Can You Replace Windows Yourself? (Or Should You Hire a Pro?)

May 12, 2021

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If you’re a homeowner asking, can I replace a window myself, you’ll want to consider some vital information about window replacement for your home, as this process is not as easy as you might expect! Unlike replacing an interior door, you cannot simply slide a new window into the existing frame and screw or nail it into place.

Replacing a window requires precise measurements for the new window, cutting out the existing window, and adding connectors to keep the new window in place. DIY window replacement is often more difficult than homeowners realize and means foregoing a warranty you would normally get from a professional window installer.

Window replacement might be one of the most complicated projects you can take on and is often fraught with the most risk! Windows are typically heavier than homeowners realize, so it’s easy to drop one or slam it into something accidentally, risking injury and damage to the window and other property. Window installation also requires special tools and even permits in some areas.

can you replace windows yourself

To ensure you make the best decision when it comes to new windows for your home, note some vital details about replacing existing windows and costs for calling a pro. It’s also helpful to note some information about window styles and features, so you know when it’s time for an upgrade! You can then discuss your options with a window installation contractor near you as needed.

Can You Replace Windows Yourself?

A homeowner can certainly replace a window themselves if you have the right tools, skills, time, and patience! You might also need some assistance as windows are quite heavy, as said. However, consider what is involved in replacing a window so you know whether or not you’re qualified to manage this job on your own.

The difference between insert and full-frame replacement windows

Insert windows are inserted or installed into the existing frame. This window type is an excellent choice if the current window frame is in good condition, and you’re not changing the window size or style.

Full frame replacement windows, as the name implies, come with an entirely new frame so that the existing frame is cut out and replaced along with the window. Full frame replacement windows are the better choice if the current frame is damaged or outdated. A full-frame replacement window also allows you to change the window’s overall size and style.


Terms to remember

Note these common terms you’ll probably run across when it comes to window installation and replacement:

  • Fastening refers to the fastener type used to connect a window to a home’s structure, inside the window framework. The fastener type used for your window in particular will depend on its size and style, the anchoring material on the home’s structure, the window’s location, and the fastener depth needed.
  • Flashing refers to materials used to create trenches that direct water to a nearby drain or another runoff point. On a roof, flashing is typically a thin metal applied between the edges of shingles and obstructions such as chimneys. For windows, flashing might be tape or liquid adhesives.
  • Opening preparation is needed to ensure there is enough room around the frame or the home’s structure to accommodate the window, flashing, and assembly. Opening preparation also means any additional allowances needed for proper window installation.
  • Shims are added to windows to ensure they’re plumb and level, and sitting square to the window frame. Shimming is also used to close off any gaps around the window frame.
  • Cladding is the application of material layers, one over another, to provide added insulation around windows.
  • Sealing closes off any gaps around window frames. Most sealing is a low expanding foam applied around the window once installed.
  • Water-resistant barriers must be installed around new windows, to help block moisture and humidity from seeping into a home’s construction materials.

How to measure for new windows

Measuring for new windows is challenging, as you want to ensure your replacement windows fit snugly in their pocket or frame without gaps and cracks, but without being oversized! To measure for new windows, open the lower sash and then measure the height at the middle, left, and right of the window.

Next, measure the width at the top, middle, and bottom. You’ll then use the smallest width and height measurement when ordering your new windows. This will ensure your replacement windows are not too large or wide to fit into the current opening, reducing the amount of prep work needed for installation.

How to remove a window

Removing a window is the first step to DIY replacement! Note the most common steps for pulling out an old window and, as always, ensure you have proper safety equipment and a safe place to store the old window before you can dispose of it properly.

  • To start, use heavy masking tape in a crisscross pattern over the glass pane, to help prevent shattering if the window should break during removal.
  • Score around the window interior where it meets the sill and drywall; use a sharp box cutter or other edge meant for cutting drywall and caulk, for a cleaner cut. Continue to score until you have a clean, thorough cut.
  • Older windows will have weights or springs in the window frame, to help operate the window. If needed, cut these out of the window after scoring the drywall.
  • Along the exterior, you will need to pry up or pull the window away from the outside wall. Use caution when doing this; the less siding or brick you damage, the less you’ll need to replace!
  • Remove any old caulk around the window.
  •  Note the window fins; these are metal pieces attached to the home, and to which the window is nailed. You might need to take a close look for those nails, as they’re usually painted over!
  • Once you’ve found those connector nails, use what’s called a cat’s paw tool to pull them out. This should loosen the window and allow you to remove it.

