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Amid the storms, new windows sound good

Hirschwindows_3As wind slams against the old, rattling, leaky, single-pane windows in my house (not pictured here), a tempest brews inside about the merits of keeping the curtains closed in the daytime to keep the house warmer (which is about the most depressing idea I’ve heard in a long time).

And so getting new, snug, dual-pane, highly insulating windows is starting to sound pretty good to me. I’ve visited dozens, maybe hundreds, of remodeled homes with new windows and homeowners report the difference is drastic in how comfortable and quiet their homes have become.

And I mentioned recently, Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report calculates that in the Los Angeles area,window replacements actually return more than they cost upon the sale of a house.

So the question is: What’s involved in replacing windows?

I came across a fascinating series of books by R.S. Means that shows how much remodeling projects cost, item by item of material and hour by hour of labor.

Here’s what Exterior Home Improvements Costs said was involved for an expert to replace a 3-foot-by-5-foot window, parts and labor:

Demolition, remove existing window sashes and interior trim: 0.4 hour labor
Window, vinyl replacement unit, 3′ by 5′, insulated glass: 1 hour labor, $774
Caulk exterior perimeter: 16 linear ft., 1 hour labor, $2.88
Insulate voids as necessary: 16 sq. ft., 0.1 hour labor, $6.34
Install window trim: 1 opening, 0.6 hour labor, $36
Paint, interior, trim, primer and two coats, brushwork: 16 linear ft., 0.4 hour labor, $1.54

Totals: Labor: 3 hours, Materials: $820.76

And, the piece concludes, a contractor’s fee for this job would be: $1,340.

The book says this project is not recommended for DIY beginners, and that experienced do-it-yourselfers should add 50% to the labor estimates.

Are these numbers accurate? It’s hard to say. They are based on good data, but all situations are different. And if you’re talking about breaking out exterior stucco that needs to be patched, and redoing flashing, those are whole other stories. And here’s something I know to be true: Measuring the exact size of your windows to order new ones is difficult. Scan the classified ads sometime and look for new windows for sale with this notation: "Ordered wrong size." If you’re going to be replacing several, buy them from a local store that will come out and measure for you. Then, if the sizes are wrong, it’s on them.

Some other books in the R.S. Means renovation cost series are:

Interior Home Improvement Costs
Kitchen & Bath Project Costs
Home Addition & Renovation Project Costs

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