Replacement Windows vs. New Construction Windows

scoutjrJuly 3, 2006


This is my first post to this forum. I am interested in replacing a patio door and some windows. What is better, replacement windows or new construction windows? I have had Pella and Renewal by Andersen out to my house (both offer replacement windows), but I am still very confused. If anyone could give me some insight, I'd be very grateful. Also, what materials are best? Wood, fiberglass, vinyl wrapped wood, aluminum wrapped wood?

Thank you,


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Might want to visit the site below and look at window recommendations for your area.

Here is a link that might be useful: Efficient Windows Collaborative

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 3:57PM
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I have this same question and would like some opinions on this too. Anyone have any thoughts on replacement windows vs. new construction, and the other things Scout mentioned?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 8:42PM
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Any time you have the option of doing a total replacement then you should jump all over it. Doing an insert is great but the insulation barrier behind the existing frame is subject to failure. You don't know what is back there to protect your home from air infiltration. So if you choose the insert window make sure they check behind the old frame for proper insulation.

If you choose the total replacement (or new construction method) you'll be stripped down to the jack studs. So you know there will be sufficient insulation around the frame this time. This will also set you up for proper flashing around each window.

Choices in the windows is really up to you and your check book. The clad wood units are great and so are the vinyl's and the fiberglass units. It really depends on what you want inside. If you want wood it's a clear choice to go with an aluminum or vinyl clad. Exterior color is also a wall in the way. If you want white or tan then the sky's the limit. If you require a dark brown, green or sandtone then you'll need the aluminum clad units. Good Luck!!!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 7:27AM
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That is very helpful advice--thanks guy-exterior-man. I have a very large picture window, double glass and seal broken, just enough to be annoying. It is huge and of course you can't open it so the room gets hot from the sun. On each side of the giant glass window are narrow double-hung windows. It is a large and inefficient system.

I want to replace it with a row of three double hung windows that I can open in the warm weather. My house is a traditional New England colonial and white exterior trim is perfect. Wood inside.

Any recommendations on brands? We put an addition on 22 years ago and got Andersen. They have held up perfectly. Nice and tight, wood inside and vinyl clad outside. Have never yellowed.

But companies sometimes go downhill so I don't know if they make this quality anymore. Would you recommend them and which line? Any other companies you'd recommend? Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 10:35PM
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Guy-exterior man, can you go into a litle detail about air infiltration and proper flashing? Thank you.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 3:05AM
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We checked out Andersen 2 years ago and they seem like fine windows. The best approach is to visit the shops and see the windows in person. If you like wood interior and intend to show the grain, check out Marvin and Marvin Integrity and use them as comparison.

We went with Marvin because Andersen was almost as much and we prefer the Marvin wood work and choice of wood grain. You may prefer Andersen.

Flashing is a solid piece of material (metal or plastic) installed along top edge of the window to keep water from seeping back into the wall via the window and wall joint space. It normally extends over the edge of the window. It weeps water down the wall an over the window away from the house.

Installation of new windows also requires use of water barrier sheets around the entire opening under exterior material (stucco, siding, etc). Some window manufacturers require this or they void the warranty.

Air infiltration seal is proper sealing of space around the windows. While a window may look tight after it is all done, installation sometimes requires spacers to be added on all four sides. They are added as necessary to keep everything level and square. This creates air space between the window and the studs. Proper installation means stuffing a ton of insulation into these spaces so no air can penetrate in or out. Water and air should not find their way into the building through such seams.

I am just a homeowner but did a lot of research on this when searching for windows for our house 2 years ago. We figure we better know how it is done so we can select the right contractor.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 1:50PM
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Hello everyone.
Thank you for your responses. I have been away for a while and did not check this site.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 9:57PM
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Thank you for the thread

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 7:37PM
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calbay03 is in the ballpark, but might confuse someone, so a couple of clarifications.

First, "flashing" is more than just a metal or plastic head flashing installed at the top of the window/door. What calbay03 refers to as "water barrier sheets" are more-correctly called "flexible flashing." Grace Vycor and Dupont's FlexWrap and StraightFlash are good examples.

Next, there's going to be a gap between pretty much any window and the rough opening in which it's installed. Could be tiny or big, but it allows the window to be leveled/plumbed properly. Rather than stuffing it with insulation (assuming fiberglass), which isn't going to be much of an air barrier, filling this gap with low-expanding foam is pretty much best practice currently. Dupont Great Stuff (and other brands) have formulations specifically for windows and doors that are less likely to squash the jambs and cause problems with the operation of the windows/doors.

There are lots of old threads in the Building a Home board on flashings. And the mfr.s install instructions for Vycor and the Dupont flex flashings are pretty good.

