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New Construction vs Replacement Windows

Some homeowners can get lost in a window contractor's vernacular and not know the difference between 'new construction windows' and 'replacement windows'. This article is going to show the differences between the two, what their strengths and weakness are, and what makes a better addition for your home.


In this article:

  • A brief definition of new construction and replacement windows.
  • The advantages of new construction windows.
    • New construction windows can be better insulators.
    • New construction windows allow for more extensive repairs.
    • New construction windows allow for more personalization and variety.
  • The advantages of replacement or retrofit windows.
    • Replacement windows are quicker and more affordable to install.
    • Replacement windows do not require removing the existing window trim.
    • Replacement windows can insulate just as well as new construction windows.

New Construction and Replacement Windows

New construction windows are used for houses under construction where the studs of the structure are still exposed. A new construction window can be installed in place of an existing window but the frame would have to be removed first, down to the studs. Replacement windows are sometimes called retrofit windows because they are built for a simple installation that doesn't require the complete removal of a home's current window frame.

Better Insulators

New construction windows are beneficial to you if you're trying to drastically improve the insulation in your home. Since the process of installing new construction windows necessitates the removal of previously installed window material, a new window frame with a better interior and exterior heat retention will do the job whereas replacement windows can only improve home insulation with better glass glazing, low-E coating, and sealing.

More Extensive Repairs

Speaking of home insulation, a homeowner with a window that is not performing up to par because of a problem in the surrounding window perimeter can benefit the most with new construction windows. The contractor will be able to pinpoint the problem such as an air leak, cracks due to thermal expansion, or sealing failure, and install the new window for a perfect fit. Installing new replacement windows may improve home insulation but if the problem is with the surrounding window space, a homeowner will have to repeat the process down the road. 

More Personalization and Variety

Apart from eliminating window frame failure, new construction windows allow for last minute changes and leeway for the installer to be more creative. The contractor can take precise measurements of the window opening, regardless of how big or small. As long as the studs of the home structure are exposed, your contractor can easily remove, remeasure, and reinstall your windows according to your specifications. If for example, you decided to add a series of fixed windows above a series of casement windows surrounding your dining room for more natural light, or a series of small awning windows below for more air ventilation, your contractor can quickly arrange for the new addition. In this way, the installation of replacement windows is limited in personalization and variety.

Quick and Affordable Installation

Even though a new construction window can be the better performer overall, they are far more expensive than replacement windows in terms of installation. The cost of installing a new construction window can almost be double that of a replacement window's installation due to the extra man hours and work involved. You are charged by the hour for each window installation, and any additional work that involves wall damage, siding or window trim removal will be reflected on your bill. Installing replacement windows, however, is less invasive and is done in a timely manner.

The Existing Window Trim

Removing the previous window's frame is not necessary for installing replacement or retrofit windows. If your existing window is made out of aluminum, retrofit windows with flush fins (or Z-bars) can cover the existing aluminum frame without leaving a trace as a result of their elongated flanges. Existing wood frames can also be retrofitted with block framed replacement windows, which are designed to conceal the wood material from moisture rot or termite damage. Block framed replacement windows can be what you're looking for if you live in a city with high humidity levels such as Orlando, Florida or Houston, Texas.

Replacement Windows vs New Construction Windows Insulation

This brings us full circle to home insulation. As long as there are no issues with your existing window trim, wall, or siding, and as long as you're not looking for new window space, a replacement window can insulate your home just as well as a new construction window. Replacing single-glazed with double-glazed windows will allow your home to be more energy-efficient and comfortable. The same can be said with triple-glazed windows, windows with lower emissivity glass, higher quality frame material, and better Energy Star ratings.

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