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How Much Does It Cost To Replace Windows In An Old House?

The cost of replacing windows in an old home an determine your approach to whether you repair or replace the windows. Historic window restoration can cost up to $400 in materials and if you choose to get a professional to do the work, this could be another $400 per window. Replacing each window can cost you between $300 and $700 each. This assumes that the replacement is going into a structurally sound frame on the ground floor. This price will easily double for a two-story home.

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Replacing windows in an old home

Did you know that around 14% of America’s housing stock is over 70 years old? This figure was calculated in 2014, so it’s probably even higher now.

It’s quite an art form to fit new windows into an old house. First, the owner wants to maintain appearance and character but most pre-made windows are standard sizing and may not easily fit. On the other hand, you don’t want to be left with 20th century glazing which is drafty and not very energy efficient. Around 33% of heat generated can be lost through old and drafty windows.

The right way to go will depend upon each individual house, the state of the current windows and the preferred choice of the owner and their budget.

What are the window options for an old house?

  • Remove the existing windows in their entirety and fit new standard units in their place
  • Have made to measure windows installed
  • Use modern units which are styled to appear historic and will fit the character and age of the property
  • Leave the existing windows in situ and fit storm windows
  • Leave the original frames and retrofit the glass with a modern glazing option

Checkout the video below which explains some of the considerations when choosing your replacement windows:

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What are the costs of replacing windows in an old house?

The key is to have multiple options from reputable installers. Since you use windows every day for light, heat, and cooling, this is one area where you should carefully consider all your options before reaching a decision.

What are the specific challenges replacing windows in an old house?

There are a number of unique challenges when it comes to window replacement in an old property. These factors can affect time taken as well as cost. Here are some points to consider.

  • If the windows are very old, then they may not correlate with modern sizing which will mean remediation works to change the aperture or new made to measure windows
  • If the house is of historical interest, then there may be restrictions imposed on the type of windows you can install. If you are in a historic district with covenants imposed, then your window replacement options may be restricted
  • Are there energy efficient options available without replacing your windows
  • Will replacing the windows impact the resale value of your home?

Should you replace or repair the windows in an old house?

If they are not in too poor a state, then salvaging the old windows is an alternative option rather than replacing them.

Many old windows were made from higher quality timber than that used for modern windows; this is one of the reasons why they have lasted so long. It is usually poor maintenance and repair that have caused them to become drafty and leaky.

Salvaging the frames preserves some of the history of your home and you can also fit new glazing to deal with thermal regulation. If the frames are in good condition, then just retrofitting new glass will save you a whole heap of money on new replacement units.

How can Storm Windows help?

It’s a popular misconception that storm windows are there to protect against severe weather – this is not the case. Storm windows are installed on top of existing windows with the main purpose of boosting the energy efficiency of the property and saving hot air from leaching out through drafty old windows.

If you have an old house, then storm windows are a great way to upgrade to 21st century materials and technology and still preserve the authenticity and charm of your original windows.

Storm windows feature low E-coating on the exterior side of the current windows. In the hotter months of summer, this acts as a reflector to prevent the heat outside from getting into your home. In the winter, they will reflect heat back into the house. Storm windows can also help minimize the transference of heat from outside and reduce your cooling costs by 30% or more.

Storm windows can update and modernize the look of your existing windows if you think they are rather old-fashioned. They also act as a buffer against noise pollution. Minimal installation charges make storm windows a very cost-effective solution for an old house.

Finding the right contractor to replace windows in an old house

Finding the right contractor depends upon what you want to do with your windows. In reality, you may not be sure what is either available or possible which is why it is so important to find the right window contractor to advise you.

Ask neighbors with similar age properties who they used if you know they have recently upgraded their windows. Look online for a recommendation in social media groups and on community forums.

There are plenty of online trader platforms which can recommend installers in your area. One of the best of these is which can provide free and no obligation quotes from installers in your area with just a few key details.

A good contractor can discuss the options for your old house with you and price up some different alternatives. It is important to find an installer who has worked with old houses before. Old houses require specific experience and a good understanding of construction and may be beyond the reach of some firms who are just used to installations in very modern homes.

