Replacing Old Windows- Need Advice

24 Replies


Looking to replace the majority of my duplexes windows sometime in the future.  This is a 1920's stick house located in Tampa, Fl and there are about 20-25 windows that are just single pane glass or low grade aluminum framed windows that will need to be replaced at some point in my rehabbing.  This is a long term buy and hold for me and I just had central AC installed so was looking for something that held some type of insulation value but was also concerned about hurricane protection as I don't want to be running around to all of my properties in the future putting up plywood.

I wont be paying for heat but the bottom line is these windows will have to be replaced sooner or later.  Am open to the idea of slowly replacing them so I can get quality windows installed.  It is a rental so don't need anything high grade but I don't want to stay up at night thinking my windows are going to shatter next year when Irma 2.0 comes rolling through.

Have been receiving a few quotes from window companies but they are asking $25-40k for removing and installing.  Am somewhat handy  so would rather install myself and save a buck. The rental is in Tampa Heights and around the $900-1,000/Mo range.

  • Do those investing in areas prone to hurricanes invest in impact windows or storm shutters?
    • Or do you put in cheap windows and just run around and board up the windows prior to a storm?
  • Do you have any suggestions on where to find solid windows that I can install?  Have heard of Habitat Restore for cheap material and will definitely look into that.
  • Any tips to installing these windows that I need to be aware of?
  • Any advice on insert/pocket windows?  They seem inexpensive but not sure if that is what I would want as they may be less secure for larger storms.

I know I am asking a lot of questions so I appreciate any help you guys can give to a new investor!


@Tim Kaminski - I am not sure about the hurricane ratings questions. But for budget friendly options look at Lowes in stock replacement windows. I had a ton of multifamily properties that were affordable housing, so I needed to upgrade from single pane, but still keep the costs affordable. I would get a 10% couple for Lowes off ebay, then I could pickup their standard, in stock, double hung, half screen, dual pane windows for around $135 each. Then I could install them myself in about an hour per window. When I got tired of doing them myself, I could get local subs to do them for $30-$40 a window. 

If you have to go with custom sizes, and need extra framing or lots of new trim work it can start to get pricey. 

I live in tornado country, so I don't know about hurricanes.  Tornadoes are relatively localized and short compared to hurricanes, so most people don't worry about them that much.

In my experience, the Habitat ReStores are good for cheap used materials, but don't always have much in the way of cheap new materials.  It varies a lot, though.  I have put light bulbs (new), a set of keyed-alike door locks (used), and solid wood crown molding (new - about $16 for 40 feet!) from ReStore in my rental.  I also added four fluorescent fixtures (used) from ReStore to my garage at home - about $32 total, including tubes and spare tubes.

The ReStore does sometimes have new windows and doors that were overstocks, or a special order that somebody didn't go through with, or things like that.  Bring your tape measure and a list of what you need when you're shopping there.  Also, if there's more than one in your area, make sure you check all of them, at least the first time, so you can get a feel for what they stock.  One of them here in Kansas City has a much bigger store than the rest, so they stock a lot more doors and windows.  They also tend to have the stuff that comes out of houses in the neighborhood around them - for a 1920s house, shop the one that's closer to the 1920s neighborhoods.

One thing I think I know about vinyl windows is that they come in both "new construction" and "remodeling" flavors.  I think the difference is how they attach to the rough opening, and maybe if they come with a flange/lip/trim to cover up the gap between the side of the house and the new window.  It is probably a good idea to look at one of each kind, so you can tell them apart while shopping.

If you think that any of the windows have been leaking (often around the bottom), you might be prepared to replace rotten framing after you take the old window out.  This can be as simple as having a 2x4, a saw, and some nails or screws handy, and as complex as taking the drywall or whatever off of the inside wall so you can re-do a lot of the frame.

If it's just you working on it, you might think about having a piece of plywood, a couple of 2x4s, and some real long carriage bolts available.  That way, if you take an old window out and discover it's a bigger job than you thought, and you need to go for more parts, you can temporarily board up the opening while you go to the store.

You should also use some kind of insulation between the replacement window and the rough opening when you install it.  Opinion seems to vary between using expanding foam, and cutting strips of fiberglass insulation and putting them in there.  Make sure you know how much the foam will expand... if you squirt a bunch of it in there, it can actually distort the frame and cause the window to bind up when you try to open it.

If you're going to buy most or all of the windows at once, you might see if your favorite big-box store has a "pro" program.  Home Depot has one called Pro Xtra.  I don't think you can join it on your own - I was a member because it was included with my membership in a local REIA. When you spend over a certain amount in a year ($5,000, I think), you get a rebate at the end of the year. Also, when you have a big enough order (over $2,000, maybe), they will send it to the "contractor desk" in the store and possibly get you better pricing on the materials.

I hope this helps!

@Andrew Kerr   Thank for reply.  Have heard to stay away from the big box stores as they are more pricey but that price isn't bad at all. Will look into it.

