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How Should I Replace My Old Windows?

photography by Christina Kiffney Photography

How should I go about replacing all of my old windows?

On the surface, replacing your windows seems like a straightforward home project.  In our experience, however, there’s a lot to consider to make sure you maximize your enjoyment and return on investment.

The first thing I look at with window replacement is the geometry of each window and how each window operates.  For example, perhaps you have a sliding window in a bedroom.  Upon replacement, perhaps you want to change to a double casement window to increase the room’s air flow.  For very little money, oftentimes changing the operation of a window (while keeping the size of the window the same) can really improve your home.

Another tactic we employ all the time is to keep the window width the same, but lower the sill height.  This adds cost to the project, but again, can unlock major gains in the home.  One specific example of this in a recent project was a window over the kitchen sink.  The window sill was about 16” above the countertop level.  We bought a new window that stretched down to 6” above the countertop.  This brought in much more daylight and was much easier to operate.  The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to do any structural work.  The header beam above the window opening is unaffected.  You simply need to repair the siding and interior finishes and do some minor framing changes to lower the window height.

A third thing to consider when replacing windows is adding windows.  It never ceases to amaze me how many homes in Boulder and along the Front Range were built with very little consideration to mountain views or southern sunlight.  We’ve done dozens of projects that add windows to capture views and/or sunlight and this alone can revolutionize the vibe of your home.  Of the 3 considerations so far, this is obviously the most expensive as it requires structural changes to your home.  You can’t simply cut a hole in your exterior wall, you need to re-support the roof with the proper header and consult with an engineer to make sure you’re not compromising the structural integrity of your home.

Once you feel confident about the geometry and sizing of your windows there are still a lot of things to consider.  If you’re replacing everything, it can be a great opportunity to completely change up the look and feel of your home’s interior and/or exterior trim and finish.  There are a pile of other considerations like energy efficiency, window brand, permitting, install crew, and materials.  Rather than prattle on about all of these topics I’ll end by saying that unless your replacement job is very straight forward, I highly recommend you hire a qualified contractor/installer to work with you to navigate all of these important discussions.

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