6 unexpected replacement window costs

August 29, 2011

Without proper planning and forethought, home improvement projects have the tendency to go from manageable to over-budget quickly. A survey undertaken by Consumer Reports showed that 18 of the most common projects undertaken by homeowners end up costing much more than originally expected. Your replacement windows cost can quickly grow if you don't plan carefully. Consider these six tips to help you avoid any unexpected costs:

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1. Correcting for incorrect measurements

Measuring and ordering the right size replacement window is crucial for finishing looks and operation since the windows fit into existing openings. Ordering the wrong size might incur costs if they are returned, or might require more labor to modify the opening to fit the new size.

2. Permits

Does your city or county require building permits for your window job? If so how much do they cost? Generally, most building departments do not require permits for jobs that are replacing windows without modifying the size of the opening, creating a new opening, or closing an existing opening. However, it's always a good idea to check with the building department first to avoid fines or work stoppages later.

3. Materials

Besides purchasing a new replacement window, what other materials will be needed to finish the job? Is the interior or exterior trim likely to be damaged when the old window is removed? Will the new window require different trim configurations? Is the trim custom-milled and hard to get? Will the walls or siding need to be patched? These are all things to discuss with a contractor and budget for before a job starts.

4. Soft sills

If the old windows you are replacing have soft sills, there could be water damage, not only to the sill, but also to the surrounding framing. Do you have a plan or budget if some of the framing or wood around the window needs to be replaced?

5. Access

Will scaffolding or special ladders need to be rented to access the windows? If large, second-story windows are being installed, is there a plan on how to safely install them without the risk of damage?

6. Painting

Once the new windows are installed, will the interior or exterior trim work need to be repainted?

By thinking about all of the factors that can potentially raise your replacement windows cost now, you can develop a realistic project budget, and maybe even save money.


Consumer Reports • May 2009 Consumer Reports survey on the hidden costs of home improvement 

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