What are the Different Types of Window Installation?

When you’re looking into doing window installation for your home, there is much to consider, and window companies nationwide will market various aesthetics and energy savings in order to get you to purchase their product. Installing new windows can do a number of things for your home, from all-around increasing its performance to boosting the curb appeal to reducing drafts, but if it’s done wrong, you could be dealing with serious repercussions. Complete energy efficiency and performance depend on a job well done, so you’ll want to ensure that the window itself is quality and that the company you are hiring to install it will do it correctly.

If you are finding it necessary to replace the windows in your home, you should know all you can about what that means and the options you have before jumping right in. Window installation isn’t a simple process and there are different ways to go about it, depending on your needs and the current state of your windows. Typically, there are two main types of window installation you will be choosing from — full-frame installation and pocket installation. To help you make the wisest decision for your home, saving you from labor disruption and potential performance failure, we will give thorough overviews of both of these types.

The Two Types of Home Window Installation

As I noted earlier, you’ll most likely be deciding between a full-frame installation and pocket installation. Now, if these terms are completely new to you, don’t panic. They’re both quite simple and will seem even more-so once you are done reading this guide. You can get a pretty good idea on your own of which method is right for your home, but a window contractor can help you consider any details you may have forgotten and make the final decision.

You’ll want to take into account the age of your home as well as its current condition. What is the exterior made out of? According to Fine Homebuilding, a full-frame installation is hugely complicated on brick homes, while stucco homes are a bit more manageable. Is there any damage to the current window frame — things like deterioration or rot? Be sure to check the exterior windowsill and the brickmold, as these are the most common areas to find damage. Finally, decide on a budget and your time restrictions — when you need to have the window installation compete.

Once you have fully gauged all these different factors, you can decide which route you want to take — full-frame or pocket. But first, you need to know what each one is! Let’s start by learning what a full-frame window installation is.

Full-Frame Window Installation

As you can probably guess from the name, a full-frame window installation is the more involved option of the two. It is the complete replacement of a window — the window, the windowsill, the exterior trim, and the interior trim. Plus, once the installation is finished, more times than not, you’ll find that your walls and the surroundings will need touching up and/or a fresh coat of paint. Additional materials are required, such as insulation and drip edge, so this and the fact that it is a longer and more laborious job means that it is quite expensive.

What Does a Full-Frame Window Look Like?

A full-frame window, also known as a new construction window, doesn’t initially look much different from a simple replacement window, especially from the outside of the home. However, the installation process is much different between the two. Looks-wise, the main discrepancy is that full-frame windows include nailing fins. During the installation, they are hidden, but without them, the window will not be airtight and waterproof. Nailing fins are absolutely necessary to securely fasten the window in place.

Example Scenarios for Choosing Full-Frame Replacement Windows

So, how can you know whether or not a full-frame replacement window is what your home needs in its current state? If you’re able, you’ll probably want to choose a simple pocket installation since it is faster, easier, and cheaper, but there are some situations that require the bigger and more expensive job. Let’s take a look at some examples to help wrap your brain around what this could look like.

Example #1: Old Windows Were Installed by a Different Company

If the company you’re hiring to perform a window replacement is different from the company who installed the current windows, you may need to have them do a full-frame window installation to be sure that everything about the window and the frame is consistent and works together. It’s the only way to ensure that the whole unit has been properly measured and installed and that nothing has been overlooked.

Example #2: Very Old Home with Rotting, Irreparable Frames and Windowsills

If you’re home is over one hundred years old, that doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll need a full-frame window replacement. What matters is the condition of the original window frames. You may be averse to making any changes to your home, taking the risk of losing some of its character, but if you find that the frames are in horrible disrepair, you’ll only be harming yourself and avoiding the inevitable if you don’t replace them.

A window contractor would come to your home, analyze the current windows and frames, discern the level of damage, and recommend a window replacement plan. If your home has suffered any kind of rotting or insect infestation, it’s likely that he will recommend a full-frame replacement.

