How to Install Replacement Windows to Give Your Home a Fresh Look

Out with the old, in with the new windows

Paul Pogue
Written by Paul Pogue
Updated October 27, 2022
Father and daughter looking out of new window
Photo: Cavan Images / Getty Images


Perfect for handy homeowners.

Time to complete

4 hours

It will take this amount of time per window. The project time can fall at the higher end of this range if you have to make repairs to the existing window frame, or if the old window has more parts that need to be removed.



Doing the labor yourself goes a long way.

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What you'll need:


  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Hearing protection
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver
  • Caulk gun
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife, pry bar, or chisel
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Hammer and chisel or an oscillating saw
  • Pliers
  • Shop vac
  • Level
  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Angled paintbrush


  • Window replacement
  • Wood filler
  • Flashing tape
  • Wood shims
  • Exterior caulk
  • Screws
  • Spray foam rated for window replacement
  • Paint or stain (optional)
  • Finishing nails

Replacing old windows is both an aesthetically pleasing and functional upgrade. Not only does installing windows boost curb appeal and provide a finished look to your home, but new windows can improve energy efficiency and prevent uncomfortable temperature fluctuations in your home. Use this guide to learn how to install a replacement window and enjoy the perks and benefits of new windows.

Prepping to Replace a Window in Your House

Follow these steps to learn how to install a replacement window. It’s important to note that there are two main types of replacement windows—full-frame replacement windows and insert or pocket replacement windows. 

A full-frame replacement removes the entire window, frame, molding, and jambs, whereas an insert or pocket replacement window replaces the window itself, leaving the framing and woodwork in place. This guide will take you through the steps of installing a window insert or pocket replacement window. Check out our Window Replacement Cost Guide to learn more about the different variables that can impact the total cost.

  1. Measure the Old Window

    Man and woman measuring window with tape measure
    Photo: Mikael Vaisanen / Getty Images
    • Using a tape measure, start by identifying the height of the pocket by measuring the inside of the frame. It’s helpful to take the measurements two times to ensure you’re purchasing the correct size.

    • Measure the height in three places—the left side, middle, and right side of the frame. Take the shortest of the three measurements to determine the height.

    • Repeat this process to measure the width, noting the dimensions of the top, middle, and bottom sections. Use the smallest measurement of the three to determine the width.

    • Once you have the dimensions, you can purchase the replacement window. The new window should be ¼ to ¾ inches smaller than the opening; this, however, can vary depending on the manufacturer.

  2. Remove the Old Window and Its Parts

    Worker removing old window
    Photo: ungvar / Adobe Stock

    Safety note: If your house was built before 1978, be sure to take the proper precautions if it contains lead paint before continuing to replace the windows. You can learn more by referencing our Lead Paint Safety Guide.

    • Start by identifying the sashes—the moveable part of the window that holds the glass panes together. Remember, you can either remove the window from the interior or exterior of the home, depending on the location of the sashes.

    • Remove any storm windows first by either directly lifting them out of place, or removing the screws with a screwdriver.

    • If there’s paint over the old window, you may need to score the seams with a utility knife to break the seal. 

    • Then, remove the old trim, molding, and window stops by scoring the edges with a utility knife, and prying them out with a putty knife, pry bar, or chisel. You can reuse these pieces if they’re in good condition, otherwise, you can discard them once removed. 

    • Sometimes, older aluminum or vinyl windows will have cords or weights that also need to be removed. You can cut them away from the frame using a pair of scissors.

    • Moreover, you may have sash springs hung in the window (spring-loaded mechanisms that help the windows glide up and down). You can remove these and their plastic covering by unscrewing them and cutting them away. It’s important to note that the spring-loaded sashes may snap back when removing them, so be sure to wear protective gear during this step.

    • From the outside of the window, use a hammer and chisel, or an oscillating saw, to remove the exterior sash stops.

    • Next, remove the parting stops (the strip between the upper and lower sashes) using a putty knife, chisel, or oscillating saw. If you’re removing the window from the outside, you may choose to leave the interior stop in place if it’s in good condition. 

