What You Need to Know About Replacing Your Windows and Doors

It may seem like a minor detail, but think again: Windows and doors can make or break a space.

Renovation Guide - Windows and Doors
Photo: Getty Images

When it comes to replacing your windows and doors, you'll know when it's time. The doors might be too drafty or the windows may not let enough light in. Whatever the reason, as you start the replacement process—studying the parts of a window and learning about types of window glass and doors—you'll realize how new windows and a new door or two can completely revitalize a space.

It's more than just getting rid of too-thin glass or a cracked frame. New windows and doors change the way light, sound, and fresh air move in and out of a home. They can completely reshape the feel and smell of the place, and transform how people move through it.

The best kinds of windows and doors—such as those from Marvin, which takes a lifestyle-centered and design-first approach to producing windows and doors—serve as subtle design elements that affect your home's atmosphere. They can help a room feel spa-like, more organic, or any other vibe you're hoping to create.

If you're embarking on selecting windows or doors for your home, use our guidelines to help you make the right choice and make your reno project as easy and attractive as possible.

Replacing Windows

Replacing Windows and Doors Guide - windows
Courtesy of Marvin

Before You Begin

Before you do anything, think about what your priorities are:

  • If you want an unobstructed view, opt for a fixed (or picture) window ready-made for hours of peaceful gazing.
  • If you want air to circulate freely, take a look at a casement window that opens fully.
  • If you want low maintenance, lean toward maintenance-free vinyl over wooden frames that need to be scraped and painted periodically.

Know Your Materials

Select your window frame from four main materials:

  • Wood is beautiful and lets you match the interior trim to your molding and baseboards. On the other hand, it can warp, is susceptible to rotting or destruction by wood-boring insects, and is generally expensive.
  • Clad windows―typically, a wood frame coated with aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass―stand up well to the elements and don't require painting.
  • Aluminum windows are lightweight, and rust- and mildew-resistant. They're favored by architects for their clean lines and thin frames, which can make your home feel more open.
  • Vinyl, the most popular material, is durable and moisture-resistant, which makes them especially suitable for coastal and humid climates. It's a breeze to care for but shouldn't be painted.

Keep in Mind

Fire codes require bedrooms and basements to have at least one window large enough to escape through. Proper installation is critical, so hire a licensed contractor. Installation prices vary greatly.

Replacing Doors

Replacing Windows and Doors Guide - doors

Before You Begin

For accurate results, have a pro measure the height, width, and thickness of your original door. Standard thickness ranges from 1⅜ to 2¼ inches.

If you plan on a larger door or want to add sidelights (windows on the sides of the door), it'll require modifying the size of the frame. Brick or stucco openings are difficult (translation: expensive) to change, but a wood frame can be adjusted fairly easily.

Know Your Materials

When deciding on a door type, think about maintenance:

  • Consider a wood door if you don't mind applying a fresh coat of paint or stain every few years. It can be fit with glass inserts, clavos (rustic iron nails), or a speakeasy opening (a tiny door-within-a-door that lets you peek outside without revealing your pjs to the world).
  • Fiberglass looks like wood, offers excellent insulation, and is easy to care for.
  • Steel comes in many colors and can be repainted, but it can also dent.
  • A glass door allows extra light into the home and helps make the space feel part of its surroundings, but is smudge-prone.

Also, take into account the location of the door. A wood door that faces south is subject to the sun, which can cause its finish to fade or crack. Since stained doors take a beating when exposed to the sun, painted wood is better.

Keep in Mind

Think about which way you want the door to open. When ordering, specify left or right hand, which refers to the side the handle or knob is on.

Think about hardware, too. If you tend to lose house keys, you may prefer a door with a smart lock, which locks and unlocks via a code or your phone. Door installation starts at about $150.

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