@Matt R.   Appreciate the info.  Will be sure to measure everything out prior to making the trip.  Yes I've been watching a few youtube videos of the replacement process and doesn't seem terrible but who knows what you'll find when you remove the window.  Don't think any of them are leaking which is why I'm not scrambling to get the job done.

For the vinyl windows, are you saying the replacement windows will not come with the flange?  So when I remove the window I have to be sure there is either a flange in place I can use or that my replacement window will come with one.

After living in Florida for the past 40 years, I will give you my advice based on a couple of scenarios.

If you want to keep the home for a long time with the highest degree of window protection, the greatest resale value and the least amount of maintenance here's the ticket. Install non-rated aluminum framed windows with either tempered or laminated glass and cover them with permanent hurricane shutters. Here's why:

  • Aluminum windows last the longest.
  • Tempered or laminated glass are both stronger than plain annealed glass (laminated is just a tick more energy efficient).
  • MUCH cheaper than good quality custom sized impact windows both in initial cost and replacement cost (I doubt that you will find exact fit factory replacements)
  • Covering them with a permanent, crystal clear, UV filtering shutter will prolong the life of the window, eliminate water leaks and window maintenance.
  • Permanent shutters don't break so there's no replacement cost and offer continuous protection whether you're home or away.
  • Increases home resale value

If you simply want to flip the place, go to a cheap PVC impact window supplier and get a list of standard sizes and modify your openings to fit. The windows will only last about 20 years and will be code compliant. As long as the potential buyer is uninformed about their drawbacks, he/she won't use them as a negotiating tool to hammer you on the home price. Or you can go the "pocket" or "insert" window route but sometimes getting them past the inspector is tough due to proper anchoring.

Good luck with your project.

@Tim Kaminski

> For the vinyl windows, are you saying the replacement windows will not come with the flange?

I think some do and some don't - that's the difference between "new construction" and "remodel". I think.  You can buy them either way.

@John Sortore What exactly do you mean by a clear shutter?  Do you mean like a plastic film that goes over the glass?

Are you saying operable shutters that open and shut?

Would I have any problem finding the aluminum frame and tempered glass together or would I have to purchase separately?

Any tips to best place to find these?  Online?

Regarding the insert windows, I guess I have to do more research as the installation videos I saw don't have any screws going into the frame so was wondering how secure they are

In Florida's climate, you really don't want shutters (or windows for that matter) that open and close. The EN&T Drs. will be the first ones to tell you that if you're having problems with breathing, sleeping or sinus problems to keep your windows closed. Open windows let in road dirt, dust and allergens that settle in your home and never leave and in doing so, promote health problems that go improperly treated for years. Add mold and mildew spores and high humidity and you have a recipe for more problems. The only time you should want to open a window is to escape in case of fire. If you yearn for the "fresh" air of the outdoors, build a gazebo in your backyard and keep you indoor air clean.

To get the glass that you want, you'll have to specify the type of glass when you order the windows. Make sure that it's in writing and the panes must have a permanently etched label in the corner when they arrive or the glass is wrong.

You should find flat, clear Lexan shutters online. 

Do your research on the inserts. I believe that Florida code requires that they be anchored perpendicular through the window frame channels and into the casements if the existing frames weren't impact rated, but check with the Hillsborough County building dept. to be sure.

Remember bedroom windows must be operable as they are your second point of egress typically, building code required.  A fixed laminated glass is no longer a point of egress for people inside the rental.  Fire depts have great difficulty with then during a fire.

To my knowledge you will need a laminated glass window to the requirements. Operable will be location based but I like the flexibility of opening windows.  I would look at hurricane shutters but I don't know much about them.  Always good to way your options.

Aluminum windows will hold up the best to the salt environment of that area.  I would stay away from vinyl due to the extreme uv levels.  Fiberglass is a good option too. A good hurricane window will be Maimi-Dade County approved. You will pay more for this but its also tested to meet that +130 mph winds which is key.  Windows are not cheap.

Here is one line that I know that has hurricane impact windows.

Hurricane impact windows are ok as long as you can afford to replace them when they break. The high quality ones can be 3 or 4 times the cost of a non-rated unit so you might want to weigh the replacement cost against the payback. They also have a bad habit of leaking during tropical rain events. In order to pass Miami-Dade requirements you only have to pass wind load, large missile impact and cyclic testing. Water penetration and air infiltration are not a requirement so you can still end up with thousand$ in water damage with a hurricane approved product on your home. If you're in a multiple story condo, check the bylaws to see if you are responsible for water damage to any units below yours.

Pay close attention to warranties. "Lifetime" warranties are based upon the projected lifetime of the window. Lifetime doesn't mean YOUR lifetime! Also, most window companies change their designs and stop making replacement parts on a regular basis. If you by a "closeout design" and 2 years later you need a replacement, don't plan on the new window matching the rest of the ones in the house. Research, research, research. Ask questions and get the answers in writing!!! Promises make across your kitchen table will never hold up when you want your warranty claim honored.

