Storm Panels/Restoration vs. Replacement Windows vs. New Windows

Your windows are old and drafty. You’d love to take advantage of low cost state loans to upgrade them. There are a number of options available. Which one is right for you?

Option 1: Storm panel (may also involve window restoration):

exterior stormIf you live in an older home and want to preserve the original windows, or if your windows are single-paned but in generally good shape, storm panels may be a good option. They look good and avoid sending the old window to the landfill. Similar to old-fashioned storm windows, but more attractive and energy efficient, these consist of a low-e insulated glass panel installed over the existing window. One example is the Quantapanel, which comes in both triple track and double track models and both interior and exterior applications.

According to Quantapanel, the panels deliver the equivalent energy performance to that of a state of the art replacement window, at 20 percent or less of the installed cost.

However, a storm panel won’t solve the problem of loose window sashes. That requires the services of a window restoration company which may cost as much as a new window. And if you have old fashioned sash weight pockets (the ones with the heavy metal weights that go up and down) you’ll still need to insulate those and install sash operators (see, for example, if you want to prevent drafts.

Option 2: Replacement window (aka pocket window)

Window replacementThis is a box window that slides into the existing opening. As a result, the new windows are a bit smaller and admit slightly less light (sometimes as much as 10-20% less). And you still need to properly address sash pockets and insulation, and get a good air seal. This option is less expensive than new windows as existing moldings can usually be used. Replacement windows are typically not as detailed as new windows.

Option 3: New construction window

New construction windows involve removing the entire window and frame, down to the studs, and installing new. A major advantage of this approach is that we can address water infiltration issues, tape and prep the exterior to get an air seal, insulate with foam around the window, and fill old sash pockets. They let in more light than pocket windows. When measuring for new windows we like to pop the trim to check the original rough-out; depending on framing, sometimes we can get rid of the sash pockets and enlarge the openings. On the negative side, new windows are more expensive than replacements. They need to be trimmed on the interior and exterior, and sometimes siding repairs are needed as well.

Here’s a summary of key things to consider:

New Construction
  • Best opportunity to correct air/water leakage issues
  • Best looking (unless you have gorgeous old windows)
  • More expensive than replacement
  • Requires interior and exterior trim
  • May require siding repair
Replacement Window
  • Less expensive than new construction window
  • Glazing area is smaller=less light
  • Usually not as detailed as existing or new construction
  • Less opportunity to weatherize the whole opening
Storm Panel/ Restoration
  • Lets you retain beautiful/historic windows
  • Less waste
  • Least expensive if existing windows are in good shape
  • May not be the look you want
  • Restoration of existing windows (if needed) can be expensive
  • Less opportunity to weatherize the whole opening

Whether installing a replacement or new window, if time and budget allow we generally recommend a clad exterior (aluminum or fiberglass are more durable and environmentally responsible than vinyl) and a wood interior. Primed interiors are great, especially if you plan to paint yourself.

Which option should you choose?

Give us a call and we can walk you through the pros and cons as they apply to your particular situation.