The Process of Installing Replacement Windows

What to Expect When Professional Installers Put in Your New Windows

Replacing Windows In a Home
Getty / Johner Images

Installing new replacement windows is a process that most homeowners go through only once or twice in their lifetimes. So it is normal not to have the slightest clue of what happens.  

Following is a highly generalized account of what you might expect when a full-service company replaces your windows.

Should you stay home?

If you can take off time from work or can work from home, do so. Whole-house window installation is highly invasive, affecting every room of your house.

The window company will assure you that you do not need to stay home, but this is always a good idea to keep work in line and to keep an eye on valuables.

Small items of value should be locked away in a cabinet. No matter how good the company's reputation, dishonest employees may sometimes pass through the company.

If you have a home office, ask the foreman if the crew can to that room first, allowing you to get on with your work.

How closely should you monitor the workers?

The best advice for managing a work crew in your home is to be within calling distance if they have questions, but do not hover. You get the best results if the foreman can call on as a resource (which, in practice, will not happen much) while giving the crew space to do their best work.

Before Installers Arrive

  • Touch bases with the salesperson or scheduler and confirm installation date and time.
  • Have unique needs? Place Post-It Notes on the wall next to the windows to be replaced, specifying special instructions. For example: "Please save old window." With most companies this should be unnecessary--you expect that they will get your wishes right, but why take the chance?

    Day 1: Remove Old Windows and Begin Replacement

    • Meet the job foreman and walk through the house, going over each window. This is your chance to catch any errors the window company may have made in ordering your windows.
    • If this is a multi-person crew, one set of installers will bring in windows as another set of installers removes windows.
    • Walk through the house on your own to ensure that installers have put down drop cloths inside. Optional: Add dropcloths outside if you have flower beds that you wish to preserve. Inside, dust barriers might be set up, but this is not really necessary, as window installation does not create much dust.
    • As removal continues, installation proceeds. Ropes for the window sash weights are cut. Weights drop to the bottom of the window pocket. New windows are set in place and leveled with shims. With the window level, it is nailed into place.
    • Installers periodically move old windows outside; the stack of old windows grows.
    • The installers are now in a groove of removing and replacing. There is little need for supervision, but it is always a good idea to touch base with the foreman.
    • Depending on the size of the installation crew, by the end of the day, you might expect up to 10 windows to be done. You do not want any windows to be boarded over. Insist that each window space be replaced with a new window or left in place with the old window.
    • No tools should be left in your house. Rooms are broom-clean. Old windows outside are removed.

    Days 2 and 3: Finish Removal/Replacement; Begin Exterior Cladding of Windows

    • Installers arrive bright and early and continue removing and installing.
    • When the removal team is finished, they begin installing exterior trim on your windows. This exterior trim, or cladding, provides a tight seal against the weather. Depending on your contract, this service may be optional.
    • In most average-sized houses, the second day concludes the window installation process.
    • House is broom-cleaned and windows tested.
    • Work may extend into a third day in order to finish the process of installing the exterior cladding. You will not need to be present for exterior work, though if you have the time available, it is always a good idea to be around.