Hot Topics: Replacing Builder Grade Windows

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Hawkdriver Member

Hey, guys and gals. First post here. So, the time has come: my wife wore me down about replacing our windows. I have 30 wood sash Andersen. Some are rough, but she’s had it with them. My first real concern is that these are builder grade and I’d like to go to replacement. The problem is that I have aluminum siding that I’m not planning to replace at this time. Is this do-able? I realize it can be done with vinyl by flexing, but with aluminum it will crease. Is this an option?

Next, I’m wondering what vinyl brand I should look at or stay away from. Price is a factor because I have 18 windows, but I don’t plan on going budget. Thanks for the help.

XSleeper Group Moderator

I would have to see a picture of your windows and maybe a close-up inside and out with the bottom sash open, showing the sill, trim, and aluminum siding.

The age of the window might make the install easier or harder, depending on the year your windows were made. Andersen has had many styles of windows over the years.

There are hundreds of vinyl window brands out there and everyone has an opinion. Your location may play some factor.

Marq1 Member

Any time you limit your access to the exterior perimeter of a window, the installation and sealing will be less robust.

There are sooo many window choices. There is no one best selection depending on the application.

So far, every replacement I've completed I was able to use new construction-style windows with exterior nailing flanges and get excellent results—but they required some modification of the exterior siding!

Viriliter_Agite Member

We just replaced seven windows in our 1920 home with double hung triple glazed vinyl models. They match the interior trim colors, stained wood, and painted rooms. The outside are white like our trim. They did not have to touch the interior or exterior trim to install. You will be shocked by the cost of good windows these days. You can buy cheap, but that's what you'll get in terms of performance.

Hawkdriver Member

What windows did you decide to go with?

Here are various angles of the window. As you can see, the siding butts right up to window, no j-channel.

A exterior view of the builder grade windows with aluminum siding around them.

An exterior view of the builder grade window surrounded by aluminum siding.

XSleeper Group Moderator

Wow, that's too bad. My folks had those exact windows in my bedroom when I was growing up. You will find that it's a pain to get the old sashes out.

I don't have an easy answer for you. If you want to do a total frame replacement, getting the old frame out won't be too tough. You will just cut around the old frame with a Sawzall to cut through the caulking and nail fin...then cut the frame into pieces, making two cuts per side so that those pieces come out without any prying.

The problem is where you go from there. You can't use a window with a nailing fin—not unless you add 2x4s to each side of the opening. I *hate* putting in replacement windows that have no nail fin because the nail fin is your exterior flashing. As long as no water gets behind the siding it works, but if you caulk the siding to the window and water gets behind the siding, that water can run right into the rough opening and into the house.

If you do go that route, you could get a new construction window, the same size as your existing one, and just slip it back in and caulk it. Then, hope your siding never leaks or your caulking never goes bad and goes unnoticed.

Another option is leaving the frame in place and putting a vinyl replacement window into that existing frame. You would need to add some white PVC stops to the existing frame once you gut the sashes. Typically, you want the 3 1/4" replacement window to sit 2" back from the exterior. Then, you would likely also need to add some type of interior stop to cover up the gap between the window and your casing.

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