Windows or Siding First? Need Advice

MokiDogTenSurJuly 20, 2014

We are getting ready to start a large, multi-year remodel of a mid-century designed house built in 1949 and need advice on if we should replace windows before or after installing insulation and new Hardie Panel siding on the exterior of the house.

The exterior walls are all one foot thick concrete blocks with the voids filled with concrete. All of the walls are solid with no cracking or settling. There is no additional surface either inside or outside the house on the walls. (The cement block you see on the inside of the house, is the internal surface of the same cement block you see on the outside of the house.)

The windows are all original to the house construction in 1949 and need to be replaced. If it helps with advice or opinions, we are looking at going with the Marvin Ultimate clad line of windows and going with full-frame (new construction) and not just window replacement.

We live in the central Michigan area where the winters can be very cold; especially last winter! And, the summers can be warm and humid.

We are planning on installing either two or four inches of ISO to the external walls and then siding with four-foot by eight-foot Hardie Panel fiber cement panel siding to maintain the modern look of the exterior. The plan is that the ISO would increase the relatively low insulating value of the essentially solid concrete walls and move the thermal mass to the interior to help regulate swings in the inside air temperatures. This plan will increase the thickness of the exterior walls and will need to somehow be accounted for with the framing or trimming of the new windows.

We have talked with several contractors and are getting conflicting advice as to whether we should replace the windows first then insulate and side, or if we should work on the insulation and siding and then replace the windows.

If we replace the windows first, our worry is that the any work to extend the exterior of the trimming of the new windows will turn them into some sort of Frankensteined look that will not match the modern look of the house. But some of the contractors have stated that we need to start with the windows and not to worry about the increased thickness of the walls after the ISO and Hardie Panel installation.

If we do the siding first, we are concerned about how the new insulation and siding may have to be damaged when the windows are replaced.

Should we replace windows first or work on the insulation and siding first and follow-up with the new windows afterwards? We are self-funding the remodel work and can afford to do one or the other this year, but not both.

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Save your money and do them both next year.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:06AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Agree. You're essentially completely reconstructing the house. Piecemeal is exactly the wrong approach. Do it all at once.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:20AM
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Thank you pixie_lou and hollysprings for the fast replies!

We've been struggling on how these pieces of the remodeling puzzle fit together. Earlier phases like electrical service and roof insulation were much easier to compartmentalize.

If we do the window and insulation / siding work at the same time (or within the same year), can we start on things like the ISO install several weeks or more in advance of the window contractors arriving? We'll be doing the insulation work ourselves and it will take longer because we'll be doing it on evenings and weekends (weather and work schedules permitting).

We've done a lot of the work in our houses ourselves and it's always been the timing between what we do and what contractors do that we struggle with the most. Because we both work full-time, and with DIY needing to rely on a lot of research both before and during work, our work pace is a LOT slower than the professionals.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:37AM
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None of this work should be done at a different time or by you. It needs to be well designed and coordinated or it could cost you more now or later.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Not gonna be DIYable due to the needed order of operations. The house can't sit there for months clad in foam while you finish that project. No contractor is gonna be slow enough to follow right behind you as you finish a section at a time either. This is hire the right guy to do the whole job and stand back ad let them do it.

Now, if you were DIYing the entire thing, you could do a small section at a time, totally stripping, insulating, replacing the windows, and covering the transition with tarps until you worked your way around the whole house. But you'd have to have a high skill level and a very high tolerance for living in a work in progress for a LONG time. And your city would have to be tolerant about that as well.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 4:53PM
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Thank you for the feedback! We are going to drop back and re-think the remodeling project. There is an addition that we want to put on the house, five or six years down the road, when we re-work the kitchen and we may need to resequence the project so that the windows and siding can be done at the same time.

The advice is greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:20AM
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