Deciding that you need to do something about your windows is a serious decision that you may have reached for various reasons – you might have felt that you needed to improve the energy efficiency of your home, or might simply want to do it for aesthetic reasons. One of your subsequent decisions is whether to install your new windows yourself or hire a professional. But can you even install your own window in the first place?
Can you install your own window? If you’re naturally hand and have the skill and experience in similar home-improvement projects or know how to install a replacement window, plus you have plenty of time to do the job, it’s possible to install your own windows. In addition to the fact that this is a time-consuming process, you should also consider other factors such as the tools you have at hand, specific measurements of the replacement window, and unforeseen issues such as the glass breaking. It’s also worth noting that by installing your own windows, you sacrifice the possibility of an installation warranty. If you do decide to embark on such a project, it’s important to be realistic about all the aspects and possible outcomes.
Can you install new windows yourself?
While you can install new windows yourself, the success of the project may depend upon:
- Your skills and experience
- The number of windows you have to install
- The tools you have available
- The window type
There are several benefits to installing new windows yourself: firstly, you can fit your windows on your schedule and at your preferred pace. Also, you can take full control of the project and ensure that the window fits exactly how you envisioned it. Finally, you won’t have to part with your hard-earned cash for a professional to come by and do the installation for you. Therefore, you don’t have to pay for their cost of travel and/or labor.
Nonetheless, there are some downsides to a DIY installation. For starters, it takes a lot of time, and if you don’t set aside enough of it, you will likely not get the results you’re hoping for. Another downside is the fact that installation is not typically covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. As a result, in case you install a window improperly, you can not only make it worthless but could also lead to issues that could void a manufacturer’s warranty. There’s also a lot of pressure that comes with measuring your windows precisely, making sure you have the right tools to do the job, and dealing with unforeseen issues.
The importance of taking accurate measurements for new windows
It’s extremely important to get the measurements right when doing a DIY window installation. This is because when you fit a new window, any minor difference between the window you select and the opening you have can have a significant impact on your project.
A window that is too big simply won’ fit in the opening, while a smaller one will leave gaps for air to pass through, consequently reducing your home’s energy efficiency.
Types of windows
There are two main categories of windows: replacement windows and new construction windows.
These are complete window units that feature nailing flanges or fins on the front that allow the window to be nailed to the exterior sheathing of the house. The new-construction window slips into its designated opening from outside until the nail fins are flush against the exterior wall sheathing.
New-construction windows can be installed when you’re carrying out major work on your house such as exterior rebuilding. Other than major rebuilding, these windows can also be used as replacement windows, but only the manufacturer gives the go-ahead for the nailing flange to be detached.
These are window units that feature window sashes inside a small frame. Replacement windows are designed to fit into your existing window frame. They are installed from within the house, though a bit of exterior work may be required.
These window units do not come with nailing flanges or fins. As a result, the window can fit straight into the window opening from inside the house. Replacement windows are used whenever the wall system does not require rebuilding.
Installation of the window types
When installing replacement windows, there’s no need to replace or remove the existing exterior on interior window trim. In case trim gets damaged during the project you may have to replace it, or you may simply decide that you want new trim regardless.
When installing new-construction windows, you need to remove the trim on both sides of the window, and you also have to customize it or replace it with new trim to fit around the newly fitted window. On top of that, you have to deal with all the exterior waterproofing, including installing new flashing above the window, as well as caulking all of the windows and trim joints.
As you might have figured, replacement windows are easier to install, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the process is smooth sailing. Removing the existing window while keeping peripherals such as the trim, sill, and drywall intact can be a delicate process.
How long does it take to install a window?
It can take approximately 4-6 hours to install a window by yourself. If you have to change the exterior trim or alter the window opening away, set aside a full day for each window. This time estimate does not take into account painting or staining trim or drying time for the caulk or paint.
Adding new-construction windows will not be too time-consuming if you have a fully prepared toughed opening; set aside approximately 1-2 hours per window. That said, wall building is part of the process, so the window installation timeframe will largely on the rebuilding.
DIY installation and warranty
If you choose to install your own windows, you can void the manufacturer’s warranty. That simply means that, if the window happens to break even after you fit it, the manufacturer may not pay for any damage, as they can blame it on your installation. A manufacturer’s warranty is usually part of a labor warranty provided by your installing professional, and it protects you against any issues that may arise. Without it, you could lose your entire investment.
Is it cheaper to install your own windows?
It might be cheaper to install your windows yourself, but if you consider things like the installation equipment and tools needed to complete the job, it could still be quite expensive. There is also the cost of all the other components to keep in mind, such as the different window frames and/or glass types.
Hiring a professional
Hiring a professional to help you out with your installation has three key benefits:
- You won’t have to invest your time and effort in doing it yourself
- Hiring a qualified professional assures you of the correct installation
- If the work turns out to be faulty or subpar, there could be a written warranty to fall back on.
Professional installers fall into two main categories:
As with any other major work that you may have done on your home, you should invest your time and effort in choosing an independent installer. Try to inquire from family and friends for referrals. Other options include checking sites like Angie’s List and Yelp where you can find names and customer ratings and checking the Yellow Pages (paper or online). When you identify a handful of contractors, ask each one the following questions:
- Do they charge a fee for the estimate? This is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but you’ll need to factor it into your budget. Most contractors offer free estimates.
- How long has the installer been in the business? A long history could indicate customer satisfaction.
- Does the installer have experience with the brand of windows you plan to have installed?
- Will the installer work on exterior trim? What about interior trim? Can the installer show you previous work done?
Company-certified installers should have the experience and expertise to handle the installation of your brand of windows. Most of them are required to complete a particular training or meet a strict set of qualifications to receive their certification.
Whether you choose to go with a certified installer or an independent contractor, consider asking the following questions:
- How long will the window installation take?
- Do you need to be present during the installation process?
- How will your house be protected (both inside and out) during installation?
- How might weather affect the timeline of installation?
Some of the things you can expect your installer to do on the day of the project include:
- Review the window installation plan with you
- Use drop cloths to cover the work area to protect your space
- Remove your old windows
- Contain the workspace so that there’s little to no disruption to your home life
- Finish the newly installed window with interior/exterior trim, and add the necessary hardware
- Update you regularly on the status of the window
- Clean up the work area after they’re done
- Haul away the old windows that they removed.
While it’s possible to install your own window, such a project should only be pursued if you have advanced experience in doing so. Installing multiple windows on several windows on multiple floors can be a frustrating, drawn-out project. Additionally, if you somehow end up making mistakes, it can affect performance as well as aesthetics.