    • Once the parting stops have been removed, the upper and lower sashes can be removed by pulling the window out of place.

  3. Prepare the Rough Opening

    Chisel and sandpaper block resting on windowsill
    Photo: Jill Ferry Photography / Getty Images
    • After the window has been removed, determine if any repairs need to be made to the rough opening. 

    • You may notice securing staples used to hold aluminum tracks in place. You can remove these with a pair of pliers.

    • Inspect the wood, remove any areas with damage or rot, and cut and install new pieces of wood to replace them.

    • If you notice chipped paint or caulk in the window opening, remove it with a paint scraper, then sand it down to create a smooth finish. 

    • Check the opening for any holes and fill them in with wood filler.

    • Vacuum the opening and sill with a shop vac, and wipe it down to remove any dirt, grime, and debris. 

    • Apply flashing tape across the length of the window sill, ensuring that it extends over the window stool (the horizontal surface at the bottom rail of the window sash). Press the flashing tape firmly into the seam and corners for a tight fit.

  4. Fit the New Window

    Father and son positioning new replacement window
    Photo: Monty Rakusen / Getty Images
    • After all of the preparations have been made to the window opening, use a level to ensure the surface is even. If you notice bowing or unevenness, you may need to add wood shims to the low spots to create a level surface. You can secure the wood shims into place using flashing tape.

    • Dry-fit the new window to ensure it fits in the opening (there should be a small gap of about ⅛-inch between the window and the frame). You may need to enlist a helper during this step, as replacement windows are heavy and bulky. 

    • Set the window aside and apply exterior caulk to the outside stops and head jambs. Apply a bead of caulk along the edges where the window stool meets the window sill.

  5. Secure the New Window

    Man drilling replacement window into place
    Photo: photovs / Getty Images

    After applying the caulk, lift the window and position it into the opening, ensuring it’s centered. 

    • Gently press the window into the bead of the caulk, allowing it to rest on the interior blind stops.

    • After the window is set, identify the pre-drilled screw holes in the window, and set the shims behind the screw holes, between the window and the jamb. You can also set shims at the bottom or top of the window to ensure the window is level and square. Measure the window from corner to corner, diagonally on each side. If the measurements are the same, the window is square. You may need to adjust the shims a few times to get equal measurements. 

    • Drill the screws into place (or use a screwdriver), driving the screws through the shims as well. 

    • Check that the window is level and plumb (a perfectly straight vertical line), and make any final adjustments. 

    • Once the window is square, level, and plumb, trim excess material away with a utility knife.

  6. Install Insulation, Reinstall Window Parts, and Paint or Stain

    Caulking trim of replacement window
    Photo: BanksPhotos / Getty Images
    • Look for gaps in the window and apply a spray foam insulation to prevent hot or cold air from escaping your home. Opt for a spray foam insulation rated for windows and refer to the manufacturer's directions for dry time and the recommended installation technique.

    • Reinstall the old trim, molding, and window stops ‌you removed using finishing nails or caulk. Or, install new trim, molding, and window stops if you discarded them. 

    • Apply caulk to the interior trim and the exterior joints to fully secure the window. It’s important to refer to the window manufacturer, as you may need to leave a gap at the bottom of the sill to promote drainage. 

    • Depending on the window you purchased, you may need to paint or stain the interior window sash and frame. After the caulk and spray foam are completely dry, you can begin painting or staining using an angled paintbrush, ensuring the room is well-ventilated.

Frequently Asked Questions

For a more in-depth look at the difference between the two types of windows, check out our article, How to Decide Between New Construction and Replacement Windows.

New construction windows are typically installed during new home construction or when building an addition. They’re nailed directly into the frame, as they’re installed when the studs are exposed. New construction windows are a good option if there is damage to the studs or frame of the window, if you’re replacing the exterior siding material, or if you want to install larger windows than what you currently have.

Alternatively, replacement windows fit directly into the window opening, without removing any of the exterior material. They’re a good option if you’re looking to increase the energy efficiency of your home, boost curb appeal, and reduce window condensation, without an extensive window installation process. In most cases, these can be installed without hiring a professional, and they’re the more cost-effective option of the two types.

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