Window Replacement Cost 2018: Vinyl vs. Wood vs. Fiberglass Frame Windows
Everyone knows windows are expensive, but just how big a bite do they take out of the budget?
The average cost to install a typical 36-by-60 double-hung replacement window can range from $550 to $1,050 per window installed.
The cost of each window can vary significantly based on many factors, such as window size, frame material (vinyl, wood, fiberglass), glass type (double low-E vs. tipple Low-E), finish options, etc.
Small, fixed windows used as accents or the ones installed in some bathrooms will be significantly less expensive.
Oversized functional windows offering dramatic views will command a higher price, although large, premium windows aren’t normally found in most residential homes.
Cost Factors Explained
We use installed window costs throughout this guide. But some of you are DIY enthusiasts with the skills to do it right.
So, how much can you save by installing your own windows?
The installation (labor only) cost for most windows is $120 to $275 per window, with an average of about $175.
Installation of bay and bow window systems costs $475 to $750 each.
Other relevant factors are:
Full-frame windows cost more than insert windows to install because more labor is required. The difference between full-frame and insert windows is explained below.
The brand, quality and features of the window affects cost
The larger the window size is, the higher the cost.
Non-rectangular windows present installation challenges, so cost might be higher. Examples include round and eight-sided windows and rectangular windows with an arched top.
Costs can vary quite a bit among window companies in the same zip code. It makes sense to get multiple estimates when shopping for windows.
The cost of living in your area will impact prices. Costs are highest in metropolitan areas along the Coasts – NYC, Boston, Miami, San Francisco bay area, etc.
Costs in other major metro areas are mid-range to high. Cost of living is lowest in rural areas of the South and Midwest.
What your windows are made of will impact your enjoyment of them. Material makes a difference in looks, performance, durability, maintenance required, and of course cost.
Below is an overview of your options with pros and cons.
Note: The prices below include in parentheses are installed costs (materials and labor) for new replacement windows.
DIY installation will save you $120-$275 per window. Just be sure you’re doing it properly.
Windows not correctly installed will leak air, so raise energy costs, and they’ll be susceptible to warping, cracking and rot/mold in the framing around the window.
Vinyl is popular for low-cost and mid-range projects.
Pros: Vinyl is maintenance-free and durable. Most brands are backed by lifetime warranties. All window styles are available.
Leading vinyl window series include Pella 250 ($535-$815 per window installed), Jeld-Wen V-4500 ($465-$770 per window installed), Milgard Tuscany ($495-$750 per window installed) and Crestline Select 250 ($395-$700 per window installed).
Cons: Color choice is limited to white in basic vinyl lines like Pella 250. The Crestline Select 250 (6 interior/3 exterior) and Jeld-Wen V-4500 (3 interior/8 exterior) are available in more color choices.
Double-Pane Vinyl Windows – Midrange Replacement Project:
A typical 36-by-60 inches double-hung replacement vinyl window with double-pane glass and insulated frame will cost between $600 to $900 per window installed.
Similar factors such as brand, quality, window features, choice of a contractor, and cost of living in your area will affect the bottom lime.
With an average cost of about $700 per window replaced, a typical project to install 10 vinyl replacement windows will cost around $7,000 when carried out by a local company.
Cost to Value Return: In 2017-2018 vinyl replacement windows provide a close to 75% return in terms of value recouped at resale.
Fiberglass and Composite Windows
These windows are attractive to homeowners who want a tough, low-maintenance window that looks like painted wood.
Pella Impervia ($530-$965) and Milgard Ultra ($515-$875 per window installed) have solid fiberglass frames. Marvin Ultrex fiberglass ($565-$950 per window installed) is available in a solid frame or with wood interiors and Ultrex exteriors.
Andersen’s Fibrex ($525-$885 per window installed) is a PVC (60%) and recycled pine (40%) blend. The brand’s Architectural A-Series ($680-$950) and 100 Series ($495-$800 per window installed) windows are Fibrex frames.
