Deciding on Full-Frame vs. Insert Window Replacement | Brennan DFW
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Deciding on Full-Frame vs. Insert Window Replacement

While it may be relatively easy to recognize when a window itself needs to be replaced, many homeowners struggle to determine if the frame around the window should be replaced. These window-surrounding structures serve an important role in the overall efficiency and function of a window, so knowing when to replace a window frame is undeniably important.

Signs It's Time to Replace Your Window Frame

When you decide it is time to replace your windows, it is also a good time to evaluate whether it may be a good time to replace your window frames. The window frame is the part of a structure that supports the window itself and is made up of the jamb, sill, and head. Without a window frame, the installed windows would have nothing to support them in the wall structure. 

A few good signs that it may be time to replace your window frames include: 

  • Visible damage or wear

  • Warping or bowing

  • Water damage or rot

  • Insect infestation

  • Drafts or air leaks

  • Increased energy bills

Replacing Window Frames vs Replacing Windows: What's the Difference?

Window frame replacements involve removing the damaged or outdated frame of the window, but the glass and structures surrounding the glass remain intact.

Alternatively, a full frame replacement is a method that involves replacing both the window's frame and the window's glass.

Lastly, an insert window replacement is an alternative method that involves installing new windows within the existing frame. However, this most often means replacing both the window’s frame and the window’s glass.

Factors to Consider When Deciding between Window Frame Replacement and Window Replacement

Window frames may not always have to be replaced with new windows. However, it is best to consider several factors before deciding whether only the frame or the entire window should be replaced.

Evaluating the condition of the existing window frame is crucial in this decision-making process, as it can determine whether an insert replacement is feasible or if a full replacement is necessary. For example, consider the age and condition of the existing windows and frames. If the frames and windows are outdated or in bad condition, a full window replacement may be for the best.

For instance, if the windows are drafty and the frames are not airtight, a full replacement may be the better decision. Other factors to consider include your overall budget, aesthetic improvement goals, and the potential for future issues if you leave the old frames intact.

So Should You Replace Your Window Frame or to Get a Full Frame Window Replacement?

If you're still uncertain about whether or not your window frames need to be replaced, consider the following six factors: 

Age of the window frame - Outdated frames can inhibit the overall efficiency of your windows. 

Type of window frame material - Is the frame material durable enough for the long term?

The extent of damage or deterioration - Any damage is usually a bad sign, but some minimal signs of wear may be safe to put off. 

Energy efficiency - Do the frames make your windows as energy-efficient as they should be?

Aesthetics - Are you happy with how the frames look? Some frame materials offer more style options than others. 

Budget - Replacing the full windows can be a bit more costly, so consider how much you are looking to invest. 

If you notice any of these things are affecting your window frame, opting for a full-frame window replacement is probably best.

Choosing the Right Replacement Window Frame

There are several types of window frames commonly used in construction, each with its own set of pros and cons. Take a look at a few of the most common window frame material choices, the pros and cons of each, and their U-factor ratings

  1. Wooden Frames:

    • Pros: Traditional and aesthetically pleasing, can be painted or stained to match interior décor, good insulation properties.

    • Cons: Require regular maintenance such as painting or sealing to prevent rotting or warping, may be susceptible to termite damage.

    • U-Factor of wood-framed windows: Typically ranges from 0.30 to 0.50.

  2. Vinyl Frames:

    • Pros: Low maintenance, resistant to moisture and insects, good insulation properties, relatively affordable.

    • Cons: Limited color options compared to wood, can become brittle over time, and may not be as visually appealing to some.

    • U-Factor of vinyl-framed windows: Typically ranges from 0.30 to 0.40.

  3. Aluminum Frames:

    • Pros: Lightweight, strong and durable, resistant to weather and corrosion, slim profile allows for larger glass areas.

    • Cons: Lower insulation properties, are prone to condensation, may transfer heat or cold into the interior, and can be prone to denting.

    • U-Factor of aluminum-framed windows: Typically ranges from 0.50 to 0.60.

  4. Fiberglass Frames:

    • Pros: Low maintenance, strong and durable, good insulation properties, can mimic the look of wood.

    • Cons: More expensive than vinyl and limited style availability compared to other materials.

    • U-Factor of fiberglass-framed windows: Typically ranges from 0.20 to 0.30.

Keep in mind that the U-factor explains how well a window insulates against the elements, but several elements of a window make up this factor beyond just the frame. The lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient a window usually is, however. 

Consulting a professional for full frame vs insert window replacement

If you are considering replacing your windows or decide to opt for just a frame replacement, you should consult a professional for guidance. A professional contractor can help you decide if frames actually need to be replaced or if you can get by with window inserts alone, while also considering the differences in cost, insulation, and suitability based on the condition of the existing window frames. The best window replacement contractors will openly discuss any window frame problems they see and give you reliable advice.

Additionally, window installation is a project that requires deeper structural knowledge, whether it's for full frame or insert replacements. Therefore, the job is not one to be taken lightly or should involve a DIY attempt without experience. If you decide to go with window frame replacement, this may add a few additional days to the overall project, but a well-chosen contractor will offer specifics about what to expect.

Are you considering window frame replacement or full window replacement? Reach out to us at Brennan for trustworthy advice and even book a free consultation.

Ariana Martinez
Ariana Martinez
April 25, 2024


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