One of the hardest questions to answer is how much a window installation costs. Prices vary so greatly depending on quality, type, and what exactly you need done that the answer is never a simple one. On top of that, different companies will have different offers and sales, causing the price to vary even more.

If you’re considering window replacements for your own home, you would be wise to do your research before picking a company, getting a quote, and hiring them. You’ll want to know all the variables that cause the price to fluctuate, which options are better for your home than others, and the average price of each of these options.

To help make this research simpler for you, we’ve listed the five factors that impact the price of a window replacement — replacement window quality, replacement window materials, energy efficient glass packages, your window’s installation process, and warranty or certification — and explained them below.

How Prices of windows are determined:

1. Replacement Window Quality

This factor is perhaps the most obvious — we all know that the better the quality of the product you’re purchasing, the higher the price. The different levels of quality causes price to vary more than any other factor does. The range is quite wide, making it not much help to a potential buyer trying to make a budget. In fact, Angie’s List says that the cost of windows could be anywhere between $175 to $1,200 per window; that’s quite the price gap!

Simply put, you won’t get a Forever 21 bag for the same price as a Coach one. As far as quality goes, you’ll typically get what you paid for, so if a window is made better and more durable, it will cost a bit more, as well.

Some of the indicators within the window quality variable are the frame material and durability, the glass packages and heat resistance, installation process, and warranty and certification. These are also our next four variables, so we’ll look at each of them more closely.

2. Replacement Window Materials

Typically, you’ll have two main options when it comes to choosing a material for the frame of your residential window: vinyl and wood. Assuming the frame you choose is high-quality, when you compare these two options, the quality of wood is about the same as vinyl and vice versa. The difference arises, however, when it comes down to price.

To choose vinyl would undoubtedly be the most cost-effective route, both immediately and in the long-term — assuming, of course, that you are going to choose high-grade vinyl windows. Vinyl windows will help to save energy in your home, and, unlike wood windows, they require little natural resources to manufacture. Because of this, transportation costs are also lower, helping to lower the overall price even further. All the material being used to make vinyl windows are readily available, and the installation process is quite simple for the average skilled contractor.

All in all, vinyl windows are a frugal choice that also gives you high quality. If you’re on a budget, you’ll definitely want to consider going vinyl.

Wood windows, on the other hand, may look beautiful and add a natural, earthy touch to your home, but they’ll cost you an arm and a leg. They’re much more expensive than vinyl windows. In fact, the price of wood windows could range anywhere from 30% to 50% more per window.

Why is the price so dramatically higher? Well, first of all, all the resources necessary to manufacture a wooden window frame are natural, so they are limited and must be harvested and transported, adding quite a bit to the expense. Most often, the wood used is Douglas Fir, an expensive type, and much fewer companies offer the option of real wood since it’s more expensive and inconvenient and requires higher maintenance.

While wood is a great insulator, vinyl frames are filled with foam and work just as well if not better at insulating your home during more extreme weather, from cold winters to hot summers.

One other less common option is a fiberglass window. These are a quality choice as well but are typically about 30% more expensive than vinyl windows.

3. Energy Efficient Glass Packages

The next factor to consider is the glass used in your window replacement. This majorly influences the overall cost. If you happen upon a window that costs something as low as $189, you can be assured that energy efficient gases aren’t included in it. There are two different gases used to do this, argon and krypton. These inert gases insulate your home to keep it cool in the warmer months and warm in the colder months. In addition, it’s very unlikely that windows that cheap would have low-e applied to them. Low-e is an invisible coating on the windowpane that keeps your home from overheating when it’s hot and prevents the furniture and floors within your home from fading in the sunlight.

So, when the price is that low, you’ll want to keep moving rather than be pulled in by the cheaper price. I guarantee you’ll be paying for it later! Windows that do contain inert gases and low-e can increase the price by around 15%. Argon is usually a bit cheaper than krypton since it’s also less dense. These windows may cost more initially, but they can get you a return on your investment of up to 75% and lower your energy bills by hundreds of dollars every year.

4. The Installation Process

You can pick from two different ways to install your window replacements — pocket installation or full-frame installation. The latter is when you’re replacing the entire window — the window, the window sill, and the trim work. As you can imagine, doing all of this takes more time and more materials and, therefore, costs more. Your professional will need to use insulation and drip edge to make sure the window works correctly, adding additional materials to what you already need for the window itself, and, on top of that, there will likely be some touchup work once the installation is complete.

Of course, if your window is severely deteriorating or you’re going for a whole makeover, a full-frame installation is your only choice, but if it’s not absolutely necessary, you may want to choose the pocket installation route.

A pocket installation is quicker and cheaper because it’s just a matter of simply sliding a new window inside of the already existing frame. Some other terms for this process are “insert window” or “retrofit.” If you’re wanting a great return on your investment, you’d want to go with a pocket installation. It increases the value of your home, goes quickly, is easy to maintain, and costs much less!

However, both routes will require labor, more or less, so this variable also affects how much the process will end up costing. Most often, a contractor will charge for the labor involved in a window replacement either per hour or per project. It can begin and be completed in the same day unless you are getting a number of windows installed; then it could take 2-3 days. The weather will also affect how short or long the replacement takes.

5. Warranty or Certification

The last variable you’ll want to be aware of is the warranty or certification that your window replacement includes. It may be tempting to go without one, but you will thank yourself later if you choose the safe route of purchasing a warranty to go along with the replacement. How much it costs will change depending on the company you’re working with as well as how much or how little the warranty covers.

Typically, the price of a warranty is wrapped up in the price of the windows. If the company automatically includes the warranty, that’s when you know that the window is nearly guaranteed to be high quality. As a result, you’re not only paying for quality windows but also a strong warranty to ensure the windows remain quality.

Of course, you’ll pay less if your window replacement does not include a warranty, but if anything should go amiss, you’ll be left with a hefty bill to pay all on your own, possibly even having to go through another window replacement. Since a warranty is built into the initial cost and it ensures peace of mind down the road, you’re much better off choosing a company that offers one. You know you’re making a wise investment when the company promises to fix any mistakes they may have made.

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