Pros: Fiberglass and composite windows have a woodgrain feel and a contemporary, painted wood appearance. Maintenance is minimal. Andersen Fibrex is paintable. Both materials are very strong, so warping and breaking is rare.
Cons: Fiberglass and composite windows cost more than vinyl windows and low-cost wood windows. If you want the natural beauty of wood, these aren’t for you.
Double-Pane Fiberglass Windows – High-end Replacement Project:
To remove an old window and replace it with a 36-by-60 fiberglass window ranges in cost from $695 to $975 per window replaced.
Assuming an average cost of $885 per window with the most common features, it will cost about $8,850 for a typical project to remove and replace 10 fiberglass windows.
Wood dominates the premium market – lines like Pella Architect Reserve ($770-$1,250), Marvin Ultimate ($735-$1,125 per window installed) and Andersen Architectural Collection ($800-$1,215 per window installed).
Pros: The beauty of wood is unsurpassed, especially wood that is stained rather than painted. All window styles are available in wood.
You can upgrade your wood choice, but expect to pay a per-window premium (in parentheses) for Douglas fir ($45-$70), oak ($60-$100), maple ($70-$125), cherry ($100-$150) and mahogany ($125-$200).
Multiple interior stains and paint colors and exterior cladding colors are offered.
Cons: Non-clad exteriors are backed by short (5-year, mostly) warranties and will rot if not consistently maintained.
Upscale wood windows are the costliest option. Pine is more affordable, but scratches and dents easily.
Below are window costs for bare wood and clad wood window projects for a common window size.
Note: The seemingly wide range in prices is due to differences in brands and features and the company you hire to install the windows.
Where you live impacts cost to. Prices are higher in major metropolitan areas like Washington DC, NYC, Boston, Seattle. San Francisco, San Diego, etc.
ROI: The 2017-2018 cost to value return for replacing wood windows is about 70%. Spend $10,000 on windows, and your home’s market value is raised by about to $7,000.
Insulated Wood Windows – Midrange Replacement Project:
An average cost to remove and replace an old window with a new 36-by-60 double-hung, insulated wood window ranges from $750 to $1,150 per window installed.
A typical project cost to install 10 mid-range wood replacement windows can range from $7,500 to $12,000, depending on the window brand, style, and your home’s location.
Premium Clad Wood Windows – High-end Replacement Project:
A 36-by-60 double-hung replacement window in a premium wood line will cost between $1,000 to $1,550 per window installed.
Top wood lines offer premium options that raise cost. In the example, the $1,550 window might have a corniced top, Energy Star glass package, between-glass blinds and a premium cladding color.
A typical project cost to install 10 premium clad wood replacement windows can range from $10,000 to $18,000, depending on the window brand, style, and your home’s location.
Aluminum occupies a niche in warm climates. The limited number of national brands making them include Jeld-Wen (3 series), Milgard Aluminum Series (new construction frame windows) and Ply Gem. Bare aluminum and powder-coated frames are produced.
Pros: Aluminum handles coastal salt spray without corroding. The windows are lightweight, so easy to install and operate. Most window types are available.
Cons: Aluminum window frames are not energy efficient. They’re rarely sold in northern climates. You have a limited range of brand and feature options.
Double-Pane Aluminum Windows – Affordable Replacement Project:
If aluminum is OK for your climate, then you can surely save some money over other materials. A typical 36-by-60 double-hung aluminum window will cost between $465 and $600 per window replaced.
The cost will vary depending on the brand, quality and features. Cost of living in your area will impact prices, too.
A typical project to install 10 aluminum replacement windows will cost about $5,500 to carry out.
Window Style Options with Pros and Cons
Material selection is just half the fun. You also need to decide on a style or combination that fits your design scheme. Practical matters like window location play a part too.
Your options are: Let’s explore each style with pros and cons, plus costs.
This window style works well in homes with traditional style.
Only the lower sash of the window goes up and down. Most also tilt in to allow for cleaning the outside of the lower sash from inside.
Pros: The primary appeal of single-hung windows is that they are more affordable than double-hung and most other styles.
