How Messy is Window Replacement?


If you have decided that a window replacement is something that your home needs, congratulations! You can look forward to improved aesthetics, more comfort, savings on energy use, and increased value of your property. However, one of the biggest downsides of any home renovation project is the inevitable invasiveness of the work. You may have recently hired an installer to get some replacement windows put in, and might be wondering if you’ll have to deal with dust, nails, and other debris around your home. Read on to find out what you can expect.

How messy is window replacement?  The level of mess you can expect from window replacement will depend on how extensive the project is as well as the condition of the window(s). Regardless, installing new windows inevitably involves accumulating some debris – paint flakes, old sealant, and plaster can cause quite a mess, and some damage may occur to nearby paintwork, tiles, and wallpaper.

During a window replacement project, the area that is being worked on essentially becomes an active building site. An installation team will usually take as many precautions as possible to contain the mess by using interior drop cloths and plastic wrap coverings. You can also help to minimize the mess by cleaning up hallways and openings beforehand to open up more space and make it easier for installers to contain debris. You can also take out valuables that you don’t want to get damaged or dirty, clean the yard, remove your curtains and blinds, and keep your pets and children away from the project site.

Replacement window installation is a messy job. The installation team will do their best to keep the mess to a minimum, but there’ll still be some tidying up to do. Most (if not all) teams will clean up afterward to get rid of the old windows and debris generated from the project. Read on to find out more.

How much of a mess should I anticipate?

  • Debris

Installing new windows typically results in some debris being created. The project will likely involve scraping old glue and paint, drywall work, sanding, and painting. Some consequential damage may occur to nearby paintwork, wallpaper, and tiles. This will cause rubble to build up on everything from carpeting, floors, walls, and anything else left in the room. The areas outside your home underneath the windows will also be exposed to debris when the windows are pulled out.

  • Dust accumulation

You should prepare yourself for dust accumulation during a window replacement. Once the installation team starts to take out your old windows, they will likely disturb plenty of settled dust. If you or any member of your family suffers from dust allergies, you should make staying away from the house during the installation a priority.

  • Blind removal and reinstallation

Any removed and discarded blinds can contribute to the mess that is created during the project.

Precautions that your installation team will likely take

  • Interior drop cloths

To reduce the mess, your contractor will likely spread multiple drop cloths across your home. The number of drop cloths used will depend on how extensive the project is. If you only need a few windows replaced, then the contractor will only use drop cloths in those particular areas. If you’re replacing most or all of your windows, you can expect to live amongst drop cloths for a while. Most contractors will clean up the drop cloths or set them aside at the end of the day so that they don’t get in your way at night.

  • Plastic wrap coverings or tarps

The team in charge of the window replacement project may also put tarps and plastic wrap coverings to protect various interior surfaces and items. For instance, before they get rid of your old windows, the team may cover beds, couches, shelves, floors, and more. 

That way, when dust rising from the window replacement job falls, it will settle on the tarps and plastic covers instead of your valuables. The team will then roll up the coverings and dispose of them at the end of the day (or once the project comes to an end).

Is there any way the mess can be minimized?

One of the easiest ways to minimize the mess from a window replacement project is to double-check that the installation team uses tarps both inside and outside the house. Tarps are just important to have outside as there’ll be plenty of old wood and drop debris underneath the windows.

To keep the interior of your home cleaner, the installation team might opt to dispose of debris through the window opening. It will be helpful to place a tarp on the lawn to keep your landscaping intact. Another reason why you might need outdoor tarps is if the installation team uses a table saw or miter to cut the wood down to size for the project, which could kick up a lot of sawdust.

How to prepare your home for a window replacement

Here are some things that you can do to make the project go faster and safer while protecting your valuables:

  • Clear a path

A decent-sized team of installers will need plenty of room. Consider clearing a path around the windows both inside and outside your home. Remove plants, furniture, area rugs, and anything else that’s located around the windows and along the route.

Take a walk around the outside of your house and make room for equipment like ladders, lifts, and scaffolding in case the installers need to access second-story windows. Remove trash cans, patio furniture, sculptures, toys, potted plants, landscape features, and any decorations in and around the project area. Remember to take down any exterior holiday décor like lights or wreaths as well.

  • Plan for storage space

If the project involves replacing a majority of your windows, you may struggle to find safe and adequate storage space for all your valuables and belongings. It might be a good idea to move your items to a basement or garage area or rent a storage container. These storage containers come in various sizes, and portable varieties can be delivered right to your house. This allows you to have all your belongings in one dry, safe location. If renting a portable storage container suits you, you’ll want to research your options and schedule the delivery ahead of time to avoid last-minute delays.

  • Remove accessories

You will want to remove window treatments like curtains, sheers, blinds, draperies, and shades before the window replacement work begins. If you want a retrofit installation for your replacement windows, you may get away with leaving the window covering hardware in place – just make sure to consult your contractor first.

You should also take down any photos, artwork, or hanging wall decorations that could be damaged during the project. Vibrations emanating from the tools being used may shake them off the wall, or airborne particles could get them dirty.

  • Allow for access

Window installers must be able to access each room in the project area so that they can carry old windows out and new windows in. It may be helpful to remove interior doors from their hinges to create more space for equipment access. Trace a path from your entryway to each room and make sure to get rid of any items along the way. 

Keep in mind that the project will require power tools, which means that the installation team will need access to outlets. Rather than risk something important being unplugged, make sure to free up the outlets in the area in advance.

  • Cover up

For those items that must stay in place (inside and outside) during the project, it’s important to provide protection. Your team of installers will take the necessary precautions to minimize the mess, but you might want to consider providing extra protective coverings for flooring and furniture inside to catch any debris and make cleaning up afterward easier. For example, you can lay down cardboard in the bottom of a bathtub if installers need to stand inside it to replace a window. Outside, you can cover plants and shrubbery with plastic sheets and drop cloths or use a wood frame to tent delicate greenery to minimize trampling and breakage.

  • Keep pets and kids away

If you have kids and/or pets, try as much as possible to keep them away from the work area. In addition to getting in the way, they could also contribute to the mess.

  • Plan for the cleanup afterward

If you have a window installing team doing the job, they’ll have a cleanup plan for the removal of any debris brought about by the job. If you’re doing the job yourself, you’ll want to have a dumpster delivered to the site before you begin.

Final thoughts

If you’re planning to have a window replacement in your home, you might not have given much consideration to how messy this project can get. While installers will typically do their best to minimize messes, they won’ be able to keep track of every last particle away from your space. By using plastic wrap, tarps, and drop cloths, the team will contain most of the mess. You can also do your part by going through each room in your home and cleaning up before the installation team begins their work. It might also help to remove valuables so that they don’t get damaged or dirty.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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