Why You Shouldn’t Use Window Inserts

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

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

BUSTED: The top four myths about window inserts

1. 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 of dollars in energy costs each year. Plus, when you’re losing your temperature-controlled air, you’re bound to lose more than a little sleep.

Adding 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 counterweight 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.

Man installing window at a Carlson Projects, Lincoln, NE home remodel.

2. They’re just as durable:

As you’ll see in the video below, window inserts are usually retrofitted to the existing sill and trim, then sealed into place. In this case, retrofitting is essentially 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 the insert window into the area of the old window, caulked it, and screwed in a caulk 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.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Window Inserts

3. 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 for 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, and 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.

4. They look just as good:

Window inserts are generally cut-and-paste windows with somewhat standardized sizing, leaving the rest up to the installer’s skill and effectiveness. What is cut-and-paste is the materials used for the windows, color options, and placement of the framing within the window. You’re going to get a standardized window (that looks like everyone else’s) retrofitted into a space. On the other hand, you could have a custom window that fits perfectly in your unique space.

How To Remove a Window Insert

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 ones.

Step 1: Pull off the caulk joint with a crowbar or hammer.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Window Inserts
Step 2: Locate the screws holding your window in place and remove them.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Window Inserts
Step 3: Use a Sawzall to cut out the old caulking between the frame and window.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Window Inserts
Step 4: Push in (or out depending on how the sill is sloped) and pull the window from the frame.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Window Inserts
Step 5: Dump that sucker in the trash and install your new windows!

Check Out an example of how you should install a window:

Want the pros to handle it?

Carlson Projects, Inc. is always excited about a new remodeling project here in Lincoln, NE, and the surrounding areas (I mean, we’re a little obsessed with it, check out our blogs 4 Reasons to Remodel an Old Home Instead of Buying New and Historical or Modern for the proof). And we’d love to help you with yours! Whether you have some questions or you’re looking to get a quote, contact us today! We handle home remodeling, roofing, decks, and additions, and we take pride in our work and core values.

And for more about home remodeling, check out our blog, where we discuss everything from how to side a steeple to getting creative with storage space! And please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more roofing and remodeling fun.

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