Cons: It’s difficult to clean the outside of the top sash from inside the house. The sash frames cause visual obstructions. Wood type, colors and accessories are limited.
Most mid-level and premium window lines don’t include single-hung windows.
This traditional style remains one of the most popular of all window styles. Both sashes move. Raise the lower sash to let in cool air. Lower the upper sash to release warm air. Open both part way for optimal ventilation.
In most series, both sashes tilt in for easy cleaning of the outside glass.
Pros: Double-hung windows are part of most window series. You’ll find a good range of materials, colors, accessories and exterior cladding on wood windows. Fewer moving parts makes them more durable than casement and awning windows.
Cons: They don’t look as good in contemporary and modern design as in traditional styles. The sash frames impede your view. Reaching and lifting is hard, so single-hung and double-hung windows over countertops can be difficult to open.
One of today’s most popular windows works well with all architectural styles, especially modern and contemporary designs. The sash opens out using a crank (most windows) or a push arm.
Pros: Your buying options include the full range of materials and wood species, features, colors and accessories. There are no horizontal sash frames to obscure your view of the outdoors.
Cons: Casement windows cost more than single-hung and most double-hung. Window cranks eventually wear out, so repair costs are higher. They shouldn’t be installed where they would open over a deck, patio or walkway.
These are much like casement windows, but the window opens up and out rather than out and to the right or left. They’re available in most materials. Most open with a push arm, since cranks would wear out quickly.
Pros: Awning windows keep the rain out when open better than other styles. They are available in most mid-range to upscale window series from all major brands.
Cons: Window height is limited by the need to push the sash up and out.
Sliding / Gliding
These windows are included in affordable and mid-range window lines, but few top window series. For example, Andersen makes sliding windows in its 100, 200 and 400 Series, but not in the Architectural Series. None of Pella’s wood window lines include sliding/gliding windows.
You have the option of the right or left sash moving, but not both.
Pros: Sliding windows are among the most affordable in any series. They are a good choice over decks and patios.
Cons: These windows look outdated to many. The sash frames are a visual obstruction, and debris accumulates in the tracks that are hard to clean. Your style, color and accessory options are limited. Most window fan and AC units won’t fit.
Often called picture windows when large, they are accessory windows placed where natural light is in short supply or above non-fixed windows as an accent.
Fixed windows are also used in bay/bow window systems. They are produced in many shapes including round, half-round, rectangular and octagonal.
Pros: An attractive range of shapes and sizes allow you to choose the right look for the window’s location. Many include decorative frames and/or glass.
Cost of a basic fixed window is lower because minimal materials are used.
Cons: Obviously, they don’t offer ventilation. Many decorative fixed windows with specialty glass, while visually appealing, cost $700 to $1,300 per window.
Bay & Bow
These windows add architectural elegance to any home. Some bay and bow systems are built in the factory as a complete, and costly, package. Others are produced by framing the bay and bow and installing a combination of individual windows.
Prices in this guide are for factory-built window systems.
A combination of fixed windows in the center and movable windows on the sides is popular.
Pros: Beauty and a wealth of natural light. Bow and bay window sets can be built with nearly any combination of windows. This gives you the look and functionality you want.
Cons: Window systems are expensive and require lengthy installation, which raises the cost.
Full-frame, Insert and Sash Kit Windows
These terms will be unfamiliar to some, but they’re important to know as you shop for replacement windows.
Insert Windows: These are also called pocket windows. During replacement, only the window stops and sashes are removed. The frame and trim from the old window remain in place.
The replacement window has its own narrow frame. It is inserted into the old window frame and secured into place.
The advantages of insert windows are:
1) Slightly lower cost since there is less material in the replacement window.
2) Lower installation cost due to less effort required.
The disadvantage of pocket windows is that you lose a small amount of glass space. This is because the insert window has a frame, so it is a frame within a frame.
Full-frame windows: Also called new construction windows, these include everything required – frame, sashes, sill, interior and exterior trim.
If your old window frames are rotted, warped or in poor condition, full-frame windows are the solution. The old window is removed down to the framing studs of the home, and the new window is installed.
