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Replacement Windows vs. New Construction (2024 Guide)

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Author Icon By Jessica Wimmer Updated 12/18/2023

The cost of new windows is an important factor for your upcoming window remodeling project. As you decide whether to replace your current windows with ones of similar size and shape or to opt for new construction windows, you should also consider energy efficiency, aesthetics, and the type of window frame you currently have. These two window styles are each best suited for certain types of window replacement projects. We’ll explore their differences and explain when to use replacement windows versus new construction windows.

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Window Replacement

Window replacement typically costs $300–$2,000 per window, depending on the window type.

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Window Repair

Window repair typically costs $177–$623, but it can vary based on the type of repair.

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Window Cleaning Cost

Window cleaning typically costs $80–$430 for an entire home.

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Types of Windows

Here are the basics when it comes to replacement versus new construction windows.

New Construction Windows

New construction windows are meant for new home construction projects and substantial home renovations such as additions. The windows’ perimeter is surrounded by a nail fin frame that is nailed directly to the house’s wooden frame. You must strip existing walls down to the studs if you want to replace your current windows with new construction windows.

Replacement Windows

Replacement or retrofit windows are designed to fit within your existing window openings. They may be full-frame replacements, or they could be pocket or insert replacements that use the existing frames. You’ll need to match the window size and shape exactly, and the existing window frames must be in good condition. This installation process won’t require removing your home’s exterior siding or drywall.

Comparison of Replacement Windows vs. New Construction Windows

Your window type will typically be determined by the project. However, if you’re still trying to decide, review the pros and cons of each window type.

Pros and Cons of New Construction Windows

Pros Better weathertight seals, resulting in improved energy efficiency Lower up-front costs and readily available in retail stores More customization options with new window sizes workable
Cons Higher installation costs than replacement windows Installation by a professional window contractor required More disruptive and complicated installation process

Pros and Cons of Replacement Windows

Pros Higher window costs but lower project cost overall More DIY-friendly installation process Quicker and easier replacement process
Cons Less energy efficient than new construction windows More difficult to install if window frames are in bad condition Limited customization options, as windows must be the same shape and size

Factors to Consider

Keep these factors in mind when choosing the best replacement windows for your home.

  • Aesthetics: Consider the windows’ design and visual appeal and whether you’ll want to update them down the road. 
  • Energy efficiency: Windows with better seals and insulation will help you keep your utility bills low and prevent noise transfer. Look for ENERGY STAR-rated models.
  • Frame material: Material often determines price, durability, efficiency, and more. For example, wood windows look great and last a long time, but they require a lot of maintenance and are more expensive than similar vinyl windows.
  • Glass type: You can opt for treated or coated glass to increase privacy, security, or energy efficiency.
  • Number of panes: Double- and triple-pane windows cost more up-front but improve security and energy efficiency.
  • Window quality: You get what you pay for when you choose a cheaper unit or brand.

How To Decide Between Replacement Windows and New Construction Windows

To help you decide which window replacement choice is right for you, we outlined key considerations for each type.

Considerations for Choosing New Construction Windows

  • Building a new home or addition: These windows are designed to be installed before an exterior wall is finished.
  • Energy efficiency: The installation method for new construction windows provides a better seal against the elements.
  • Installation process and cost: The installation process is more involved and costly, but it’s often part of a larger project.
  • Major renovations or repairs: If you’re stripping the wall down to the studs, it may be a good time for new construction windows.
  • Style and aesthetics: You’ll have more options for size and appearance when you’re creating a new window opening.

Considerations for Choosing Replacement Windows

  • Energy efficiency: Although the seal is less weathertight, you can improve your home’s energy efficiency by choosing ENERGY STAR-rated replacements.
  • Installation process and cost: The overall cost and time commitments for this project are lower than installing new construction windows.
  • Style and aesthetics: While you’re limited by your windows’ current size and configuration, you can update the sashes, grilles, and mechanics.
  • Type of window frame: Consider the existing window frame’s condition to choose between full-frame and insert replacement.
  • Window frame condition: You may need to factor in window repair costs if your home is old or your frames are damaged.
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DIY vs. Professional Window Installation

It’s typically clear when you can do the job yourself versus when you need to hire a professional.

DIY Window Installation

If you’re installing one or two replacement windows on your home’s ground floor, do-it-yourself (DIY) window replacement may be feasible. You’ll need a power drill, hammer, utility knife, putty knife, scraper, pry bar, and caulk gun in addition to putty, caulk, primer, and paint. These tools and materials are easy to procure and relatively inexpensive, and you’ll save on the cost of professional labor. You’ll need to properly seal and insulate the new windows to ensure you don’t reduce your home’s energy efficiency.

Professional Window Installation

Professional installation is the better choice if you’re using new construction windows or replacing all of your home’s windows at once. Window replacement experts can complete the job more quickly and efficiently than a DIYer. Additionally, most new windows have warranties requiring them to be professionally installed. We recommend hiring licensed contractors for most window replacement projects.

How To Hire a Pro

Here’s how to find the best local contractor for your window needs.

  • Make sure the installation company has a current license and all contractors are bonded and insured.
  • Check the company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) page and customer reviews on sites such as Trustpilot and Google Reviews.
  • Ask about the projected time frame and any recommendations for brands or materials.
  • Get estimates and itemized quotes from at least three local contractors.

Our Conclusion

In most cases, new construction windows are suited for new construction homes or additions. Replacement windows are typically for replacing existing windows with or without new frames. We recommend scheduling a consultation with a professional window installer to answer any questions you may have. You have plenty of options for affordable window replacement, so make sure you understand them before making your choice.

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FAQ About Replacement Windows vs. New Construction

When should I choose new construction windows over replacement windows?

You should choose new construction windows over replacement windows when you are building a new exterior wall or stripping the old wall down to the studs for substantial renovations.

How do I know which type of window is best for my home?

Replacement windows are typically the right choice for a window replacement project unless you’re removing the siding or stucco on your walls. In that case, you may want to choose new construction windows for more customization options and energy efficiency. 

How much do replacement windows cost compared to new construction windows?

Replacement windows cost about 10% to 15% more to purchase compared to new construction windows. However, the cost of labor for installation is as much as 50% to 100% less. They’re overall more cost-effective than new construction windows.

How long does it take to install replacement windows vs. new construction windows?

A single replacement window takes about four to six hours to install on average. A new construction window can often be installed quicker, but the process surrounding the installation takes longer.

What are the different styles of replacement windows and new construction windows?

New construction windows always have a nail fin flange around the perimeter. Replacement windows can be full-frame replacements or insert replacements, depending on whether they contain a new frame.

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