Three Down, 20+ More To Go

In case you were wondering, no blood was shed and no divorce attorneys called this weekend as a result of installing windows. Actually, it went surprisingly well - and, dare I say, it was EASY. Total time was two hours to install three windows. The only mishap was when I managed to get spray foam in my hair and on my neck and spent 10 minutes with lacquer thinner getting it out before it dried.

I wouldn't say all retrofit window installations are necessarily easy - but given that our current windows are standard aluminum frame and the frames are pretty square and level, it was one of the least complicated projects we've done. Replacing an interior door requires more finesse than installing retrofit windows.

Which leads me to a Chacha Tip for you: Avoid Craigslist/used doors - buy them new.

Really. I know that I have a CL addiction and am cheap but even I have my limits. We bought three 6-panel doors off CL. I was all excited about saving $20 per door - it was short-lived. They have proven to be a royal pain in the arse. The hinge locations were off. The door knob hole was bored a couple inches lower than standard height (so I had to patch the old strike plate area on the frame and move it down). The latch/stike plate was chiseled by someone who might be legally blind - and it's not something you would notice until you go to install the knob latch part and find that the screw has nothing to bite down on (I ended up getting a *long* screw and angling up to get some wood to screw into). It isn't worth the $20 per door. We bought a new door from Lowes and it was like night and day - everything fit correctly.

Anyway, back to the windows. The install process:
  1. First we removed the glass panels which apparently took about 2 milliseconds (I was at the gym and came home to find all the panels out and they - the husband and his buddy - had only been working for maybe 10 minutes).
  2. Next, we did a dry-fit of the windows and they all fit (proves that I can use a tape measure).
  3. Then applied a generous amount of silicone door/window clear caulking to the outside of the frame where the stucco meets the aluminum, leaving out the bottom for "breathing and drainage."
  4. Placed the new window into the frame, checked for level.
  5. Screwed on 3" long decking (weatherproof) screw into the lower left-hand side (since they open right to left this was the easier side to start), not too tightly so that it didn't pull the window too far over - there is about 1/4" of room on each side.
  6. Checked for square and level again (thankfully, there was never an issue with this part).
  7. Shimmed (and shimmed and shimmed - there was about 1.5"-2" of space to shim - this was to again keep the window centered and not have one side get pulled over) and screwed in the sides (3 on each side).
  8. Caulked the outside of the new window where it met the stucco - again, leaving out the bottom for "breathing and drainage."
  9. Carefully, and sparingly, spray-foamed the gap between the new window, the old window, and the wall. I say "sparingly" because if you do too much (even like 50% of the gap) it will end up expanding beyond and you will be taping the window and walls like crazy to avoid the foam bleeding over (this happened with the patio door - we got a little happy with the spray foam - it's not fun getting this stuff off).
  10. Applied peel-and-stick flat white vinyl trim around the inside to cover the gap. Last part was caulking where the trim meets the wall.

New Retrofit Windows

(husband's buddy pressing the window towards the house as I screwed the side with a decking screw)

New Retrofit Windows

(Last one!)

New Retrofit Windows

(shim, shimmery, shim shimmery, shim shim, sheroo)

New Retrofit Windows

(before the flat trim install)

New Retrofit Windows - Finished Product

(finished product)

New Retrofit Windows - Finished Product

New Retrofit Windows - Finished Product

(unruly banana tree)

INew Retrofit Windows - Finished Product

Savings by doing it ourselves? My estimates are $200 per window = $600. From what I've heard, installation costs are as much (and usually more) than the cost of the actual window and materials. A coworker of mine said he paid nearly $20K for like 29 middle-quality windows + installation. We have something like 27 windows in our house and we are going with the cheapest Jeldwen from Home Depot. In our climate where we hardly use heat or the air conditioner, there isn't a compelling reason to get the good stuff. The cost of the 3 windows was $600. We'll be getting back 30% through the energy-efficient tax credit. I'm guessing the whole house, should we do it all ourselves, will cost between $6K and $7K.


  1. Nice job!

    Is it just me, or do you hate spending money on "non-pretty" stuff. I mean, I consider windows and doors like mulch. Necessary, but oh what I could buy with that money.

    I am jealous that your A/C and heater do not ever get overtime like ours.

  2. Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or are you a quasi-brunette right now?

  3. The oil spill gives me sleepless nights. I am transfixed to the screen as if it's 9/11 again..or something close to it. This is environmental terroism in my opinion. I intend to go to the beach this weekend and just sit there and stare because I've always loved where I live and how beautiful our beaches are and I know this will find it's way to us in some form or fashion.

    You should know I read your blog via my phone from bed ...and can't comment via my phone for some reason..but I'm always reading...thinking "man this girl kicks some ass" because you can lay tile and install windows. You rule lady!

  4. They look FANTASTIC!

    I second your Craigslist tip for doors and windows. Another suggestion is to try local suppliers (look in the Yellow Pages or ask your local lumber store) or order directly online. The mark up on doors and windows is usually 20% to 50% at a big box store, and you'll have more selection if you buy direct.


    p.s. How do you get your hair so shiny?!

  5. Excellent job! I'm glad it went well for you (except for the foam-in-the-hair part.)

  6. Thanks for the Craigslist tip! You've probably saved me some headache. Oh, and your diy skills totally impressed me... again.

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