Advantages of full-frame windows are several:
1) They produce a more airtight fit, so drafts are eliminated.
2) Insulation can be added around the window – especially helpful in older homes with insufficient wall insulation. They offer more glass, less frame.
The disadvantage of full-frame windows is the higher cost for the window and installation.
Sash kits: These are used in a small percentage of window replacement jobs. They are available for single-hung and double-hung window wood windows. Sash kits are sashes only.
The advantage of a sash kit is the lower cost of the kit than replacement and new construction windows.
The main disadvantage of a sash kit is that most work only for the same brand and line of windows as the original, Andersen 400 or Marvin Ultimate, for example.
Additionally, the existing frame must be in excellent condition, unlikely for wood windows even 20 years old.
Finally, sometimes it takes longer to replace parts than it does to replace the entire unit, so installation costs can be higher. Many consider sash kits a repair, not a window replacement
Stock vs. Semi-custom vs. Custom Windows
There’s one more distinction you should be aware of when shopping for windows.
Home improvement, building supply stores and online sellers stock ready-made windows.
In some cases, large manufacturers make window series for sale exclusively at one of the major home improvement stores.
Menards, for example, has an exclusive line called Jeld-Wen Best Series ($350-$665 per window installed) vinyl windows.
Cons: You have a limited number of sizes and fewer options for material and accessories with off-the-shelf windows.
Most homeowners order semi-custom replacement windows. They’re available from local and online sellers and window installers.
Pros: When buying, you select options from a menu. These include the type of window, material, size, finish, hardware, grilles, glass type and any other offered accessories.
Your list of options grows with the cost of the windows series. Windows are made in 1/8” or 1/4″ increments depending on the series.
Cons: They cost a little more than stock windows, but offer the best combination of selection and value.
There’s one difference between semi-custom and custom window – Every window is built to non-standard sizes.
Custom windows are only used when the window openings are of an irregular size or are not uniform.
For example, very old homes often have window openings that vary by a 1/4” or more from top to bottom.
Dozens of measurements of the window opening are made to achieve a perfect fit.
Custom windows are mostly available in high-end lines, and they come with a 10% to 25% price premium for the custom fit.
Accessorizing Your Windows
An impressive list of options is available when ordering semi-custom and full-custom windows.
While the sheer number of options and decisions can seem overwhelming, they allow you to tailor the look and performance of your window to perfectly suit your preferences.
Frame trim profiles: Upscale window lines give you frame modification options like arched head trim or a cornice at the top.
Finishes and colors: In wood, your options are bare wood, primed wood, clear sealer and up to 15 stain and paint colors.
High-end windows like Andersen Architectural Collection offer custom color matching.
Cladding: The vinyl or aluminum cladding for wood windows is available in up to 30 colors. As with interior finishes, custom options are offered in some lines.
Hardware: You’ll have just a few options for style and color/finish in mid-grade windows, more options in windows that are top of the line.
Glass (aka Glazing): Most windows have double-pane glass with an air gap for energy efficiency.
Glass with low-emissivity (Low-E) heat-resisting coating is standard on some windows and an upgrade on others.
You have many other glass options including triple-pane glazing, tempered glass that is impact resistant for security or hurricane zones, tinted glass and textured privacy glass.
Shades and blinds: Between-glass blinds and shades are offered in some expensive lines. They eliminate dusting, and their location helps prevent damage to them.
Grilles: Interior grilles and between-glass grilles are available in many styles.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore common questions about replacement windows.
Are Energy Efficient Glass Upgrades Worth the Cost?
If you happen to live in an older house, chances are you’ve experienced first-hand those annoying and unpleasant cold air drafts and discomfort associated with older, poorly-insulated windows during winter months.
Older windows are not only responsible for the discomfort inside your home, but they can also greatly affect your heating and cooling bills year-round. That’s why replacing your old windows with energy-efficient ones can be a smart investment in your home.
