When to Remove Windows During Rehab

10 Replies

Hey BP friends,

When and who removes the windows during your rehabs?

My family and I are performing the demo on my first house in San Antonio, Texas... and I can't seem to find any info on when windows should be removed during rehab, haha! 

The windows on the house are all intact so it's not as big of a security concern. I'm planning on replacing all the windows, but want to make sure I'm setting the contractor up for a smooth install when that time comes.

Thanks for all your advice!

@Kevin Castaneda - I try to leave windows in as long as possible just to help keep the property secure. We will measure, then order new windows. Once we know the new windows are coming in, we will demo any windows where we are doing new framing. Otherwise, we will remove the old windows as we install the new ones. We also try to do the windows when we do new sheathing on the outside before new siding & house wrap goes on if we do new siding.

Newly install or retro the scheme is all different. If you remove the hard to remove frame chances you will break glasses and the consequence of leaving lots of broken glasses are greater if you wait last.  Different way to skin a cat ......

Replacement windows going into the existing wood frame, or new construction where the frame is removed? This changes when I would have them done. Also your window installer would remove the old and install the new.

I order all new windows if they’re replacing existing openings. Have the windows on site and ready to go. Then your installer or contractor or whomever can remove the old windows so the new windows can go right into replace the removed one. That’s the safest way I’ve found to do it or keeping the home secure.

@Brian Pulaski , That's a good clarification! How would you handle the replacement glass? I'm planning on replacing the old wood frames with new vinyl windows as I'm thinking that will be much cheaper than the labor of repairing and putting new glass in old frames? The house will be on the middle-higher end for the San Antonio market (250k+), but I don't want to shoot my cost of windows through the roof as I'm doing over 30 of them. Not sure where the "glass ceiling" is where vinyl becomes a non-option...

@Andrew Kerr , @Mike B. , Thanks guys! Sounds like you both approach this a similar way. Right on!

@Kevin Castaneda when I refer to replacement verse new construction, I don't mean to leave the old existing wood windows and replace only the glass/glazing. With a replacement style window, usually the old window sashes are removed, along with the tracks, but the perimeter wood frame remains (exterior brickmold, etc). The replacement windows are installed from the interior, they but to the exterior trim/brickmold and then attach. This style of window can be installed at any phase of the project. The interior trim (other than the stop) stays in place and the exterior isn't affected.

With a new construction window, the whole window, frame and all trim has to be removed. The new window comes with the jambs, exterior brickmold, etc... These would need to be installed from the exterior and is done in conjunction with the siding work, if there is any.

All of this is typical to the homes in my area and what I have experienced.

When you get your permit ( I hope you got a permit) they will tell you if you CAN change out the windows. Some areas of town will not allow you to change out windows with the hideous vinyl windows. Wood windows should stay with the historic homes.

It is kinda like taking a 1957 Thunderbird and putting a new engine in it (by the way, that is not a good thing). You would take the time to take apart the engine, replace rings, gaskets, etc and put it all back together.

@Rick Pozos , The house is in the RIO district so the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) has jurisdiction, but they don't review residential homes in that overlay district. They still have to sign-off, but they don't review them. I'd be happy to keep the wood windows if there was a way to repair them cost effectively and energy efficiently... I figured doing it that way would have some huge labor costs associated.

@Kevin Castaneda 90 - 95% of the time we rebuild the existing windows.  The labor cost aren't astronomical, we average less than $300/window when restoring them.  Most new windows installed are $350+ per window.  As @Rick Pozos mentioned several areas in town (historic districts & conservation districts), require you to keep the existing wood windows.   We only replace wood windows with newer windows if: 1) the majority of windows are degraded to a point that labor costs would be high, 2) It's not in a historic district, and meets criteria of #1, 3) When metal fame windows has been installed (typically aluminum), we always replace these as they tend to function poorly.  

On re-sale, new windows are definitely a "plus" for buyers, even in historic districts.  

A couple other items to consider are Context and how the new window will be installed.  There are certain homes that will look terrible if you replace historically accurate wood windows with cheap vinyl ones.  Context is everything, and sometimes window replacement takes and otherwise great renovation and makes it an eyesore.  This can sometimes be mitigated by removing the fins from the new window and recessing the window into wall cavity given a reveal and more "historic" look.  Simply installing the new widow flush with the siding definitely will look out of place.  

Ultimately the decision is based on a combination of what the city allows your to do, desired aesthetic, and your budget.

Seth Teel, Contractor in TX (#H-928940) and TX (#620984)
210-201-5656

@Kevin Castaneda it really depends on the windows you have and what you’re replacing them for. If you have to reframe and/or do Sheetrock work I would replace them at the beginning. If it’s a simple replacement where the exterior or interior aren’t affected then it doesn’t really matter. I do recommend you get them in before the final paint gets done. Sometimes you need to trim some gaps or call and paint around the window.

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