How to install the new window

Once you’ve removed the old window, clean the opening thoroughly. Use a shop vacuum if needed, for removing layers of dirt, debris, caulk, and especially dust. Wipe the area down with a damp rag. Once clean, you’re ready to install the new window.

  • Start by laying down flashing tape. This tape is installed over the sash and should extend up the side of the window slightly.
  • Use a level to check the sill. Tap down shims if needed, to create a level surface for the new window.
  • “Dry fit” the new window by placing it into the opening. There should be a slight gap around the frame. It’s vital you test your window for a good fit before adding caulk and other adhesives, so you can sand down or otherwise prepare the opening as needed for the new window.
  • Apply a small line of caulk along the sill and frame. If you’re not sure how to apply caulk correctly, review online videos and practice on paper or scrap wood until you can create a small, neat line.
  • Place the window in the opening and press it firmly against the caulk. Use shims to keep it in place while the caulk dries. Always ensure the window is sitting securely before moving to the next step, or even walking away from the window so it doesn’t fall and shatter!
  • There should be pre-drilled screw holes in the window; use these to nail or screw the window into place. Continue to check that the window operates properly as you add more nails.
  • Check that the window is level and even, and add shims where needed to make it level. Test the window one last time to see if it operates properly and then cut away the shims.
  • Use spray foam insulation along the window exterior to fill in any gaps. Ensure you don’t overfill those gaps. You can also apply weatherstripping but avoid interior insulation as this will absorb water and lead to damage and mold.
  • Install finish trim around the windows and apply caulk. Once dry, cut away any excess caulk and then paint the trim as needed.

How Hard Is It to Replace a Window?

new window installation

While it is possible for a homeowner to replace windows on their own, this job does require advanced carpentry skills, the right tools, and some assistance! Consider some challenges faced when replacing windows so you can better decide if this is a job for you to tackle:

  • When cutting around the framing, you don’t want to cut away the wall or other materials not being replaced. It’s not unusual for homeowners to try to remove the window fins and other parts that are meant to stay in place, so they then need to go back and cover over those cuts or otherwise repair those pieces.
  • Crooked windows don’t operate properly but ensuring the frame and new window is level and even can be difficult, especially for older homes that have settled slightly over the years. Settling pulls framing out of its original level position, making it even more challenging to add the shims needed to create a level window.
  • Not filling in gaps properly will mean eventual drafts in wintertime and trapped heat and humidity during the summer months!
  • Not installing flashing tape properly allows moisture to settle along the windowsill, risking wood rot and mold.
  • The wrong spray foam can expand too much around a window, causing bowed frames and wood damage.
  • It’s not unusual for homeowners to skip testing the window’s operation as they add nails, often wanting to finish the job as quickly as possible. However, it’s vital that you make adjustments to the window or add shims as you go along, so the window works as expected.

Along with these potential mistakes, remember that hiring a pro means you’re covered for any repairs needed after a poor-quality installation, and this includes damage to your new windows! If you should drop a new window during a DIY install, you’ll be responsible for its repair or replacement, but hiring a professional window installer means you’re covered financially in case of accidents or damage.

Do you install replacement windows from the inside or outside?

Replacement windows are typically installed from the inside, although there are some exceptions. Replacement windows that are larger than the opening of the window that is being replaced may be installed from the outside. Window installers will also replace the sill and surrounding trim as necessary.

If you are installing replacement windows yourself, be sure to measure the window opening carefully before ordering your windows. It is also important to check local building codes to ensure that your window installation complies with all regulations.

Home Window Replacement Cost

Home window replacement costs can vary as much as the cost of any other building material or feature in your home, with prices depending on window size, style, operation, glazing, energy-efficient rating, and other vital details! Typically, home window replacement costs average around $650 per window, or between $200 and $1800. Most homeowners can expect to pay from $3000 to $10,000 for whole-house home window replacement.

replacement windows

To better understand this wide price range, note some details to consider when shopping for new windows. You can then decide which are needed for your new windows and know if you should expect the price to adjust up or down accordingly!

