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What is the Difference Between a Low-Cost Window Installation and a Quality Job?


By Gary Collins, Owner of Windows & Beyond

This past Spring, I had the opportunity to inspect a family’s leaky windows. They paid me to come and find out why their windows and doors were leaking every time it rained. What I saw in every window in their home was a problem with the installation. Vinyl windows, whether retrofit or some other form of installation, were not the problem. 


The real problem was inadequate improper installation.

What is the Difference Between a Low-Cos

Most of the time when I find problems with previous installations it has more to do with the installer's technique; it was an installation technique that was fast and inexpensive. Some were just inept.

There are some simple rules for installing “retrofit” window and doors correctly that we always recommend:

Assess the Window Application vs. Location

Installing a retrofit window on a stucco wall that has no weather protection - such as an overhang- can be problematic.  The top of the window has to be sealed tightly and if the seal breaks, water comes in. This will become a maintenance issue that can quickly lead to major problems for the wall.  Also, any cracks in the stucco can allow water to get behind the window fin.  Remember, water in the walls can lead to mold growth and serious health issues.

When an inspector looks at a retrofit project, they want to see the old aluminum frame intact. Some people will remove the frame which breaks the waterproof barrier around the opening. In a retrofit project, the frame must be left intact. Many times I have found the frame removed and at that point the only remedy is to put a “new construction” window back in. This is much more costly but assures a watertight installation and a healthy structure.


Retrofitting a Sliding Door

In sliding doors, most companies will do a “new construction” door because of the cost for custom sizing of the product.  When a door is retrofit, only the sill can be removed. The new door has to fit into the existing frame system.  I have seen a lot of short-cuts to this process and the problems go from simple water intrusion to subfloor damage and more; not something you want to go through.

"High-quality installation means that the trim used is not only exterior grade trim but it is primed on all four sides."

What About Wood Trim?

Whenever wood trim is used around a door or window it is only an architectural dressing and a secondary form of sealant. There must be a water barrier behind that trim. Also keep in mind that a high-quality installation means that the trim used is not only exterior grade trim but it is primed on all four sides. When the ends are cut they should be primed as well.  On older homes we often have to replace the trim around windows because it has rotted - from the back out - because water gets behind it and soaks into the raw wood.

Lastly on any retrofit project the inside perimeter should be foamed to seal off the aluminum frame and provide a solid energy barrier. Then the flat trim is installed to dress out the window.

Always check with your salesperson to be sure they have included all the necessary work in their quote.

Looking for a Window & Door Installation Expert You Can Trust?

As an independent window and door contractor, Windows & Beyond in Concord, CA specializes in creating energy efficient homes in a stress-free environment. We believe that extreme customer service is a better use of our time than chasing down the next job; therefore, you will always find us giving you our undivided attention. This dedication to excellence has made Windows & Beyond the highest rated custom door and window replacement contractor in Contra Costa County for over 30 years.  Have a door or window you need replaced?  If you live in or around the cities of Concord, Alamo, Oakland, BeniciaMartinez, San Ramon, Danville, Rossmoor, Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, contact us for your free consultation today.

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