Facts: Heat escapes a home in winter and is gained in summer. Studies show the worst locations for these losses and gains to be the roof (up 28%), walls (up to 25%) and windows (up to 22%).
That’s a lot of energy lost through windows, considering how little square footage they account for compared to the ceiling and walls.
Adding insulation is cheap with a huge return on investment.
Is energy-efficient glass worth the upcharge of 10% to 15%?
Pre-emptive Replacement is NOT worth the money: Some window contractors encourage replacing windows well before they need it just to reduce energy loss.
A few years ago, federal tax credits for installing efficient windows made that attractive, but the credits have expired.
Double-pane Glass Upgrades might be WORTH the money: Double-pane glass with Low-E coating is standard on mid-grade and top lines.
If it’s extremely cold, hot and/or sunny where you live, then it is worth considering upgrading to glazing tailored to the climate. Here are examples from Andersen.
Andersen SmartSun glass is Low-E glass that also blocks 95% of UV light.
If you live in a hot, sunny climate, paying extra for SmartSun will pay for itself in about 10 years of lower energy costs.
In a cloudier climate, the payback time is 25+ years. Other major brands have similar options.
Andersen PassiveSun glass is only coated on the inside. It allows the sun to warm from the outside, and the coating keeps heat inside. Obviously, it is designed for northern climates.
Did you know? Triple-pane Glass is NOT worth the money: This upgrade is offered on high-end lines. Potential energy savings are approx. 2% per year.
If you spend $1,200 on energy each year, that’s $24. Upgrading to triple-pane glass averages $700-$900 in most homes. The payback time is about 30 years.
Vinyl versus Wood
While double-pane vinyl replacement windows will work great for most rooms and homes, some houses located in historic neighborhoods or designates as historic buildings may require wood windows to preserve their historic looks.
Wood-frame windows cost more than vinyl and are more expensive to install. In some cases, additional staining and painting of wooden windows may be required.
Fiberglass versus Wood
Wooden window’s advantages are the natural beauty, texture and insulation qualities of wood. Wood costs slightly more upfront and has higher lifetime costs due to required maintenance.
Fiberglass frames are stronger and harder, so less likely to be dented or cracked. Fiberglass doesn’t expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes, as wood does, something that can cause wood to warp (though it’s not common).
Fiberglass versus Vinyl
Homeowners that ultimately pick fiberglass often consider vinyl too. Fiberglass costs about 25% more. The benefits are stronger, slightly thinner frames that allow for more glass/visibility. Fiberglass doesn’t have the weld ridges at corners.
Vinyl’s advantage is that frames that are slightly more energy-efficient.
How to Buy Windows
We conclude with a few tips and a timeframe for choosing windows that will look and perform the way you want. Of course, if you buy stock windows, the timeframe is much shorter. You’ll still want to follow the tips below to find an installer.
Browse and Compare (5+ months before installation)
The first step is to know what is available. Manufacturers’ websites provide a wealth of information about materials, sizes, features, options and accessories.
The many pictures and product info on the sites are helpful for deciding what window styles will look good on your home.
Don’t rush this process. If you plan to replace your windows in the spring, start browsing in winter or earlier.
Results: You’ve narrowed your choice to one, perhaps two, materials and determine which style or combination of styles you prefer.
Consider Options and Accessories (4 months before installation)
Choosing window material and style are big decisions. These are smaller ones. Separating the two steps makes the process less complicated.
Results: You’ve decided on window color, hardware style and finish, special frame upgrades, glass type and whether to include blinds or shades in the package.
Contact Local Window Companies (3-4 months before installation)
You’ve done your homework and have a clear idea what windows will complement your home and meet your performance expectations.
You’ll probably still have a few questions about materials and options, which is expected at this stage. It’s impossible to rule expensive options in or out until you get a price estimate.
Now it is time to request estimates from local window companies.
If you hear from friends or family about an outstanding experience they had with a local company, start there. However, it’s always good to get competitive estimates from several window contractors.
In large metropolitan areas, the number of window companies is overwhelming. The process can be streamlined by using our Free Quotes offer.