Congratulations! You’ve decided to do something that can have a dramatic impact on the appearance and energy efficiency of your home: install replacement windows.
One of your next decisions is whether to install your new windows yourself or hire a professional. Don’t take this decision lightly. Poor replacement window installation can negate at least some of the performance and aesthetics of a new window.
DIY Installation of Replacement Windows
How hard is it to install a window? Should you do it yourself? It depends upon:
- Your skill and experience
- The tools you have available
- The number of windows to install
- Whether the money you save is worth your effort
- Whether you want the assurance of an installation guarantee
If you’re naturally handy and have experience in similar home improvement projects or know how to install a replacement window, plus the time to do the job right, it’s entirely possible to install your own windows. The downside is it takes time, especially if you are installing multiple windows. Installing windows one at a time may draw out your overall project timeline as well. Where a professional installer may be able to finish your job in a day or two, an inexperienced DIYer should account for additional time spent “under construction.”
Besides the convenience of having a pro do the job, the DIYer is sacrificing the possibility of an installation warranty. Also, the “you break it, you own it” rule applies, so if a window falls or gets cracked in the installation, you will most likely have to pay for a replacement. And an incorrect installation can have a negative impact on your window's performance and aesthetics.
If you do decide to do it yourself, be realistic about the amount of time it will take you and have all your tools, hardware and other products such as caulk ready before you start.
Hiring a Professional for Installing Replacement Windows
Hiring a professional can have these three key benefits: you won’t have to spend the time and effort to do it yourself, careful hiring can assure you of correct installation, and if the work is subpar or faulty there could be a written warranty that comes into play.
Professional installers fall into two categories: independent contractors and window company certified contractors.
As with any major work you have done on your home, you should invest a lot of due diligence in selecting an independent installer. Ask friends and family for referrals. You can also check the Yellow Pages (online or paper) to get names and other sites like Yelp and Angie’s List, where you’ll find names and customer ratings. When you have three to five contractors identified, ask each one the same questions. Questions might include:
- Is there a fee for the estimate? Not necessarily a deal-breaker, but you’ll need to figure it into the cost. Most contractors give free estimates. Get the estimate in writing.
- How long has the installer been in business? New companies aren’t a deal-breaker either, but a long history can indicate customer satisfaction.
- Does the installer have experience with your brand of replacement windows? Some brands of windows, like Pella, require a special certification in order to install their windows to ensure they’re done correctly. Know what is expected for the windows you want.
- Proper installation ensures that your window functions correctly. Improper installation may impact the warranty of your product. Be sure to research your product’s warranty requirements.
- Will the installer handle exterior trim? Interior trim? Can you see previous work the installer has done?
Company-certified installers offer the assurance that they have the right experience and expertise to handle your brand of windows. Most certified installers have to complete a particular training or have a strict set of credentials to get their certification and are often re-certified periodically. Ask your window company what it means to be “certified.” The work of most certified installers is backed by the window company for as long as ten years or more.
Questions to Ask Your Installer
Whether you select an independent contractor or a certified installer, ask these questions:
- How long will the installation take?
- How might weather impact the timeline?
- How will your home be protected (inside and out) during installation?
- Do you need to be present during installation?
Day of Install Expectations
When the day comes to get your windows installed, you should expect your installer to:
- Review the window installation plan with you.
- Cover their work area with drop cloths to help protect your space.
- Carefully remove your old windows.
- Contain their workspace so there’s little to no disruption to your home.
- Finish your window with interior/exterior trim, and add the necessary hardware.
- Keep you updated on the status throughout the day.
- Clean up after themselves, leaving work area cleaner than when they arrived.
- Haul away your old windows.
Bottom Line - Should You DIY Your Install?
Do It Yourself is possible with new window installations but should only be undertaken by people with advanced carpentry skills. Installing multiple windows on multiple floors yourself can be a challenging, drawn-out project. In addition, when done incorrectly, it can negatively impact performance and aesthetics.
When hiring an independent contractor, be sure to ask all the right questions and check with references as well as on rating sites like Yelp and Angie’s List. If you take care to select a good installer, you could save money compared to a certified installer.
A certified installer reduces or eliminates your need to vet the contractor. Your new windows are expertly and attractively installed and can offer peak performance for decades to come and may be backed by a warranty. You will work with a team of expert installers who have been professionally certified to install their own brand of windows. This is the simplest — and often the best — replacement option for most homeowners.