5 DIY Ways to Upgrade Your Windows on a Budget

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated January 5, 2022
Sitting area with a window seat
Photo: Ursula Page / Adobe Stock

A window upgrade doesn’t need to be a “pane” in your bank account

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Window replacement is among the higher-priced renovation projects you’ll tackle as a homeowner. But unless you’re dealing with inoperable or completely smashed windows, you might not have to replace every pane in your home. Try some of these easy DIY options to keep within a reasonable window replacement timeline and budget.

5 Budget-Friendly Window Replacement Alternatives

Whether it’s for design or efficiency, it’s important to note the project’s purpose when considering window upgrades.

1. Repaint the Sills and Frames

Modern home with large windows
Photo: Ursula Page / Adobe Stock

Don’t try this one at home if you’ve got PVC or vinyl windows. But if you’ve got wood or fiberglass windows, you can repaint their sills and frames for a fresh, clean look. You can paint them neutral or bright white so they go with everything. Or you could paint them the same color as the walls for a seamless, monochromatic look. If you want something bolder and more dramatic, choose a bright or dark color that pops against an otherwise light or neutral wall. And if you do have PVC or vinyl windows in need of a new look, you might consider painting a border on the wall around the windows for an attractive focal point.

Choose a color you love for your sills and frames and you might be able to do away with curtains and let the windows speak for themselves. Whatever the hue, go with one in an acrylic or latex enamel with a gloss or semi-gloss finish so your freshened up window sills and frames will be easy to dust and clean.

2. Add Caulk or Weatherstripping

Exterior home window
Photo: Becky Wright / Adobe Stock

One of the benefits of new windows is that they’ll nix any drafts. A good if temporary solution is to add more caulk or weatherstripping to seal up cracks, gaps, and joints. Be sure to remove old caulking before adding new, otherwise the fresh bead of caulk won’t stick. If you opt for weatherstripping, make sure you’re getting the right tool for the job—some products are better for certain windows than others.

3. Protect Panes With Window Film

Window panes with condensation during winter
Photo: Martin Garnham / Adobe Stock

New windows might come with the highest energy-efficiency ratings, but if you’re trying to make them last another few seasons, you’ve got a trick up your sleeve: window film.

While some window films are marketed as hurricane proof, no film can protect glass panes from hurricane-strength winds. But what window film can do is prevent a window from shattering (though not breaking) in the face of forced entry or extreme weather. It can also keep cold and hot air from coming in, block UV rays, add privacy, and reduce sun glare. If sun exposure is extreme enough to be fading furniture or flooring in the room, you can install an awning or shutters on the exterior of the house if window film doesn’t do the trick.

4. Opt for a Partial Window Replacement

Person replacing a window in home
Photo: New Africa / Adobe Stock

It’s easy to think it’s all or nothing when it comes to windows, but that’s not the case. Depending on the type of windows you currently have installed, you might be able to replace the screens, the exterior window frames, or other parts without having to foot the bill for an entirely new window. This might be an option if you have an older home with lots of windows—you might be able to space out window replacements over several years to save your wallet.

5. Revamp Your Window Treatments

Windows in sitting area with curtains
Photo: New Africa / Adobe Stock

It might not be the window itself that’s the problem. Have you had the same curtains hanging for years? It’s time to change things up with a fresh set, or perhaps install shades or blinds instead. Window treatments are not only about aesthetics, they’re also about improving energy efficiency. Thermal curtains and energy-efficient blinds and shades can help keep out cold drafts in the wintertime and prevent strong sun rays from working against your AC in the summertime.

While window replacement and installation is best left to a local window pro, some of these upgrades can be done in the span of a weekend afternoon. There may indeed be new windows in your home’s future, but these inexpensive solutions can help your current ones last a bit longer.

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