Tom Shafer

Trending: the 3 most common types of window replacement

May 23, 2011

I have seen several product trends for retail customers during the past year. The home improvement retailer I work for has customers that fall into three categories when buying windows. The first want windows that are simply better than those currently in their house. Second are those who want to remove aluminum windows. Finally are those who ask for an Energy Star window.

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Traditional Replacement Window

Those installing a better window often buy a traditional replacement window - 3 ¼" frame, which simply means that the frame is 3 ¼" thick - to be installed in an older wood window. The new window is often installed using a traditional vinyl window installation technique which is typically easy with little interior disruption.

Replacement of Aluminum Windows

The building boom of the late 70's used the only two window options available at the time - aluminum and wood. The aluminum, even if painted, is sometimes corroded, the glass, if insulated, often has a high failure rate. The window may no longer open, and the weather-stripping can be so matted it is useless. Consumers want these aluminum windows changed.
One process is a tear out of the aluminum window, not just a blind stop installation. A blind stop is the piece of wood that separates the sash in a wood window. Blind stop installation means that the window is inserted in place of the blind stop. This type of installation is common with wood windows, but not aluminum. Because of the thickness similarity between aluminum and vinyl new construction windows, many times the new construction vinyl window is purchased, and major changes in the interior can be avoided.

You might be wondering, what's the difference between a new construction window and replacement window? A new construction window has a nailing flange to nail the window to the studs for installation, a replacement window does not. It is installed by using screws through the jambs.

One other process is a complete tear out of the window, its interior trim, or drywall return--a piece of drywall perpendicular to the wall that fills the area between wall and window frame when the window frame doesn't fill the drywall opening completely--and installation of clad wood windows. The cladding is available in many colors. White has frequently been the color of choice, but darker designer colors are gaining acceptance. Siding often needs to be repaired or changed with this method.


The "Energy Star" customer started to emerge with the tax credit offered by the American Recovery and Investment act. As the program neared its expiration at the end of 2010, I saw an increasing number of retail customers asking for products that met the criteria. This is a change in the customer, very few people outside of the industry were aware of u-values and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SGHC). But now, in general terms, customers know what the terms and the ratings mean. They ask for the tax credit window, or the super efficient window, or the Energy Star window.

Many small remodelers still come in to buy a traditional vinyl replacement window for their customers. But the market has progressed to replace not only wood, but aluminum windows, and energy-efficiency is widely understood, and increasingly requested.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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