Window frame materials

Vinyl, fiberglass, wood, and aluminum are popular window frame materials. Wood offers an excellent aesthetic, toning down the look of aluminum siding, and also provides added insulation against heat and cold. The downside to wood is that it needs consistent maintenance, including sand and repainting.

Vinyl and fiberglass are lightweight and durable and need no maintenance over the years. Vinyl and fiberglass are also not likely to warp, chip, or crack, so they should offer excellent operation throughout the lifetime of home-ownership.

Aluminum is also lightweight but doesn’t offer the same insulation as other materials and can even conduct heat and cold! Aluminum is often the cheapest window frame material and works well with a variety of architectural styles.

Energy efficiency and overall comfort

The more energy-efficient a window, the higher its price tag, but the more money you’ll save on heating and cooling over the years. You’ll also enjoy a more comfortable interior environment when you invest in energy-efficient windows.

  • Glazing refers to window panes. Double-glazed and triple-glazed windows are somewhat standard with most new window options but note what’s between those panes! Argon and krypton gas offer better insulation than air, adding to a window’s energy efficiency.
  • Low emissivity or Low-E glass has a special coating that blocks heat but not light. Low-E glass is an excellent choice for homes in warmer areas, as you can enjoy a bright and welcoming interior space without added heat or a stuffy feeling during the summer months.
  • Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) refers to how much solar energy passes through a window. As with Low-E glass, choose windows with a low SHGC rating if you live in the south or warmer areas, and a high SHGC rating if you live in a colder climate.

Along with energy efficiency, you might consider tempered glass which crumbles rather than shatters when broken. If you have children who play outside, live near a golf course, or suffer repeated broken windows for any reason, tempered glass can mean less mess and risk of injury!

cost of new window replacements

Sound Transmission Class (STC) refers to how much sound passes through a window. The higher the rating, the less sound that makes its way through a window; invest in the highest STC rating you can find if you live near a busy highway, airport, school, or another loud facility.

Finding the Right Window Style

If you’re in the market for new windows, this can be an opportunity to choose a different style and size than what’s installed currently. Some window styles allow for added light and fresh air inside the home while improving curb appeal outside. Note the most popular residential window styles and when they might be the best choice for your home!

Single and double-hung

Single-hung windows are probably the most common residential window type; these have two panes of glass and the lower pane lifts to open the window. Double-hung also has two panes but both lift and lower for operation.

Single-hung windows are very affordable, while double-hung might be a bit more costly but opening the top pane allows for added ventilation. Opening that top pane allows you to vent smoke and odors from the kitchen or enjoy fresh air without having bothersome wind around your seating areas.

Bay and bow windows

Bay and bow windows have panes that sit side by side, but which jut out from the home to form a half hexagon shape; bay windows have three panes while bow windows have five. These windows allow for added interior space and sunlight and can even provide a spot for a window seat inside the home.

Casement windows

Casement windows have hinges on the side and a pane will open and close like a door, either into the home or to the outside. Casement windows allow for an unobstructed view to the outside and for more air circulation inside the home.

Garden windows

Garden windows are a favorite for kitchens; these have a ledge which is then surrounded by glass panes. If you want to grow your own herbs or need a sunny place for plants, consider a garden window.

Picture windows

Picture windows are stationary; they are just a pane of glass that doesn’t open or close. These are excellent for offering a stunning view to the outside in areas of the home where you won’t necessarily need an open window, such as the living room or over a soaking tub.

Talk to your window installer about the best style for your home, and especially for rooms you use the most such as the living room and family room. Larger or more stylish windows enhance your view and ensure a comfortable interior space you’ll love.

Fort Worth Home Window Replacement is happy to provide this information to our customers and we hope it helped you answer the question, can I replace a window myself? If you’re ready for new windows, trust our experienced Fort Worth window installation contractors to get the job done right! To find out more information or to browse our catalog of beautiful new windows, use our contact form or call us today.

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