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When Do Windows on a Home Need to Be Replaced?

By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Your home’s windows let in light and air. They play an important role in its aesthetics, too. However, like other components of a home, windows do age and degrade over time and with exposure to the elements, and will eventually need to be replaced. When do you windows on a home need to be replaced? Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule here. It depends on a number of different factors.

The rule of thumb with window replacement

In the vast majority of cases, you will need to look at replacing the windows in your home roughly every 15 to 20 years. Of course, if you don’t intend to stay in your home that long (and many people today don’t), and it was new when you bought it, you may never have to worry about this at all. However, if you buy an older home, or do intend to stay where you are for decades, then that’s the general rule of thumb. With that being said, there are high-performance windows on the market that can last for longer than 20 years if properly maintained.

Consider repairing your old windows before replacing them

Like many other aspects of your home, old windows don’t necessarily need to be replaced. They can be repaired. Unlike other things (like electronics), it may actually be cheaper to repair them than to replace them. This is a good option if you’re working on a budget (and who isn’t). For new windows, you might pay anywhere from $300 to $1,500 per window depending on the type and style you get. There’s also the cost of installation involved, unless you plan to do it yourself, and even then you need to consider the time you’ll spend doing it on your own.

With repair, you’re most likely looking at between $100 and $350 per window for a complete overhaul, which can save you a ton of money, and give you virtually the same results as buying new windows. On the other hand, you can find some bargain-priced replacement windows. For example, vinyl double-hung windows can be as low as $260 per window, and vinyl casement windows are often the same price.

Are you selling an older home?

If you’re selling a home and the windows are in need of some work, it might be best to replace them rather than repair them. New windows can be a huge selling point for home buyers, and most sellers will recoup around 75% of the total cost involved. If you replace your windows and don’t sell, you’ll never recoup the full cost, as it would take around 100 years for windows to pay for themselves through increased energy efficiency. With an older home, you may also have other concerns, such as leaded windows, stained glass windows and the like. Replacing these can reduce the value of a historic home, so consider your options carefully.

What about window inserts?

There is a way to replace windows without going the full replacement route. Some professionals offer what are called window inserts. Essentially, most of the old window is removed, except for the surrounding framing. A smaller insert is installed, and you end up paying less. The downside is that the windows end up being smaller, which is probably not what you (or a potential buyer) will want. There is also the potential for air leaks between the insert and the old frame, which may cost you in terms of energy efficiency.

When it comes to replacing windows on your home, it’s probably best to work with a professional window replacement contractor who can help you determine whether your home’s windows can be repaired, or if a full replacement is necessary

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