Here is a link that might be useful: Search for

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 4:04PM
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Thanks for the additional info. I'd be glad to hear any more ideas on this--it's a big decision.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 3:29PM
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Flashing is the product used to cover the nail fin area around a "New Construction" Window or Door after they've been set. Not to be confused with panning tape such as Tyvek Flexwrap (here's their site)

The Flexwraps are used for panning the bottom of each opening before windows are set in place. They call it "flex wrap" so you can bend it up around the bottom corners of each window sill or around any arch tops or custom windows. With it's flexible membrane it's able to stay in one piece and wrap the entire sill and go up each side around eight inches. Flexwrap costs around $60 a box and will only cover a couple sills per box. This would be a very expensive product to use around the entire window. Remember that the Flexwrap is put on before the window is installed. The flashing is installed after the window has been set.

Before I get to far ahead we must keep in mind that the house must be wrapped with a house wrap (such as Tyvek House Wrap) before any of the other products can be put in place. When the wrapping is cut back and stapled down inside each opening as required then the Flexwrap can be installed. The top portion of the house wrap above each window & door opening is cut back and tacked up out of the way. Then the window or doors nail fin is back caulked and set in place with the top nail fin adhering directly to the exterior wall sheathing. Ounce the window is leveled, shimmed & nailed in place the flashing can then be installed.

The flashing is done in different ways across the Nation. We've been working hard with many of the building code councils to make the process more by the book across the Nation. This way all new homes will have the same protection no matter where you live. So houses built in AZ will have the same Air Infiltration qualities as we do here in MN.

Here in the colder climates we use a couple different flashing products. They are all very similar and all have a sticky back so they can adhere to the nail fin and the house wrap. You can use the Tyvek Straightflash or the Grace Vycor as Thull mentioned above. We use a product called "Protecto Wrap" on our jobs. We can get the tape in any size from 4" to 36" in width. We generally use the 6" on most of our applications. After the window is nailed off you use the shingle method when installing the flashing tape. The bottom piece goes on first, then the two sides and lastly the top piece. When taping the window remember the side pieces must come all the way down and cover over the bottom piece. None of the bottom piece should protrude out from under the side pieces. The tops of each side must go up just enough for the top piece to cover them completely. Remember the top portion of the house wrap was cut back so the flashing tape can fix the top nail fin down to the wall sheathing. We put the top piece of tape just across the nail holes of the fin and run it out around an inch past each side piece. This offers the best protection from water finding a way past any tape not sealed down right. Ounce the top tape is fixed in place we can then flip the house wrap down over our tape. We then cut the house wrap up so we have a good portion of the windows nail fin visible for final taping. We then use the Tyvek Tape to tape the house wrap to the nail fin., Some installers run the house wrap right down to the window itself with no place for the tape to adhere to. By cutting back the wrap and exposing some nail fin we get the tape to seal the top of the window tightly for no potential leakage. We then tape off any little cuts where the flashing tape and the house wrap intersection. Ounce this is done we back caulk an aluminum drip cap and nail it above the door or window (with cap nails) to finish the job. It sounds complicated but it's really easy ounce you've done it. Good Luck!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Protecto Wrap

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 7:51AM
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guy- from the Tyvek site you linked:

FlexWrap is "A flashing tape for window sills and custom shapes."

What you're calling "panning," others call "pan flashing," and did even before the butyl rubber flexible flashings were available. Good tutorial, otherwise, but I think you're splitting hairs in saying FlexWrap isn't flashing. And, yes, it is too expensive to use to cover nail fins (and it's wider than you'd need)- unless you need to conform to an odd shape like the circle-top window in the photo on DuPont's site.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 8:37AM
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Calling it pan flashing is where most people get confused. The average customer here's the word flashing and automatically thinks of the metal along the roof edge. Since I'm an active board member changing the building codes for next March across the Nation. We hear this complaint a lot from concerned consumers. So we are trying to get the manufacturers to educate people on what items are really used for. When Dupont first came out with Flexwrap it was considered a "Pre-wrap". It has now graduated to a family of flashing products that work together to form a protective barrier. I remember when I started in the door & window industry back in 1974 and all we had was felt roofing paper to use. Times have changed!

