Full Frame Replacement Windows vs. Retrofit Windows: Which Is Right For You?

June 8, 2023



Full Frame Replacement Windows Vs. Retrofit Windows - Clera Windows + Doors

So, you’ve just bought a new home and are in the process of replacing the windows and doors, but you don’t know what kind of windows to get or how much they cost.

Well, the good news is that you aren’t alone in this predicament. This is a rather common issue for homeowners, along with trying to figure out any technical terms—as in what retrofit windows or full frame replacements mean.

It can be overwhelming to be presented with so many different choices. That’s why we’ve written this blog; to break down the process of having your windows replaced and demystify some of the terms you’re likely to hear.

Let’s get learning!

What Is a Full Frame Replacement Window?

Also called a brick-to-brick window replacement, this method of window installation involves removing the entire existing window, including the frame and trim, down to the rough opening of the wall. Afterward, a brand-new window unit is installed, encompassing the frame, sash, and glass—like a blank canvas ready to bring renewed elegance and efficiency to your home!

What Is a Retrofit Window?

Retrofit windows, also known as insert windows, are all about preserving the existing window frame. With this approach, the new window unit is custom-made to fit perfectly into the existing frame, without any significant disruption to your interior and exterior walls.

It’s a streamlined upgrade that adds a fresh touch to your home while keeping its original character intact—think, upgrading your historical home!

Retrofit Window - Clera Windows + Doors

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Full Frame Installation

A homeowner might want this type of window replacement if they’re having issues with old frames, often due to moisture-induced wood rot. If left untreated, this rotting could lead to the growth of hazardous mould.

Another situation in which you’d want a full frame replacement would be if a frame’s structural integrity has been damaged by pests or natural wear and tear.

The Advantages

  • Greater design flexibility
  • Superior energy efficiency
  • Improved ventilation and functionality
  • Address structural issues

Choice is one of the benefits of full frame replacement windows. You can choose from a wide variety of styles, materials, and finishes that best match your aesthetic preferences. With a complete replacement of the window unit and frame, full frame windows provide better insulation and energy efficiency, reducing heating and cooling costs.

If you’re looking to increase ventilation, opt for double-hung windows or casement windows—both offer better control over airflow in the home!

The Disadvantages

  • Higher cost
  • Longer installation time
  • Interior and exterior finishes may need updating
  • Potential for disruption to structural elements

Given the amount of work and materials involved, this type of installation is more expensive than retrofitting. It also requires the skills of professional installers, meaning it is generally a more time-consuming endeavour.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Retrofit Window Replacement

This is the kind of installation to choose if you want to improve your window performance without spending too much time or money. It’s a great option if you’re happy with the state of your existing frames and/or trim.

If you live in an older home, getting retrofit window replacements might be the best way to increase your property’s resale value because the installation improves functionality without disrupting your home’s original charm.

The Advantages

  • Cost-effective
  • Quicker installation
  • Preserves interior finishes
  • Minimal exterior alterations
  • Easier maintenance

Retrofit windows are easy to install, especially if your window frames don’t need to be replaced or repaired. It’s also a quick process since it doesn’t require swapping out the window frame or any of its hardware or components.

If you’re looking to save on renovation costs, retrofit window installations are a budget-friendly way to give your home a makeover.

The Disadvantages

  • Limited design options
  • Reduced glass area
  • Potential energy loss
  • Less effective for structural repairs

Retrofit windows must fit within the existing window frame which can limit design choices and customization options—if this is your goal, replacing the entire frame is the only way to overhaul the size or shape of your window.

Adding to this, the glass area of the replacement window may be slightly smaller than a full frame window, affecting the view and natural light in your home. By keeping the original frame, it may impact the level of insulation you get from your windows purely due to the fact that the existing ones are old or potentially damaged.

Full Frame Vs Retrofit Window Installation Cost - Clera Windows + Doors

Full Frame vs Retrofit Window Installation Cost

Window replacements are an investment that pays dividends. However, the cost will vary not only on which type of installation you get, but also on your home’s condition and the materials needed to get the job done.

A full frame window replacement typically costs about 15% to 20% more than a retrofit installation. Replacing everything—sashes, jambs, and trim—can cost anywhere from $100 to $400 per window, and that’s excluding labour costs.

If you plan on getting a retrofit window replacement, expect to pay between $300 to $800 for each window. If you’re planning on a full frame replacement, the costs will likely start at $800 and can easily creep into four-digit territory.

If you want to customize your window by changing its style or shape, then you should expect your expenses to climb to at least $1,500 per window.

Get the Right Window Replacement for Your Home

There you have it: a comprehensive breakdown of full frame window replacements as well as retrofit windows. As you’ve learned, both have their pros and cons, so choosing the right option for your home and budget is an important decision.

Clera Windows + Doors has the insight and expertise to help you determine whether full frame or retrofit windows are right for your home. Once you’ve decided, we’ll help you find the best high-quality windows for your home—sold to you at competitive, factory-direct prices.

Contact us today for advice on whether you should get retrofit or full frame replacement windows and experience the Clera difference!

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