Step #5 – What to Expect During the Installation Process. Can I Do This?
Another one of the reasons most people have given up on the replacement window process is it just seems way too complicated. At first glance it seems like a pretty simple home improvement, but once they start to learn a little about the process and the steps involved, and the risks you take, they usually either give up or wait until they can afford to pay someone to do the install and take on all that risk.
The purpose of this lesson is to give you a feel for the installation process. After finishing this step you should have a pretty good feel as to whether or not replacing your own windows is something you’ll want to take on or something you’d rather not mess with at this time. Because the replacement window process is such a mystery, many people ask what level of home improvement is it. Is it simple or difficult?
The problem with that question is that it depends on your experience. So I try to equate the process with something they might be more familiar with. As far as a difficulty scale, I would equate replacing windows with installing a new roof on your home, or possibly re-doing the flooring in your entire home.
If these are two projects you would take on yourself, then you should have no problem installing your windows yourself. If both of those seem a bit past your skill level, read a little bit further and you should be able to decide whether this is something you want to do.
TOPICS – There are three topics we will be discussing in this chapter. After learning all of these items, you should have a feel for the installation process, and the mystery behind replacement window should be unveiled so you can make an informed decision.
The three topics are
- Helpful Hints
We will discuss each topic separately.
TOPIC 1 – ORDERING
One thing you need to remember is once your windows show up, they are yours forever. There is no returning custom size replacement windows. They were custom made to your measurements and cannot be used on any other home, so no manufacturer is going to take them back. Even professional installers get the measurements wrong sometimes and they measure windows all day every day for sometimes as long as 20 years and yes, they still get the measurements wrong sometimes.
Sure they have lots of other customers that they can try to use the window on later down the line, but with the vast array of options, window types, colors and manufacturers, 99 times out of 100 the window sits around for so long that it is no longer usable and ends up getting thrown in the trash.
So first and foremost, make sure your measurements are correct before you order them. Make sure you have triple checked each and every item over and over to make sure it is correct. Your best bet is to take the measurements, then wait a few days and measure them again on a separate sheet of paper, going in the opposite direction, then compare the two results. This is the best way to double check something. If you check your measurements right after you take them, using the same sheet, most mistakes will go unnoticed.
There are companies out there who will come and measure your windows for you, (for a fee) even if you plan to install them yourself. The great thing about this is if one of the windows is wrong, they are required to take it back and order you a new one; this puts the risk of ordering windows on them, instead of taking that risk yourself. One incorrect window will cost you more than the service to have them measured. You will find more information on this in lesson 6.
If you are installing your own windows, make sure you select all of the options you want before you order them. If you are unsure about a particular option such as glass type of color, do not order your windows yet. Once they are ordered you cannot make any changes even if it’s a few hours after.
You see once the order is placed, certain things are put into production that cannot be reversed. Glass is cut to maximize the usage of a sheet of glass, so for your window order one piece of glass could get cut on Tuesday and another not until a week later, because the computer takes all glass sizes currently on order and maximizes the amount of glass they can get out of each sheet. This holds true for all parts of the windows, so as you can see, once the order is released, it cannot be changed.
Before you order your windows, ask the manufacturer for a corner sample of the window. Once you receive it, you can walk around to each window and simulate an installation, to see if there are going to be any problems. Simply open a window all the way, and then slip in a corner sample exactly how you will be installing the window. The only difference is you are only using a small corner of the window so you can sometimes foresee problems that you may not have noticed before. Many times, blinds or shutters will have to be removed and sometimes thrown away because they will not work anymore with the new windows. Make sure you put the sample in all 4 corners of your existing window.
The secret to making sure your measurements are correct is to double check them later, in a different direction, use a corner sample and when in doubt go smaller.
Yes that’s right; if you are in doubt about a certain measurement, go smaller. Sure you want the windows to fit as tight as possible, but I would rather have a window that is 1/2” smaller than a window that I can’t use at all. When in doubt, choose the smaller measurement. After installation, the windows are sealed up tight anyway, so you don’t have to worry about improper insulation because your window is a little too small.
Also don’t forget that the window will need some adjustment once it is installed. The biggest mistake do it yourselfers make is to order their new windows with too tight of a fit because they want the most energy efficient installation. The problem is, once the window is installed they can no longer, make any adjustments to the window and now they have a window that won’t work properly, and blame the manufacturer instead of the measurement.
At You Can Do It Windows, we do offer a more detailed measurement instruction booklet that is way too detailed to include in this e-mail. If you are interested in purchasing this booklet, drop us an e-mail and I will send you the ordering info. You will also find more information about it in the 6th step of the workshop.
TOPIC 2 – INSTALLATION
One thing that causes me the most uneasiness in teaching people how to replace their own windows is safety. I have had too many trained professional installers get hurt replacing windows, so it concerns me when homeowners take on this project and I am concerned for their safety. Therefore I have to take some time here to talk about some safety measures you should be taking.
