How to Decide Between New Construction and Replacement Windows

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated October 19, 2021
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Choosing between new construction and replacement windows comes down to whether you're building a new structure and the condition of any existing window frames

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Your windows are a huge focal point of your home, so they should reflect your personal style while still adding a healthy dose of curb appeal. But whether you’re taking on a new project or replacing windows that are worse for wear, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to opt for new construction or replacement windows. Learn more about both types and their pros and cons below before making your final choice.

New Construction Windows Pros

Below are some advantages of using full-frame new construction windows.

You Can Add Them to New Construction or Remodeling Projects

Are you building a new home, remodeling an existing space and stripping the walls down to their studs, or adding an extension? Then you’ll almost certainly need to install new construction windows. 

These windows attach their metal nail fin frames to the studs in the wall, holding them in place until the surrounding wall construction is complete. In contrast, replacement windows need to fit inside an existing frame.

You Can Install Larger Windows Than You Had Originally

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There’s nothing like a tall window to bring plenty of beautiful light to your space. If you want to install a wider or taller window than you already have, then new construction windows are the way to go. Because you’ll have to make a larger opening to accommodate the bigger window, the detailed framing will ensure a secure fit.

You Can Get a Better Fit When Original Framing Is in Bad Shape

Speaking of a snug fit, when the exterior around an existing window has begun to rot, rust, or deteriorate, replacing it with a new construction window is the better option. Fitting replacement windows into a problematic frame can lead to a poor seal and reduced longevity. 

If fixing the problem requires substantial work relating to siding, drywall, studs, or framing, it likely won’t cost more to use a new construction window, ensuring a secure and airtight fit.

New Construction Windows Cons

New construction windows aren’t right for every situation. Here are a few of their disadvantages.

They Come With High Installation Costs

New construction windows cost around 10% to 15% less than retrofit options, but installation is more complex and time-consuming, and labor costs can be 50% to 100% more.

They Require Disruptive Installation

You often need to remove the exterior and interior trim, expose the frame, and sometimes even cut back the siding for new construction window installation. These all need reinstating after installation too. It’s a messier, more complex job than replacement window installation and may leave your home in disarray for a bit.

Replacement Window Pros

In many instances, there will be more advantages to fitting replacement windows, including the ones we list below.

They’re Typically Better On Your Budget

Because retrofitting windows is a much more straightforward job than installing new construction types, it costs less. The windows themselves may be slightly more expensive, but labor costs are typically lower.

They Allow the Exterior Finish to Remain Intact

Unlike with new construction windows, there’s no need for major alterations to existing walls, trims, or siding when installing replacement windows. Not only is this less disruptive and less costly, but it means there will be no chance of a change in your home's exterior.

Not only is this a pro for anyone who has perfectly curated their home’s exterior, but this aspect is also an advantage if you have an older home with period features you don’t want to disrupt.

They Have a Fast Installation Time

On a tight deadline, replacement windows installation is quicker than for new construction types. Busy local window replacement companies may have the time to book you in sooner for this less time-consuming job than they will for a more extensive new construction window installation.

They Allow You To Opt for More Energy Efficiency

When replacing your windows with more energy-efficient varieties, it makes sense to stick with retrofitting. When done well, it’s a cost-effective, minimally disruptive method for making this change.

Replacement Window Cons

Retrofit replacement windows aren’t the right solution for every scenario. Below are some of their disadvantages.

You Can’t Change the Window Size

You have to stick with the original frame size with replacement windows. So if you want to let more light in or change the look of your room, this won’t be the right choice.

You May Have to Make Modifications

Although replacement windows are easy to install, it's challenging to ensure a good fit if the original frame isn’t flush. In these instances, modifications may be necessary to ensure an airtight fit, and the labor costs could end up being higher than normal.

You May Experience Leaks If It’s a Poor Fit

It’s important to hire a reputable local window installer, as replacement windows are more prone to problems with a secure fit. Air leakage is a possibility, resulting in problems with insulation and speedier deterioration of the surrounding frame.

You Won’t Be Able to Add Replacement Windows if Studs or Frame are Damaged

When studs or frames are rotten or damaged and need replacing, it’s better to opt for new construction windows. It may not even be possible to fit a replacement window securely when there’s significant damage.

New Construction Windows vs. Replacement Windows

Luxurious, bright living room with big windows
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Below are some general indicators of how new construction and replacement windows measure up against each other.

Appearance

When fully fitted, both new construction and replacement windows should look fantastic—there should be no discernible difference as to which is which.

Most visually appealing: Tie

Ease of Installation

Although it can take more skill to ensure a secure, airtight fit with replacement windows, installing new construction windows takes longer. There’s more structural work and refinishing around the edges to consider with this route.

Easier to install: Replacement windows

Durability

Both new construction and replacement windows should be equally durable when fitted well. However, if replacement windows installation is on an existing frame that isn’t in the best condition, they’ll probably need replacing sooner.

Most durable: New construction windows

Price

Although new construction windows are typically around 10% to 15% more expensive to buy than replacement types, the cost to install these windows is significantly more.

Expect to pay, on average, $150 to $800 for new construction window installation compared to $100 to $300 for replacement window installation.

Least expensive: Replacement windows

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