Example #3: Original Windows are No Longer in Style

If a drastic aesthetic change is what you’re going for, like a different size or shape, this will likely require you to have a full-frame window replacement. For instance, if you’re wanting to change the current picture window to an oval-shaped window, you’ll definitely have to undergo a full-frame window replacement.

Example #4: You’re Building a New Construction Home

If you’re building a home from scratch, you have no current window frames to work with, so you will quite obviously need a full-frame window installation — or new construction window, in this case. Everything involved from the frame to the brickmold to the window itself would be added to a new construction home being built.

What Happens During Full-Frame Window Replacement?

Whether it’s because your current frames are deteriorating or you just want a change in the aesthetics, you’ll experience quite the same process either way for your full-frame window replacement. The window contractor will begin by removing the current window and frame until all that is left is a rough opening; then, he will seal the opening to keep water and air from seeping in or out of the home. Insulation is added to help in this endeavor, and, finally, the new window is put into place. A water system is absolutely necessary to lessen water damage to the frames and decrease the chance of mold, so the contractor will add a system that depends on flashing, not caulking, to the sill.

Pros and Cons of Full-Frame Window Replacement

Before we move to the explanation of a pocket window installation, let’s wrap up our discussion of a full-frame installation by taking a quick look at its pros and cons.

Full-Frame Window Replacement Pros

  • The best choice to take care of severely damaged window frames.
  • Great for drastic aesthetic changes, like shape or style.
  • Enables the contractor to address the problem of a lack of insulation around the frame.
  • Since the glass is closer to the original window frame, it can extend the outdoor view because of the additional glass provided.

Full-Frame Window Replacement Cons

  • Probably the most obvious and possibly most major con is that it can be as much as 50% to 100% more expensive than a pocket window installation since the entire job takes more labor and more material.
  • It is long and laborious, unlike a pocket installation that could take less than a day.
  • When you’re performing one on an old home, it could result in an installation that ends up being too tight or too loose which will cause multiple problems down the road, mainly energy loss.

Pocket Installation

Now, let’s look at pocket installation. A pocket installation is a much simpler process where only the window is replaced and the existing frame is not tampered with. Sometimes called a retrofit or an insert window, a replacement window is slid into place by a professional window contractor rather than tearing out the entire thing and rebuilding from scratch.

There are a variety of materials and sizes to choose from for a pocket window installation; the most common material used in America is vinyl.

What Does an Insert Replacement Window Look Like?

When it comes to a pocket replacement window, there are two further options to choose from — block-fit or flush-fin.

If the home has already existing wood windows, the contractor will typically recommend a block-fit window which is usually double hung or casement style. Instead of a fin, the window is inserted into the pocket of an already existing frame, leaving the original wood frame snugly in place. To undergo this type of pocket installation, the window frame must be in good condition.

A flush-fin is a much more ideal window installation option but can only be done if there is no water or structural damage to the window opening. Flush-fins are also known as stucco fins, retrofit fins, and retrofit flanges, and often particular brand names have their own name, like Z-Bar, for instance. A flush-fin window is seamlessly installed on top of an existing frame.

Just as we did with full-frame installations, let’s take a closer look at some examples to fully grasp whether or not your home would do best with a pocket window installation.

Example #1: Homeowners Want Significant Return on Investment

If you’re planning to put your home on the market to sell or just increase the overall property value, you’ll want to note that vinyl window replacements offer one of the top ROIs in the home remodeling industry. Homeowners can expect a return on investment of roughly 75%, according to 2018 Cost vs. Value by Remodeling.

Example #2: Maintenance-Free Window Upgrade

Vinyl windows, especially, require no maintenance besides occasional cleaning as the seasons change. However, if you decide you’d like to have wood windows, there is more maintenance involved in keeping the appearance of the windows appealing, such as sanding, staining, painting, and treating the wood to resist moisture. The majority of homeowners choose vinyl windows, so their upgrade is maintenance-free.

Example #3: Upgrading a Home with Stucco or Brick Exterior

What is the exterior material of your home made out of? This could be a main factor in deciding which route to choose for your window replacement. According to Angie’s List, there is a layer of mesh behind stucco exterior that is difficult to cut, so a full-frame window replacement would be extremely difficult to perform without damaging the exterior. The same is true of brick homes.

