DIY / Home Improvement

How to Choose Between New Construction and Replacement Windows

Your windows serve as an essential barrier between you and your family and the outdoor elements. You also want your windows to look nice and complement the style of your house. If you are thinking about installing new windows, it’s helpful to understand the difference between replacement (retrofit) windows and new construction windows.

  • Replacement (retrofit) windows are made to fit into a window opening that is already in existence.
  • New construction windows are meant to go into a building before construction has been completed. However, new construction windows can be installed in an existing home after the removal of the existing windows along with the wall studs holding them in place.

When to Choose Replacement (Retrofit) Windows

Retrofit windows are the easiest way to go if replacing your windows is relatively straightforward. You only need to measure the window frame, remove the existing window, and install a new window in its place. There are two main types of retrofit windows to consider:

  • Block frame: This is a standard option where the exterior of the home is siding or brick and the existing window frames are made from wood. If the original wooden frame is still in good shape, it does not have to be removed. This is known as a pocket installation.
  • Flush fin (also called Z-bar): This type of window is suited to homes with a stucco or masonry finish and aluminum-framed windows. The exterior flange of this type of replacement window will conceal the frame of the existing window.

When to Choose New Construction Windows

If you are building a new home, new construction windows are the type of windows typically used. However, this kind of window is also a good choice if a home is undergoing major remodeling (such as the replacement of a wall or siding) or when the frame of an existing window has sustained major damage and has to be removed.

  • Do you get a better seal with new construction windows? If a new construction window is installed properly, it’s easy to see that it’s solidly sealed. With a replacement window installation, you have to rely on the quality of the seal behind the siding. However, if a replacement window is correctly installed, there should be no problem with the seal.

Quality Ratings for New Windows

A good window is one that fits properly and matches the decor of your home. However, there are other factors to be considered when choosing a quality new window. An independent rating system for retrofit and new construction windows is available from the National Fenestration Rating Council. Windows are rated by whether they have joints that are heat-welded, components of metal locks that fit well together, colors that match, and several other factors.

When to Consult a Professional Builder

If you don’t have the necessary skills to install replacement windows, consult a contractor. New construction windows demand a much higher level of expertise, and a DIY job is not recommended. Choose the most appropriate type of window for your window replacement project and hire the best contractor.