What we want people to remember is "Flashing go around the outside of the nail fin to divert water. It also acts as an Air Infiltration Barrier around each unit. So I'm not trying to split hairs, just educate!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 7:25PM
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In a nutshell, scoutjr, if the existing frames are in really good shape (no rot, cracking, etc), then insert windows are fine to use. A good quality installation will insure good insulating qualities.
If there is rot, then there is a water management problem with the old window. An insert window will only hide the issue, not solve it. Those units will require a new construction unit so that the opening can be properly sealed and insulated, and any damaged framing repaired.
The extent of the sealing and insulating may vary from market to market, and there are many good products available for DIY'ers and professional installers. Check with a local building inspector for guidelines if doing the install yourself. He/she can tell you what is required/recommended.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 8:55PM
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Back to your Andersen question... Andersen 400 series are fine windows. Thirty plus years in construction, I chose Andersen 400 series for my daughters new house last year, with great results.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 11:14PM
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I understand that replacement windows are OK, but if I am having the siding and trim replaced on my home and I need windows, is there any reason not to have new construction windows installed? Won't I end up with more glass than I would with a replacement window? It seems like a no brainer to me, but I thought I would ask in case I am overlooking something.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 12:59AM
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A new construction window does not always mean more glass. It depends on window type and size and manufacturer. When we replaced our old leaky Aluminum windows with AL clad, wood interior windows (Marvin Ultimate), we ended up losing about 6+ inches of glass. The old aluminum had skinny sash while the new ones have large wood pieces inside. The large wood pieces did not affect the views as we feared but they certainly did not yield more glass.

There are several reasons to stay with replacement even when changing siding and trim. We lived through this in our previous house. When trim around the windows is expensive to replace and already matches the house trim. WHen original frame is sound and we are not changing window size. When replacement window is sufficiently better than old window. When project cost of new construction is way higher than replacement windows. WE ended up using replacement windows for our previous home.

For our current house, the trim was bad and needed replacement anyway, the framing surrounding the windows had visible water damage and there is no replacement for those poor quality Aluminum windows. The end result was new construction windows.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 11:51AM
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I am struggling with the same decision. One factor is if you do a full replacement, you have a world of choices in windows but if you do insert replacements and don't want vinyl, the number of choices narrows down. Bottom line, as usual, is the price difference. Its always good to do a project "the right way" but based on my limited shopping I am estimating about a $275/window cost increase for a full replacement install vs insert. That rough estimate includes painting of interior trim etc. and assumes same choice of window for either install. Assuming a quality install, we could spend that difference in decent window treatments with inserts and in the end have a better looking window. On the other hand I just hate the idea of shrinking my windows even if its only by a little.

If I didn't learn the difference, I'd probably be happy with a vinyl insert. Ignorance can be bliss.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 4:44PM
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guy_exterior_man, thank you for the detail steps. I have question on when to install drip cap. I oderded several Anderson 400 casement windows to replace my existing ones. The installation instruction step 18 on Anderson site indicating placing drip cap, then apply flashing over the drip cap.
You seem prefer applying drip cap after flashing and house wrap? (I'm not doing new construction, so I can forgo house wrap)

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 9:16PM
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Nice catch there "yung-cheng"! We are all fortunate that you identified the faulty information posted above, as I don't believe it would have been corrected otherwise.

In response to your thoughtful query, the installation instructions you reference are correct in the application of the drip cap. Simply keep in mind that one wants to eliminate the infiltration of water as is moves downwards on the face of a building structure, so if one starts a flashing procedure, one would move from the bottom and upwards, thereby overlapping the material below as one progresses upwards.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 10:27AM
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mcsbldr, i think guy_exterior_man is correct in installing
replacement window where window is already house wrapped.
see the link below to confirm this.

My situation is the same as the above link where I need to
chip away 9" of stucco around the existing window. I do not have house wrap to wrap the drip cap in. According to the above link, I may have to tack a new layer of building paper over the existing one.

The Anderson site instruction is for new contruction.

guy_exterior_man, what do you think?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 2:38PM
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If you have the same condition as noted in the linked article, then you are placing the drip cap over the new exterior wood trim and not directly over the window. Please note the article indicates the drip is to be "tucked under the stucco and extends over the upper edge of the trim". This is a correct application, as the only way to flash/wrap over top of the drip cap in this condition, would be to remove the stucco further up the wall.

If I understand your query, you are looking to remove 9" of stucco, replace the window, add a drip cap to the top of the window and then stucco back to the new window. The 9" void you've created is the area to receive the flashing over the drip cap. Since you have access to flash over the drip cap, it would be the proper procedure. I'm now curious as to your determination of the 9" stucco removal requirement.

Remember, proper flashing requires every flashing material to be layered over the top of the previous component as beginning from the bottom and working upwards. The drip cap is not some unique metal component that just gets tacked on afterwards. It should be incorporated into the flashing detail.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 5:02PM
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We own two houses. One has Marvin wood windows and the other has Pella Architect Series Clad windows (wood on the inside, clad on the outside). We much prefer the Pella windows which are excellent.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 1:54AM
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