Questions to ask a prospective contractor

  • Do you have experience of, and have you worked on old houses before, specifically this style of house?
  • Do you have any testimonials from previous customers with old houses?
  • Is your company ‘Lead Safe’ certified?
  • Can I retrofit my windows or do the frames need replacing as well?
  • What style of window do you recommend for my house?
  • Do you offer 1900 restoration glass?
  • Are there any local government restrictions on the type of windows I can install based on where I live?
  • How long is your workmanship guaranteed for?
  • What manufacturer’s warranties come with materials and glazing used for my new windows?
  • Are there any other costs I need to be aware of which are not listed on your invoice?
  • Are there any window grants which I may be eligible for?

 Frequently Asked Questions

What does retrofitting mean?

Retrofitting old windows means leaving the existing frames in situ and just refitting modern glazing to them. This is a very economic option saving you megabucks compared to the cost of completely new units. If the frames are in good condition, then they will need minimal work before new glazing is installed.

Will I need custom made windows because my house is old?

These days, most window frames are standard sizes and if your house is quite old, you may find that the current frames are either wider or narrower than the modern equivalent. Custom made windows offer the opportunity for a perfect fit, plus you can customize the frame color to suit your property unlike modern units which tend to come in colors and tones that don’t always work for old houses.

Trying to get a pre-made window to fit the wall means you will either need to take some of the wall away because the aperture is currently too small or fill some in. Either way, this can involve some quite serious construction work which will seriously impact your budget, plus you may not want to interfere with the structure of your old house.

What does it mean if a window contractor is ‘lead safe’ certified?

Houses built before 1978 may have lead-based paint used on their windows so it is essential that your window contractor has lead safe certification. Lead is toxic and around 50% of homes built between 1940 and 1960 had paint with elevated concentrations of lead used on their structure. The EPA which is the US Environmental Protection Agency started a lead paint certification and testing requirement that came into force in 2010. Prior to your lead safe window contractor starting work, window surfaces and the surrounding areas must be tested for concentrations of lead in paint and other products. This has to be done by qualified and registered professionals. Technicians use an EPA certified lead testing kit. If lead is found to be present in the paint on the windows, then there is a protocol which must be followed to ensure the safety of the contractors and the household when the windows are removed.

What kind of restrictions can be in place from historical societies and preservation groups?

Some neighborhoods have covenants which won’t allow you to replace the windows at all, the only option to improve energy efficiency is to install storm windows over the top of the originals. Some historic windows can be replaced but must be replaced in kind, this means traditional timber frames and single pane glazing which is a poor insulator and will not help the draughts.

Is restoration better than replacement?

Good restoration is not cheap, work on an average of $400 per window but restoration can last for decades if you keep on top of maintenance plus, you can keep the old historic windows which are a feature of your home. Replacement may seem like the simpler option but pre-made modern units don’t always last more than around twenty years. If you are big on originality, then keep and repair the old windows but if you want a change and there are no local restrictions on your property then change up the look for something more modern.

What is the definition of a historic house?

A historic house is a property which is at least fifty years old.

Will replacing historic windows devalue my home?

This is a genuine fear for many owners of older houses and the answer is, you should keep the old windows if you can and perhaps upgrade the glazing in a sympathetic way to provide modern comfort and better energy efficiency. Sometimes, the windows are beyond repair so there is no choice but to replace them in their entirety. Always choose frames – usually wood or metal – and a style which is sympathetic to the property and as near as possible to the original to keep the character of the house.

How can I find out about window grants?

Window grants tend to be aimed at people who would otherwise struggle to find funding so low-income families and the retired or, they are aimed at householders who want to choose a better, energy efficient unit than the one currently in place. Your window installer is the first port of call to find out about any window grants but do also search online; some schemes are short lived and come and go and your contractor may not be familiar with every last one. Energy efficient schemes reward modern glazing so if you can only fit single pane glass because of covenants or restrictions, then a window grant probably won’t be able to help you.

If your house is truly historic then there may be grants available dedicated to older properties.  These may preclude a more contemporary design of window and could insist that you stick to something more traditional in order to qualify for funding.