Choosing the right windows for a home is an important task. Not only do windows help to set the aesthetic tone for the living space, they are also an important barrier to protect those living in the home from outdoor elements.

The terms used to describe different types of windows can add to the confusion of trying to make the right choice. Homeowners should be certain they understand the difference before moving on to evaluate other factors.

Definition of Retrofit and New Construction Windows

Also called replacement windows or insert replacement windows, this type fits into a window opening that already exists. Homeowners must be careful to measure the window opening correctly when purchasing a retrofit window. If the window is too large, it won’t fit in the opening at all. If it’s too small, it won’t provide homeowners with adequate protection from the weather, insects, or possible theft.

New construction windows are those built for a home prior to or during its construction. Homeowners may also use new construction windows when they choose to remove an existing window and the wall studs that help to hold it in place.

When to Choose Retrofit Windows vs. New Construction

Despite its name of new construction, people aren’t limited to using this type of window only when building a home. It can also be a good alternative when they’re completing major remodeling or when the studs or frame of the window have sustained significant damage.

This is obviously a much more involved process and likely beyond the skill level of most homeowners. Those who opt for new construction windows should arrange for a construction or home repair expert to do the work instead.

Homeowners who don’t have a lot of time to spend on the project or who have a limited budget would be better suited for retrofit windows. They can save a lot of money in parts and labor because a contractor only needs to measure the window frame, remove the existing window, and put a new window in its place. The two primary types of retrofit windows to consider include:

  • Block frame: This is a common choice in regions where the exterior of the home is brick or siding and windows are made from wood. If the perimeter of the original wood frame is still in good condition, the contractor leaves it in place.
  • Flush fin: Also known as Z-bar, this type is especially common here in California where a majority of homes have a masonry or stucco interior and aluminum windows. The exterior flange of these windows is large enough to conceal the frame of the existing window.

Consider Quality Ratings Before Installing Any New Window

A window needs to match the décor of the home and fit properly to be effective. However, these are just some of the factors to consider when putting in a new window. An independent rating system from a non-profit organization called the National Fenestration Rating Council rates retrofit and new construction windows.

The ratings are judge windows according to whether they have heat-welded joints, components of metal locks that fit well together, matching colors, and several other factors. Buyers should look for this rating to help them select the best windows for their home.


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