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Andersen Replacement Windows: Full Frame or Insert

Updated on November 30, 2011
Full Frame versus Insert Window Replacement
Full Frame versus Insert Window Replacement

There are actually two methods to replacing windows when you start window-shopping. And this may not be something you discover in a typical window buying conversation. Let me explain.

Of course, you are familiar with color choices, woods, or window styles, such as casement or double hung, but you may not be familiar with the two window installation methods: Full Frame Windows or Insert Windows.

80% of window replacement consists of removing an old window frame with its sashes and "inserting" a new window in its place. Insert windows are the most common because they are user friendly and leave the interior and exterior trim undisturbed. You get a beautiful, energy-efficient, replacement window in the color and style you want, plus the job is finished and virtually maintenance free from the moment the installers leave your home.

However, customers reading through information on the Internet run across the term "Full Frame Windows" and ask me about the differences.

A Full Frame window includes the exterior trim and windowsills, and requires the interior window trim to be replaced as well. Following the installation, homeowners often have interior trim to paint or stain to bring the window installation to completion.

Installation Details on Full Frame Replacement Windows

With a full frame window replacement, just as the name implies, the entire window is removed, right down to the buck frame, leaving only the “rough opening” – like in a new home construction. Everything is removed — including the sills and trim. Which means, a full frame “replacement window” is a pre-assembled window complete with the exterior brick molding already in place. And the brick molding is made of maintenance-free Fibrex just like the windows. Nice.

A full frame installation is recommended when there is significant rot or deterioration to the exterior wood components of a window opening. Other homeowners say that they prefer the Fibrex material for their brick mold instead of wrapping the existing wood in a maintenance free aluminum coil stock.

And there is something else to consider—price. Given the amount of additional materials and work that go into a full frame window installation it will cost more. The ballpark difference will run about 20 to 25% more. Not an exorbitant difference, but one that you may want to bear in mind.

Installation Details on Insert Replacement Windows


Window inserts, on the other hand, are a fully operational window installed within the existing window trim and sill. With a replacement window insert, the old interior and exterior trim is undisturbed and remains intact. The exterior wood components are completely custom wrapped in an aluminum material that is color matched to your home’s trim and the window color.

The result is a maintenance free window that utilizes the existing wood trim elements.

While the insert method is less invasive because it allows some of the original window components to remain, the object of both methods is to maintain a home’s architectural integrity.


Which installation should you choose, full frame or insert?

That question is probably best answered by your house.

If you live in a home that has been designated “historically significant”, chances are the historical society will have guidelines in place when it comes to renovations. Even without a historical designation, many homeowners are keen to preserve the architectural integrity of their homes.

If so, full frame replacement is not advisable for historical authenticity. In fact, it might not be permitted. That’s because the exterior window frame must be removed, thus disturbing rather than preserving the home’s heritage exterior. In such cases, an insert replacement window would be the better choice.

More frequently, the choice is up to you. Regardless of full frame or insert, you still get all the dozens of options available from Renewal by Andersen windows.

The Choice is Clearly Yours

Double hung, casement, picture, bow, bay or gliding? You choose the style. There’s an Andersen window style for every room in your house, whether you want to enhance your living room with a beautiful bay window or put an easy-to-open awning window above the sink in your kitchen.

Plus, Andersen replacement windows are available in 7 colors and 3 interior wood grains, so you actually have 25 different trim options possible as well. Your windows can be one color on the exterior and another color on the inside, if you so wish.

Tired of squares and rectangles—what about an accent window? Andersen windows come in a dozen different shapes to add a distinctive note to your home. Choose a pentagon peak replacement window, or an eye-catching octagon. Whether your view is ocean front or woodsy, a beautiful view can become even more spectacular with the right window.

While you will be choosing energy-efficient glass to be sure, it’s good to know that even modern high-performance glass can look classic and traditional. Grilles and grids enhance new windows by giving them a distinctive colonial look.

Andersen even offers full divided light grilles, a must on homes of historical significance or where the homeowner wants to duplicate the look of true divided light windows. Of course, you can simulate the look by using grilles that snap into clips on the window sash. Or you could choose grilles set between the glass, which means they’re a breeze to clean.

Regardless of the shape, style, size or color, all Andersen windows are custom made to fit your window opening. There is no such thing as a standard “one size fits all approach” with Renewal by Andersen.

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