While windows have gotten a lot of upgrades in the last few decades, the installation is still basically the same. However, it’s normal to have questions since most of us only need to replace our windows once or twice. Whether you are still thinking about buying or you have already placed an order, here is everything you need to know about the window installation process. Plus, we look at how long window replacement takes, what to expect during installation, and offer tips to make the entire process go smoothly.
What Is the Window Installation Process?
The following steps cover the basic window installation process. While the exact process will vary depending on the installer and the size of the work crew, this covers the main steps in replacing most standard windows.
Most single- and double-hung, awning and slider windows will follow this process closely. However, replacing existing bay, bow, casement, garden, and picture windows will vary slightly. Installing new windows will vary depending on the size and style.
Also, large crews might work on several windows simultaneously, while smaller crews may do one at a time. Your installation company can explain specific details related to your window replacement before starting.
1. Pre-Installation Walkthrough
Window installation starts with a walkthrough to review the entire job. The project lead will double-check the measurements on the windows and verify they have the correct replacements. They will also explain specific steps and answer any last-minute questions you have. Most companies perform this walkthrough on the installation day, but some might do it a day or two in advance.
2. Preparation and Setup
Next, they will put down dropcloths to protect your home and keep the work area clean. Inside, they will cover the floor around the window. In some cases, they will even cover furniture. Outside, they will cover the area immediately around your home to protect landscaping and catch debris that might fall during the process.
3. Remove Existing Trim and Windows
The installation then starts with removing the existing trim and windows. Exterior trim is cut or pried off your home, then the old windows are cut out of the window frame. Old shims are thrown away, and insulation is cut back to allow clear access to the window opening.
4. Clean and Repair the Window Opening
With the old windows gone, the opening is cleaned with a shop vac to remove dirt and debris. If necessary, they will repair the structural frame of the window. These are usually outlined in the original quote. However, sometimes they need to make last-minute repairs.
5. Check for Level and Dry-Fit
Then they will check that the window frame is level and dry-fit the window into the opening to ensure it fits properly. Each window should be just slightly smaller than the opening. The space leaves room for the installer to keep the window plumb, level, and square.
6. Install the Windows
After the dry-fit, they will install the window. They apply caulk, then place the window in the opening and screw it in place. Depending on the size and style of the window, they will use anywhere from four to twelve screws.
7. Check for Plumb, Level, and Square
With the window in place, the installer will check that the window is plumb, level, and square. Plumb means it is straight up and down, level means it is straight side to side, and square means that the corners are even. They will use shims to make minor adjustments.
8. Seal Gaps and Install Trim
Then they will caulk the inside of the window to prevent air leaks. Outside, they will add installation around the window. Finally, they install the trim and caulk around the outside of the window and trim.
9. Clean Up Around the Windows
Lastly, the installers will clean up around your windows. They will usually shop vac the drop clothes, then remove them. Next, they will vacuum the window sill and wipe the entire area. Lastly, they will sweep or vacuum the floor underneath the window.
What To Expect During Replacement Window Installation
Installing replacement windows is a straightforward process, but there are a few things you should expect.
- You Need To Be Home – One of the homeowners should always stay at home during the installation process. While you could have a friend housesit for you to let the installers in, they won’t be able to make decisions if there is a problem during installation.
- Be Prepared for Loud Noises – Replacing your windows is basically construction, so expect to hear power saws, drills, and the occasional banging.
- They Will Make Frequent Trips In and Out – Expect your installers to go in and out often to ensure your windows are installed perfectly. Depending on the size of the crew, this could be as many as four to six trips in and out per window.
- Outside Air Will Come In – For ten or fifteen minutes per window, there will be a hole in your home so expect that air will come in from outside. That air might also include insects and dirt as well.
Tips for Making the Window Installation Process Go Smoothly
While your installers will handle everything related to the windows, there are several things you can do to make sure the entire process goes smoothly.
- Remove your window treatments, including blinds, curtains, and drapes.
- Make a clear path to each window, moving large furniture away from the window opening.
- Cover furniture with sheets or tablecloths to limit dust and debris.
- Move heirlooms and important possessions to a safe area in the center of the room.
- Take down anything on the wall to prevent them from accidentally falling during installation.
- Keep pets in a secure area to keep them from getting in the way of the installers.
- Keep small children away from the work area or even take them out of the house entirely.
- If you have a security system, turn off window sensors or even temporarily disable the system.
- Park your car down the street to keep the driveway clear for the installation crew.
- Let your neighbors know about the installation so they aren’t surprised by the noise.
How Long Does Installing Replacement Windows Take?
Installing replacement windows usually takes one to two days, depending on the number of windows you have. Depending on the type of window, installation usually takes 30 to 60 minutes each. In most cases, your installer can replace between 12 and 15 windows in one day.
Structural repairs or significant changes to the window size or shape will also take longer. For example, installing a new bay, bow, or picture window can take the better part of a day each. Your windows installer will explain the exact installation timelines for all replacement projects.
While most windows installations only take one day, that doesn’t mean you can buy them today and have them installed tomorrow. Nearly all windows are made to order, and manufacturing can take several weeks or more.
Once they are made, the window company will need to schedule your installation. Expect that the entire process will take anywhere from four to eight weeks from your date of purchase. Key factors that determine how long it will take include:
- Size of the Windows – Larger windows and glass panes take more time to manufacture.
- Energy Efficiency Options – Energy-efficient coatings and options will add to the build time.
- Material and Product Availability – Material shortages and availability can cause delays.
- Window Frame Material – Wood and composite frames usually take longer to make than. vinyl and fiberglass
- How Busy They Are – Busier companies usually have longer lead times on new windows.
- The Time of Year – Windows can take longer during certain times of the year because of the potential for weather delays.