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Replacing a window...or how to save $99.

Updated on January 18, 2012

Caveat: If you misunderstand what is written, if you don't read it all, or if I have inadvertantly left something out, I am not responsible.

These are merely suggestions and should not be construed as anything other than that. If you have any doubts or misgivings, consult a local contractor, or other home improvement source, such as Home Depot, Lowes, or Menards.

Better steps to window replacement.

There are hundreds if not thousands of sites that can tell you how to replace a window. Some make it look easy, some not so much. It can be intimidating if you have not done anything like it before, but remember, everyone has had to do everything they have done for the first time, at one time or another. Do not fear the unknown, cause even if you screw it up, it can be fixed!

I'm here to give you a guide that will make it almost seem like a "Dummies guide to replacing a window", or a "Dummies guide to saving $99".

Probably the most important step, is choosing the right window for the replacement. Cost , aesthetics, and fuction, are usually the driver for what window you choose. However there are other factors that need consideration. I use the following steps to proceed when deciding to replace a window.

1. Can I fix it? Is it something a little caulk and/or paint can fix? Will a little mechanical tweaking take care of it's issues? If not, then......

2. What size of replacement do I need? This is critical for getting a new window in place. Too big and you'll have to make the opening larger, too small and you'll have to fir out the opening. It's not that difficult to get an accurate measurement. Measure inside of the jamb, [side] to inside of the opposing jamb. Add 1 and 1/2 inches for jamb thickness. Do this top to bottom and side to side. This should give you outside dimensions to take to your supplier.

3. Now you have to make some choices. First, you want to match stylewise to the remaining windows in the home. You may not get an exact match, but should be able to come close. Also, if you are replacing double hung window, [one that slides up and down], or a casement, [one that cranks open], make sure you replace it with a like window. If you are replacing all windows then this is not an issue. Second you have to decide on a window manufacturer. Most people don't realize that this is probably the most critical decision, if you are planning to remain in the home. A cheap, poorly made window can end up costing you much more money in the long run. Energy and repair costs add up quickly. I have seen some low budget windows in a new house leak tons of air and flex in high winds, so you need to think twice before going with the low dollar window. Marvin and Anderson windows are 2 of the better manufacturers. Keep in mind though, that they have lower end lines as well and they may not perform as well as other lines by the same manufacturer.

4. Okay, you've picked out the window and got it in your garage. Keep it upright. Make sure the nailing flange is protected. Most are plastic and can easily break.

5. Start early in the day in case you run into issues. Make sure the weather is going to be half way decent for several hours after you begin.

6. Get the old window out. Easier said than done huh? Not so bad really. Just take your time and make sure you are not destroying anything that shouldn't be. But remember, if you do, it can be fixed, it will just add more time to the project. Be careful removing siding, only remove what's necessary to get the old window out and the new window in. If you have to do some cutting, make sure you use a straightedge to keep your saw cutting straight. Before you pull the old window out make sure you have all the panes and screens that you can, out. Also make sure you have the trim off the inside of the window and that any nails through the jamb are cut, if possible.

7. Alright! You have that old piece of crap out! Fist pump and high five! The hard part is done! Now you have to get the opening ready for the new window.

8. If you've cut out some of the housewrap, you'll need to fix it. You can use vinyl coil stock or if you have some house wrap, you can use that and some housewrap tape to seal all the seams. Do not be chintzy with the tape. It won't work if you don't use enough to completely cover the seams.

9. Use a butyl window and door sealing tape to cover the sill. Then the sides, then the header.

10. Dry fit the window to make sure it will fit and there is enough room for shimming to get it plumb, level, and square.

11. Use some good silicone caulk and caulk the flange on the side that will contact the house. Do not caulk the bottom flange! Water needs to get out if it gets in.

12. Put the window in the opening and check for plumb and level. Straight up and down and across. When it is plumb and level, put a galvanized roofing nail in one of the top corners. You can use a screw if you want, but most use a one or one and a quarter inch roofing nail. Using a tape measure, pull diagonally from top to bottom, first one corner, then the other. If the measurement is the same it is square and you need to go inside and see if the window works properly. If it does, you can finish nailing the flange. Use the holes provided and do not bury the heads of the nails, so as to allow for expansion and contraction. Just snug will do just fine. If it doesn't work, it isn't either level, square or plumb. You'll have to tweak it so the window will move freely.

13. Cover the two side flanges with butyl wrap. Not the bottom, moisture needs to get out if it gets in.

14. Install your rigid aluminum head flashing. Nail it in with galvanized nails. One every 6 inches should work. Cover with butyl wrap. Stick the wrap under the housewrap if possible.

15. Install your outside trim. Caulk all your seams with a colored caulk to match your trim color or a clear paintable caulk.

16. Go inside and use a low expansion spray foam that comes in a can and fill the gaps between the window and the rough opening. Not too much, it expands quite a bit and can cause your window to bind up and warp your frame.

17. Put trim on the inside. Leave a quarter inch reveal all the way around.

18. Have cold one and brag to your friends about the great job you did and how easy it was to do it. But don't volunteer to do any for them. Tell them you'll only supervise, so they can become handy themselves.

Where do I get what I need to do the job?

Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, or any other home improvement source should have all the tools and supplies you will need. Talk to the guys or gals at the building materials desk and they will help you find what you need to complete your project.


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    • profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thanks, grinnin1! Glad to be of assistance! Hope it will make replacing your attic window go easier!

    • grinnin1 profile image


      9 years ago from st louis,mo

      Love it, great hub and voted up. I've got an attic window we're replacing this summer, so was great to get this information. Will bookmark!

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Yep, he enjoyed a few beers. LOL He still needs to do some trimming. He did get his dad and our daughter to help him with the windows, but it was the biggest part of the job. :-)

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thanks for the kind words sholland! And thanks for the link!

      So your husband must have had a 12 pack when he was done? lol.

      That must be quite the sunroom! I'm sure you will get much enjoyment out of it, I know I would.

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Useful tips! My husband just put eleven windows in our sunroom. I am going to link this to my hub. :-) Voted up, useful, and awesome!

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      SanneL and Tams R, thanks for coming by and the kind words!

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 

      9 years ago from Missouri

      Fist pump! haha great job and useful.

    • SanneL profile image


      9 years ago from Sweden

      Straight to the point, no unnecessary jargon guidelines. I like that!!

      Very useful.


    • profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Simone, it's easier than you think! I have no doubt you could do it if you wanted to! Just think of the pride and satisfaction you would get from doing it!

      Thanks for the comments and for stopping by.

      K9, glad to be of some help! Thanks for prowling by!

      tl, thanks for the comments, happy to be of some enlightenment!

    • tlpoague profile image


      9 years ago

      I never thought to use colored caulking. Great tips!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      9 years ago from Northern, California

      Using colored caulking to match the exterior house paint is a really good pointer. I will totally be using this in the future.



    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Great step-by-step tips! I like the encouragement, too. Hahaa, if I were to replace a window, I would need all of the cheerleading I could get!


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