At no time whatsoever, should you ever come in contact with a window, glass or door, with the intent to make a repair, without wearing gloves. Do not adjust a window, remove a window, install a window, do not even go near them without gloves on.
The most dangerous time during the replacement window process is when you are removing the old windows. This is where most injuries occur. Old windows are brittle, weatherworn, and are on their last leg as it is, so you can have no idea what is going to happen once you remove the windows. I’ve seen glass untouched by anything, simply explode right there in the window frame for no reason at all. Can you imagine what could happen when you start to beat on, twist and manipulate the window frames to get them out?
During removal, you should at the bare minimum, have gloves, eye protection and long sleeve shirt and pants on. I would recommend buying glass proof sleeves for the removal process if it’s in the budget. The money you save doing it yourself, should allow you to buy some proper protective equipment. Besides you can always sell it on eBay if you never plan on using it again.
If you ever use any type of saw, please wear gloves that are designed to be used with that type of blade. Most gloves will tell you what type of protection they will provide if needed. The worst thing you can do is wear incorrect gloves that give you a false sense of security and have an accident that could’ve been easily avoided buying the correct type of glove.
If your home is two stories, please use proper ladder safety when it is in use. There is tons of information on the web about safety, please look into it before starting any home improvement project.
There are so many step to the installation process that we can’t give you complete installation instructions in this e-mail workshop. We can however give you a few pointers to keep you on the right track. If you are interested in our complete installation instructions, send us an e-mail, we can send ordering info. There will also be more information, in the 6th step of the workshop.
First, I would plan on being able to do 2 or 3 windows in a day. Probably the first two will take all day as you round the learning curve. After that, you should be able to get three or four windows a day installed. Professional installers will install 15 in a day but remember, that’s all they do, all day, everyday for 10 years straight. If you are a CPA, how long do you think it would take window installers to do a corporate tax return?
Besides you don’t want to rush yourself, and many times you might find yourself having to remove a window and start again from scratch. Never remove more than 2 windows at a time, to make sure 9pm doesn’t roll around and you still have open holes in your home.
Next, new windows will need to have a complete support along the bottom of the window. You cannot use shims every 12 inches or so like when using aluminum windows or wood windows. Vinyl windows will need a continuous support along the bottom. I recommend using a piece of MDF cut to fit the exact width, height and length of the void the new window will leave underneath.
Use interior caulking to seal the interior of the window and exterior caulking for the exterior. I’ve seen people make this mistake several times. Interior caulking used on the exterior of your home will turn yellow and exterior caulking used on the inside costs 4 times as much and it is very hard to clean up off of interior surfaces. Make sure you buy two types of caulking for your windows. Also, if you order colored windows, you will need to ask the manufacturer which type of caulking will match the window you are purchasing. Some colors of windows do not have any caulking at the home store that matches.
A neat little trick to use to make sure your warranty stays in effect after your installation is the following. Call the manufacturer and ask them to send a representative to your home once the installation is complete. Leave the interior trim exposed so they can expect the installation. If the manufacturer’s rep doesn’t have any complaints, document on your warranty form that the representative was at your home on such and such date and inspected the installation and remarked that it was installed to manufacturer’s recommendations. This way they cannot back out on warranty claims, later on down the line.
Please make sure that the original window shows no signs of leakage. If you are replacing your windows because the old ones leak, replacement flanged windows will not solve your problem. Replacement or Retro-fit windows are design with the assumption that the original window is water tight, and the new window uses the existing waterproofing in its design. If you have a leaking window, you need to address the leak first, and then move forward with your replacement window.
The only exception would be is if the existing window sash is leaking, in that case, replacement windows will solve that problem. You can purchase AAMA approved installation instructions at www.aamanet.org. They are brief and designed for the professional but can be helpful to the do it yourselfer. They can also give a bit more information with diagrams and such to help you decide whether you want to take the installation on yourself.
TOPIC 3 – SOME HELPFUL HINTS
I usually recommend that people order just one window at first. That way they can install that one window and get past all the bugs and kinks on that one window. Choose an inconspicuous room such as the laundry room or a window that faces the side of the house where no one will see. This is a great way to avoid risk, try one first, if you don’t like it, you don’t have a garage full of windows that you will have to hire someone else to install.
Pledge. Once your window installation is complete use pledge on the sill tracts and along the sides if you have single or double hung windows. They will help your windows operate smoothly especially if you didn’t install them exactly plumb, level and square.
Always ask for a hand if you get in a situation where you find yourself stuck and don’t know what to do. Call the manufacturer and ask to speak to the installation manager or one of the engineers. There are some adjustments with windows that seem counter intuitive. If you can explain to them what the problem is they might have a simple solution for you that you never thought of.
You can also e-mail us Please feel free to send a picture with your question, so we can answer it correctly the first time.
The last helpful hint is to just take your time. Most mistakes and injuries occur when people try to rush through a job that they have no experience doing. Just take your time with it and everything will work out fine.