I need an education on windows. I currently am in a brick ranch house with ~38 year old, double hung wood-framed Pella windows. These windows have a "storm glass" insert which pops right out on the inside (I am unsure if that is the correct term for it). The glass adds no insulation value beyond whatever dead air is trapped there between the plates of glass. The windows were probably state-of-the-art windows for the 70's and the interior wood is very attractive. Most of the actual wood frames are in good shape but there is/has been some condensation between the glass plates and on some spots on the sills. Additionally, the white wood exterior frames are in need of attention. On the SW side of the house the exterior wood is slightly 'peffy' due to the weather getting through the paint. The sun is rather extreme there.
We are willing to do some refinishing on the interior sills but the thought of exterior window frame painting is painful.
I think we are in the market for "replacement windows", BUT...I want an education to see if it is feasible to replace the entire window and not just drop in the typical replacement. Can that be done from the outside without damaging the interior window trim? Or is this the exact reason folks chose "replacement windows"? I'd prefer all new windows but want to keep my interior trim. It may be possible to re-do the interior trim but I can imagine the difficulty of trying to match the warm clover honey finish if the trim is damaged.
I would not be fond of losing the current size of the glass and think it might feel somewhat claustrophobic. Drop in windows would also not solve the problem(s)of the exterior white trim (paint and weathered wood)and new caulking.
I sprung for aluminum cladding on a door for a new garage for exactly that reason. From poking around in this forum I find that cladding windows can cause condensation, trapped moisture, molds, carpenter ants and infertility. Can the existing wood exteriors be aluminum clad and problem free? Paint problems, bad. Trapped moisture and rotting frames, worse.
Understand that the $ involved is always an issue but I would gladly pay more for a better product, proper installation, and a solid warranty. I'd like the windows to be a plus in 20 years and not a minus in 5.
I do see a lot of back and forth jibing on the forum about the different brands and selections, and box stores in general. I have no prejudice coming into this purchase and have had great experiences buying things at (mostly) Lowe's and have always been well-treated when I had a problem. I realize that not all box stores or their locations are created equal (but so far no complaints from me).
I am certain we would only want wood windows (or replacements). White or other-colored Vinyl is just plain ugly to me. E-value films and gas-filled panes are great IF the warranty is similarly great. We also would prefer if the windows were not excessively smaller (see above).
Any answers to the questions are appreciated. Any advice on research or reading materials would also be most welcome.