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The Pros and Cons of Replacing vs. Rebuilding Windows

If your windows look old, it might seem like a no-brainer to just get them replaced, rather than rebuilding your windows. But it’s actually not a clear-cut issue. The fact is, not all homes would do well with brand-new windows. Older homes, in particular, tend to do better when the windows are custom rebuilt since those windows are key to the architectural style of the home. Plus, older windows have some surprising benefits for a home, which we’ll explore below.

As with any home repair or remodel, cost is a key consideration for repairing or rebuilding windows. The similarity of both options might surprise you. New windows can range around the low to mid $100s in cost for each window. Repairing a window is harder to pin down, as the cost can include the type of glass, how much of the frame needs rebuilding and contractor rates by region. As such, repairing a window can range in the low $100s to thousands of dollars. But, depending on what you want out of a window, it could warrant the higher end of the price range.

Rebuilding Windows Old Style Window

Classic embellishments on a window can be key to certain styles. Image: Wilm Ihlenfeld/Shutterstock

Pros of Rebuilding Windows:

  • In older homes, windows help define the style of the home architecturally. You can keep that style by rebuilding windows.
  • Believe it or not, old windows can actually be higher quality than new windows. For instance, some new windows are guaranteed to last up to 10 years. Meanwhile, those old windows were built in the days when things were made to last decades or longer with proper care.
  • Some of the classic elements, like wavy glass, might be worth trying to preserve. Elements like this can give a home character.
Rebuilding Windows Damage Photo

You may need to assess how extensive the damage is and if the window is worth salvaging. Image: Tom Gowanlock/Shutterstock

Cons of Rebuilding Windows:

  • Salvaging the windows might not be possible if water damage and rot are involved, or it might be very difficult and expensive to do.
  • Homes built before 1960 often have lead-based paint. Contractors often have to remove the paint safely.
  • Older windows can be less energy efficient. You may have to caulk around older windows or add plastic coverings to the windows during the winter.
  • Rebuilding windows could end up costing more than replacing them, depending on the size of the window, local contractor rates and the extent of the repairs.
Rebuilding Windows New Style

Newer window and door styles look best in contemporary spaces. Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Pros of Replacing Windows:

  • New styles tend to be more energy efficient with the most updated technologies.
  • New window styles tend to look best on newer homes since they fit contemporary styles.
  • If you get new windows, you can have access to more complete warranties.
  • Choosing to make your home more updated and energy efficient can come with rebates or tax credits.
Rebuilding Windows Stained Glass

Artistic historical features like stained glass deserve preservation. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Cons of Replacing Windows:

  • If you replace historical windows, like stained glass or craftsman styles, it can actually lower the value of the home.
  • It might be tempting to go for something more updated and energy efficient, but it can take years for energy efficient windows to pay for themselves. According to ENERGY STAR, replacing single-pane windows can save anywhere from $126 to $465 on energy bills annually. However, replacing all your windows with new vinyl windows could run you $18,975, according to the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report from NARI. Optimistically, you’re looking at about 40 years before those energy efficient windows pay for themselves. In the meantime, you could be sacrificing the aesthetic character of your home.

Remember, it typically comes down to the age of your home and how an upgrade will look. If you’re in an old home and the windows are a key part of the architectural style, rebuilding windows will most likely be worth tinvestment.

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