If your home is brick or stucco, you’d have a much easier time doing a pocket installation. Your window contractor will have no problem slipping insert windows into existing frames, creating tight seals to give you excellent energy savings.

Example #4: Fast and Affordable Window Upgrade

If you want the job done quickly and your budget is lower, you’re only option is a pocket installation. Since fewer materials are involved and less needs to be done, the process is extremely quick and drastically faster than the alternative.

What’s amazing about this is that even though it is faster and cheaper, it still gives you quality work that will save energy for your home and be cost-effective. Be sure, however, that the contractor you hire is experienced and can guarantee solid work.

What Happens During Pocket Installation?

The window contractor will first cover any items that need to be protected during the installation process. Things like outside landscaping will need to be covered, and if there’s a pet on the property, you’ll want to notify the contractor so that the team can be extra cautious. Most likely, none of the trim will need to be removed, but the windows will be carefully removed without breaking any of the glass so as to prevent injuries or accidents.

Next, the contractor will want to address any deteriorated material that has been discovered during the process. After he has done so, the team will make sure that the area is level and plumb as the window is positioned to ensure that the fit is correct. If they skip this step, you’ll be dealing with gaps or energy losses. When the window is sealed, caulked, and insulated on the interior and exterior, the window is guaranteed even better performance, possibly saving hundreds of dollars per year on energy bills.

Finally, the team will clean up the area, remove trash inside and outside the home, and uncover areas that were covered for protection. The old windows will be disposed of or recycled, and the project manager will wrap up with a final inspection to certify that the work has been done in a satisfactory way; he will take this opportunity to show you around what has been done and answer any of your questions. Once he and his team leave, you are left with newly-installed windows!

Pros and Cons of Insert Window Replacement

Now, we can wrap up our explanation of pocket installation windows by taking a quick look at the pros and cons, just as we did for full-frame installation replacement windows.

Insert Window Installation Pros:

  • When high-quality work has been done, pocket installation windows are extremely energy efficient. For the most energy-efficient option, select windows that have been certified by Energy Star.
  • If you’re wanting to keep the current style and only replace the windows, a pocket installation replacement window is extremely effective; you can even choose a new window style as long as the opening is the same size. For instance, a bay window could become a picture window if the size is no different.
  • As we mentioned before, the process is very fast and can go from start to finish in just one day — assuming, of course, your contractor doesn’t come across unexpected deterioration and has zero hiccups.
  • Due to their popularity, you’ll find vinyl windows in a vast variety of shapes, sizes, and styles with different frame colors, decorative glass options, and grid systems. They leave a lot of room for creativity and style preference.

Insert Window Installation Cons:

  • If you make the mistake of picking mass-produced insert windows from a home improvement store, the quality of the job will overall be quite lower and unsatisfactory.
  • The sun will potentially discolor and cause peel or warp if the windows are low-quality.
  • Since the process seems so simple, the DIY method can be tempting to homeowners, but if you are not experienced with such work, this will likely reduce the performance of the windows. Moreover, DIY work could void any warranty that the window currently has, which means that any problems that happen in the future will come out of your pocket alone.

Window Warranty and Insurance

As you finish up this article and start looking into various window installation companies, it’s important to keep in mind window warranties and insurance. Make sure you ask if the company offers a warranty, and, if they do, ask to see it. Companies that provide a warranty will secure the performance and cover many different aspects of the window, including labor and installation. Make sure you’ve done your research thoroughly before any work commences.

Secondly, be sure that the company is insured because if they are not, the homeowner will be stuck paying the bills if there is any sort of accident. Don’t hire out-of-town contractors that don’t have a physical address as scammer contractors are out there and tend to travel from town to town to steal money right out of your pocket.

What Window Installation is Right for You?

So, now you’re at the point where you must decide, but hopefully we’ve made that decision much easier for you. Choosing can be difficult, so if you truly feel stuck, look into Universal Windows Direct, a company that installs countless windows per year and is highly experienced in the industry’s best techniques. Every one of the window installers is legitimately certified, insured, and ready to get started on your window replacement project today, whichever route you choose.


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