Full-Frame Removal vs. Retrofit Window Installations: Which is Best for Your Home?

In this article, you will learn:
1. The Pros and Cons of a Full-Frame Window Installation
2. The Pros and Cons of a Retrofit Window Installation
3. How to Determine Which Window Installation is Best for Your Home

Window replacement projects are an excellent way for Canadian homeowners to modernize their properties while saving money long-term!

In addition to improved curb appeal, residential window replacements provide a number of profitable benefits, including:

– improved energy-efficiency
– improved insulation
– decreased energy expenses
– decreased maintenance and/or repair expenses
– increased overall property value

As high-quality windows rely on a professional installation process for long-term performance, it is very important for homeowners to consider their installation options before moving forward with their investment.

While some window renovations may require more replacement materials than others, the right installation method will be determined by the condition of your existing windows and any surrounding wall structures.

Depending on the age, condition and materials used for the existing window, a window replacement project can either require a full-frame or retrofit installation process. 

At Simpson Windows and Doors, we understand the risks involved with an improper window installation.

To help you get the most out of your next window replacement, the following article will identify the pros and cons of Full-Frame Removal vs. Retrofit Window Installations, as well as how to determine the best option for your property.

The Pros and Cons of a Full-Frame Window Replacement Installation

A full-frame window installation describes a complete and thorough window replacement process – right down to the studs.

Also referred to as ‘brick-to-brick’ or ‘new construction windows’, a full-frame removal is ideal for windows suffering from signs of deterioration, rotting and/or moisture damage.

As water damaged windows can drastically increase the risk of energy inefficiencies, expensive utility bills and the spread of wood-eating mold; each part of the window would need to be removed and replaced with reliable, energy-efficient materials.

Using this method of window installation, all existing hardware (such as the sash, trim, frame, casings and sometimes even brick moulds) would need to be replaced.

By removing each element of your window right down to the brick, any hidden moisture damage can be quickly identified, removed and replaced before causing any further damage to your property down the road.

Full-Frame Removal Pros:

– Recommended for older homes
– Entire window is replaced with fresh, energy-efficient materials (typically vinyl)
– Able to identify and stop mold, mildew and/or water damage from spreading
– Increases insulation & energy-efficiency within the home
– Lowers cost of overall utility expenses, maintenance requirements and repairs 

Full-Frame Removal Cons:

– More expensive to repair (materials and labour)
– Requires professional assistance
– More time-consuming

The Pros and Cons of a Retrofit Window Replacement Installation

A retrofit window installation describes inserting a brand new window sash into an existing window frame.

Also referred to as ‘inserts’ or ‘pocket installations’, this installation type is typically reserved for window frames that are still in great condition.

While this would not be a good idea for an older home (which may be at risk of built-up water damage over the years, depending on the quality of the window), retrofit window replacements are often a popular choice for newer residential homes.

Although this straight-forward approach may seem like an easy DIY-project, it is also important for Canadian homeowners to understand the risks involved with a poor installation; including energy-inefficiencies, utility bill increases and potential water damage over time.

Retrofit Installation Pros:

– More affordable window installation option
– Great for newer homes, or windows with minimal damage
– Easier to install
– Less labour-intensive

Retrofit Installation Cons:

– Not ideal for older homes
– Can not confirm the risk of any water damage beneath the frame
– While easier to install, an unprofessional installation can cause energy inefficiencies
– May require more maintenance

How to Determine Which Window Installation Method is Best For Your Home

Now that you have a better understanding of how full-frame removal and retrofit window installations differ from each other, how can you determine which approach is best suited to your home?

Unfortunately, the only way to be 100% certain is by fully inspecting the condition of your existing window frames; a task which can only be completed by removing all existing materials.

While full-frame window removals may be the more expensive alternative, in the case of older homes where hidden water damage may be hiding from sight – the preventative precautions are well worth it.

To evaluate your window installation needs, consider the following:

1. Property Age:
If you live in an older home (or even a newer home with a history of water damage), it may be worth opting for a full-frame window removal to ensure that any health-threatening risks of mold and deterioration are removed before they can spread.

2. Property Condition:
If you have experienced moisture damage on your property in the past, it may be worth the piece of mind to remove existing window elements before investing in retrofit replacements. If retrofit windows are installed without sufficient inspection, there may be an increased risk for damage and repairs in the future.

3. Exterior Materials Used:
The materials used in your existing window can sometimes assist in your decision-making process. While wooden window frames are highly susceptible to moisture damage, it may be worth investing in a full-frame removal to opt for vinyl alternatives that are designed for long-term performance.

4. Condition of Existing Window Frame:
As you might expect, the condition of your existing windows can play a huge role in determining your best method of window installation. While broken, deteriorating and/or moldy windows will require a full-frame removal to ensure the integrity of the home, newer homes with windows in great condition can definitely get away with the aesthetic benefits of an energy-efficient retrofit replacement.

5. Overall Budget:
On average, full-frame window replacements cost roughly 15-20% more than retrofit window installations.

6. Recommendations from a Professional:
While the criteria above provides a great starting point, we highly recommend that homeowners work with a licensed contractor to review their personalized needs.

At Simpson Windows and Doors, our professionals are committed to delivering long-term solutions with your best interests in mind.

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If you are interested in learning more about your window replacement options, allow our trained professionals at Simpson Windows and Doors to help!

Click here or call us at 905-853-2519 for a complimentary consultation.

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