At Clevernest, we replace windows in homes nearly every day. Most of our clients, on the other hand, may have never gone through a process like this. They haven’t shopped for, selected, or installed new windows. Just like any new experience, there are terms and processes that are unfamiliar. The worst is not knowing what we don’t know. How do you learn when you don’t even know what questions to ask?
We want to help take some of the uncertainty from the process. We want to educate our customers and help them make the best decision for their homes — a decision that gives them peace of mind. Our owner, Tom McHaffie shares his number one tip for anyone considering or in the midst of a window replacement project.
“Is this a FULL-FRAME or an INSERT replacement?”
Although I spent 28 years as a Custom Home Builder before entering the Window business as an Andersen Window and Door Dealer, I never knew what an “insert” installation meant. I assumed that all windows were made to go in a framed opening, just like I had installed new construction windows for years. However, I soon learned that the term “replacement window” can mean different things to different companies.
Many if not most companies use the term replacement window to mean what is called an “insert” window. Simply put, an insert window is designed to be “inserted” inside the old wooden window frame.
Benefits of Insert Installations
- the installation is quicker
- the labor is less expensive
- it doesn’t involve disrupting your interior trim
Downsides of Insert Installations
- your visible glass is reduced
- you may be covering up pre-existing rot conditions, from an old, leaky window.
Because of the speed and labor cost, most of the bigger name replacement window companies and the all-vinyl window replacement companies utilize this insert install method.
The Full-Frame Alternative
I personally believe that whenever possible, a full-frame replacement is the preferred method, but there just aren’t a lot of companies specializing in this process anymore. In a full-frame replacement, the entire old window is removed, exposing the studs and any possible damage behind the wall — damage that wouldn’t have been visitible in an insert installation.
The contractor is able to put that rough opening back into shape, including utilizing materials like non-expanding insulation foam and rubberized sill flashings — materials that weren’t readily available 10 years ago. These materials are now suggested (and to some extent required) by code for new construction. The new window is basically the same exact size as the original, so if anything, you may gain visible glass, not lose it. Not only are you getting a new energy efficient window, but you’re actually improving the thermal performance of the whole rough opening. Depending on what products you are comparing, a Full-Frame install can be more expensive than an Insert install. But many times, we can do a full-frame install for the same or less than a comparable insert product.
So, make sure you ask the question! Is this a full-frame or insert application?