Tom Shafer

The 6 most commonly-asked questions about windows, and their answers

May 25, 2011

I'm often asked certain questions at the big box home improvement retailer where I work. Here are the six questions most frequently asked about windows, and the answers.

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  1. "Why are the stock sizes of the vinyl replacement windows here not the sizes I need?" Many retail stores stock vinyl replacement windows. These window sizes are usually the most popular sizes used in that area. There may be a few widths - 28", 32", 36" and several heights - 36", 48",56", 60" and 62". Any of these heights can be combined with any of the widths.
  2. "Can I get other window sizes, sizes that will fit in my house?" Windows can be custom manufactured in most sizes. I explain, however, that most manufacturers make windows in one-quarter-inch increments.
  3. "How is the size found for the new window?" The installer takes measurements of the old window. The width is measured in the area between the jambs where the current sash moves. Height measurements are taken between the sill and the top, or head of the window. Measure the height in three places, the width in three places and use the smallest dimension to make sure the window will fit.
  4. "Will the window size ordered be the size delivered?" No, they will not be. Manufactured sizes are "cut back" ¼" to ¾", depending on the window company. The reductions are necessary so the windows will be able to be inserted in the opening, not be too tight, and be loose enough to make adjustments for squareness. For example, the measurements needed are 39 ½" x 57 1/8" and that size is ordered. The size delivered may be 39" by 56 ½".
  5. "Will there be air leakage around the windows?" Your installer should caulk the sides and fill the gaps on the sides with insulation. The insulation should not be visible and the area must be covered with a trim piece.
  6. Finally the question asked most often: "Will the inside of my windows have to be taken out? The casing, the trim, and the window sill are old wood, and very nice. I don't want that replaced." The sash of the window will be taken out. This area is where the new vinyl replacement window is inserted. The old sash will be removed. The wood holding the sash in the window will be removed, but will be replaced with trim strips that will match the interior of the old window. The jambs, the casing, the stool and the sill will not be disturbed.

Armed with these answers, you can save some time when shopping for replacement windows. Don't hesitate to ask your sales representative or contractor your own unique questions; they're there to help.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in building materials, primarily in the window segment of the industry, managing sales, marketing and product development. His window experience spans both residential new construction and replacement windows. He's worked closely with design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation and is currently employed at a big box home improvement retailer.

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