include potential for needed repairs to the window frames
*Labor does include caulking all windows, cleaning up and warranty of service at 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 done, these become top considerations.

Usually, for interior work they 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

Labor and the number of windows are the two biggest factors impacting costs. Essentially, you can plan to pay, at least $150 per window for the actual work of installing it (not including the cost of window itself), and anything over $350 per window is steep.

The more windows are being replaced, the more likely their rates per window may be adjusted. A single window replaced is probably worth $300 to them to come out and do the job.

Having 10 windows done, doesn’t necessarily mean it will come down to $150 per window, but you can get a good idea of their rates by asking them to quote you 5 windows being done, followed by another quote for 10 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 home, then labor charge would be higher. Thus, your total project cost in the example above would increase to say $9,500.

The Good, The Bad and The Oh So Pretty

Here we explain the pros, cons and primary reason for choosing replacement windows.

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

The Bad: Unless replacement is actually necessary repairs, the project is fairly expensive, but see below for why this may be offset. Finding the right contractor can be challenging, though less so if you get 5 or more quotes. If repairs are needed beyond simple replacement, costs go up significantly.

The Oh So Pretty: The ROI factor for a window replacement project is fairly good, at 71% to 78%.

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