@Jim Adrian Thanks for the reply.  So you believe Aluminum frames with laminated glass??  Can you explain what you mean by the extreme UV levels associated with Vinyl?

@John Sortore The shutters would be just for hurricanes and rough storms.  Do you have a link to what you are describing(Permanent Clear Shutters)?  And I can't have all fixed windows in my rental as egress is necessary and I can't really control whether they open windows.

From some research, it looks like vinyl is the most affordable and most energy efficient.  Why move forward with aluminum?

@Tim Kaminski

UV light breaks down materials over time.   Since you are in Florida, uv levels are higher as  you move south towards the equator do to more direct line of light.  See map in the link below.

As for the windows... You have to good, better, best options.  Vinyl falls into the good category . At the end of the day, will they work, yes.  But you pay for what get with windows in my mind.  Take a look at these two links. The first one is really good comparing the material types.  Marvin is one of the top window mfr for residential.

Retro dual pane(vinyl) for 1800 sf 2 story. Cost $2400 for 15 panes and sliding door, installation $1600.  15 year warranty. Low E sliding door. Service contractor with rebate wants $30K getting 2K back.

Got a bid from Window company in my area, WeatherTite Windows for supplying the windows only.  Vinyl windows that comes out to about $380/window.  I would still have to install myself and put up any exterior shutters myself.  

Does that number seem high?  Was hoping to get around $200-250/window

@Jim Adrian I guess it just depends on which internet site you choose as I found a few that definitely push vinyl over aluminum.

That second link even says Vinyl comes with UV stabilizers that work to keep sunlight from breaking down material

I just see info that aluminum frames are prone to corrosion, cost more, and act like radiators.  I already have 2 large existing aluminum frames in one of the rooms and they really do boost the temperature by 5-8 degrees. 

I just installed Central AC so having something energy efficient makes more sense for me as I don't want the units working longer and harder to cool the space.

@Sam Shueh I'm confused. Did you just find a different contractor to install at that low price?

Yes, vinyl is cheaper but it doesn't last as long in the Florida sun as aluminum will. And yes, vinyl is more energy efficient but in terms of "dollars and sense", the actual energy dollars saved per year is negligible and doesn't necessarily justify the the trade off for longevity. If you paid $10,000 on new vinyl windows and saved 10% on initial cost over aluminum but in 20 years have to replace them then the math says you need to save $10,000 in energy over 20 years because the aluminum lasts 50 years.

Also, most of the published figures on energy savings compare new windows to old ones, not new aluminum to new UPVC. Search for independent studies vs. those funded by the window industry (who push the use of UPVC due to profit margins). 

In addition to tangible cost, there are some who also consider carbon footprint and environmental impact. Most aluminum will get recycled whereas most UPVC ends up in landfill. The bulk of recycling takes place in house at the time of manufacturing - post recycling is not cost effective and doesn't produce a high quality resin for reuse. That's one big reason that the landfills are choked with siding, windows and fencing that risk contaminating ground water. Just something else to consider.

@John Sortore @Jim Adrian   Thank you for the info.  Will take a closer look into Aluminum frames.

Ha now I'm confused as that life expectancy site has Vinyl windows lasting 20-40 yrs and aluminum only 15-20

UPVC framed windows might last 20-40 years in certain climates, but I don't think that Florida is one of them. As I stated earlier, check the source of the info.

Here is a link to one study:

I think I am going to look into forgoing replacing all the windows as they are in decent shape for the most part and instead look into putting on hurricane shutters that will protect my existing windows and keep the hot sun out of the house.  Would save a lot of money and protect my windows at the same time.

Bahamas are an good choice for hurricane protection - very reliable, no moving parts. My biggest complaint with them is that you have to constantly remove wasp/hornet nests.  

You may want to consider adding some new solar film with low-e and UV filtering capabilities on the windows to cut down on heat gain and interior fading, as well.

Originally posted by @Tim Kaminski :

@John Sortore @Jim Adrian  Thank you for the info.  Will take a closer look into Aluminum frames.

Ha now I'm confused as that life expectancy site has Vinyl windows lasting 20-40 yrs and aluminum only 15-20

 I know! Right!?  I saw that too.  I really think they have the years mixed up between the 2 or something.  I use aluminum storefront windows and other alum products in my industrial projects all the time because the don't corrode.  Very few things will corrode or react with alum, concrete is one for example.  Add a bond breaker and you are good. The vinyl will become brittle (uv break down) over time and break that way.  Because its a plastic it wont rot or corrode.  

Can you get by with vinyl probably, as its used all the time in builder basic houses, but how well do they hold up to the hurricane forces I don't know.   You can always weigh the cost of replacing them several times.

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