Why You Shouldn’t Use Window Inserts

It’s common practice for the average home to replace their windows every 15-20 years. When it comes time to get those puppies replaced, you’ll have the decision to either use window inserts or full frame windows.

Typically we see older homes with windows that have been replaced from the original double hung window to window inserts. While the window sales-people might try to persuade you to buy the window inserts, we decided to compile our top reasons why you shouldn’t use window inserts, as well as a few tips on how to get rid of your old insert windows.

BUSTED: The top four myths about window inserts.

They’re cheaper:

Window inserts may have a lower price tag on installation day, but you’ll lose in the long run because of the energy loss.

Window inserts use the same framing as the original window and are rarely as well insulated as a full-framed window. This means you’ll actually end up losing hundreds in energy costs each year—plus when you’re losing your temperature-controlled air, you’re bound to lose more than a little sleep.

To add to the energy losses, especially in older homes, there’s actually a gap between the windowsill and the home’s framing—which used to house the counter-weight that allowed the double-hung window to go up and down. Nowadays, windows have friction sliders. This leaves a non-insulated gap where the weight would have been, leaving you with more money going right out the window.

They’re just as durable:

As you’ll see in the video, window inserts are usually retrofitted to the existing sill and trim, then sealed into place. In this case, retrofitting is essentially just a fancy way to say that it was jimmy rigged into the sill, then sealed up with caulking. Essentially when the previous installer cut out the old window, they just slid in the insert window into the area of the old window, caulked it and screwed in a cock joint cover.

As you pull out the old insert window, you’ll see that the only things keeping the hot, cold, rain and snow out are about four screws, caulking and the caulk joint cover. Full-frame windows are made specifically for your window opening, including a fresh new sill, trim and thorough insulation.

They last just as long:

Full-frame windows are just that—windows that are installed to fit the full frame of the window, then sealed and insulated. They have a superior seal to the elements and often even more window area than window inserts, since you’re not losing any space due to retrofitting a window insert into a windowsill that’s actually larger than the insert itself.

This means that the wood, frame, trim behind a window insert are more susceptible to mildew, decay and rot. The risk of any weathering of a full-frame window is nearly nonexistent.

They look just as good:

Window inserts are generally cut-and-paste windows with somewhat standardized sizing, then leaving the rest up to the installer’s prowess. What is cut-and-paste, however, is the materials used for the windows, color options and placement of the framing within the window. For example, you could be stuck with a slider window where you really want a casement window, or cut-ups where you don’t want them.

Now that we’ve got the basics of why you shouldn’t use window inserts, we’ll go over how to get rid of your old window inserts.

Step 1: Pull off the caulk joint with a crowbar or hammer.

Step 2: Locate the screws holding your window in place and remove them.

Step 3: Use a sawzall to cut out the old caulking between the frame and window.

Step 4: Push in (or out depending on how the sill is sloped) and pull the window from the frame.

Step 5: Dump that sucker in the rolloff and install your new windows!