Did you know that windows account for up to 30% of a home's heating and cooling energy consumption?
That "use" actually refers to the energy that they waste through heat gains and heat losses. Windows lose and gain more heat than any other surface area of a home. In fact, bare windows lose10 to 20 times more heat than an adequately-insulated wall.
Old, worn-out, and damaged windows waste even more energy. That's why it's important to know when you need to replace or update your windows.
Retrofit windows and new construction windows are two of your "new window" options.
The question now is, what makes the two different? Which of the two will give you the perfect windows for your home?
We’ll answer all these questions, so be sure to read on!
A Primer on Retrofit Windows and New Construction Windows
Retrofit windows are also made of new construction materials. However, these windows serve as "replacement windows". You use these to change out damaged, worn, or outdated built-in windows.
To make it easier to distinguish the two, let's talk about what makes for a new construction window.
New Construction Windows 101
If you've never replaced your existing windows, they're likely the "full-frame" window type. They were once "new construction windows" built into the frame of your house. They came with a nailing fin (a thin sheet of metal) attached to their entire exterior side.
This nailing fin is what distinguishes new construction from retrofit windows. This nailing fin goes straight into a wall stud to secure the entire window frame in place. It's only after this that the wall it's installed in can get finished or completed.
In short, the wall surrounding new construction windows hides the nailing fin. This makes new construction windows a more permanent home structure. This is also why all new homes and extensions need new construction windows.
Retrofit or Replacement Windows
Retrofit windows have "smooth" sides since they don't come with nailing fins. You install them by inserting them into the existing window frame. You then secure them onto the existing frame with tape, caulk, screws, and nails.
When to Consider New Construction Windows for Existing Homes
While a must for new homes, new construction windows can also benefit existing homes. Here are a few instances when new, full-frame windows are your best (or only) bet.
Severe Damage or Decaying Window Frames
18 million homes -- or 14% of the US housing stock -- are over 70 years old. An estimated half of all US homes are also over three decades old.
If your home is one of these, chances are, some of your window frames have severe damage or decay. They may no longer provide adequate support for replacement windows. They may collapse under the weight of the new retrofit windows.
Even if they don't, removing the windows attached to them may cause some parts of the frame to break off. The decay on existing frames may also spread to the new retrofit windows.
In such cases, new construction windows are your better option. They will cost more, but the new frames will also last much longer.
Major Remodeling or Renovation Projects
If you're planning a major home remodel or renovation, consider new construction windows. Your existing ones may be too outdated to simply replace. If you want custom-shaped or -sized windows, you also need the new construction type.
Extensions or Room Additions
If you’re adding a new bedroom or bathroom, your only choice would be new construction windows. The same goes for extensions or new structures like a detached garage or bedroom.
When Retrofit Windows Make the Most Sense
Replacing a window is more affordable than installing new windows and frames. In the US, installing new construction windows have an average cost of over $5,400. Whereas window replacements cost only a fraction of that.
This makes them an ideal choice if you want to cut your renovation costs. These savings will help you stick to your budget when remodeling your home. Moreover, you can use what you save for other great home additions that can boost your home's value!
Lower cost isn’t the only great thing about retrofit windows though. Here are the other good reasons why you’d want to stick to replacement windows.
Existing Frames are Still in Top Condition
So long as the existing nail fins are still in good condition, then it's best to get replacement windows. Otherwise, you'd have to knock down part of the wall to install new windows.
Knocking down a wall isn’t only expensive -- it'll also cause unnecessary downtime at home. You may have to restrict access to that room until the window installation is complete.
A Quick (and Low-Cost) Solution to Leaky, Drafty Windows
Aging windows are more likely to develop loose seals, drafts, and rattling panes. This often occurs when the exposed frames, sashes, and rails have already warped.
If the damage affects only these parts, you can easily swap them out with retrofit windows. However, it's best that you leave the job to a licensed window replacement contractor.
For one, because windows are heavy, and an unsteady hand can cause them to slip and crash down. Broken glass can fly everywhere and cause serious safety hazards.
Second, you need to know the right frame size to ensure that the retrofit windows will fit properly. You cannot use and should not force a too-small or too-big retrofit window on an existing frame. Doing so puts the frame at risk of damage and the new windows at risk of collapse.
Professional contractors have everything needed for a safe and proper retrofit window installation. They have all the measuring tools necessary to install right-sized windows. They also use equipment that allows them to carry and set up the new windows safely.
Choose the Most Appropriate Windows for Your Home
There you have it, the differences between retrofit windows and new construction windows. In most cases, high-quality retrofit windows are your practical, cost-effective choice. However, if there's extensive frame damage, then you may need new construction windows.
Still unsure of which type of windows to get? Then please feel free to get in touch with us now! We'll be happy to answer all your window-related questions and even give you a free job estimate.