When searching for the right replacement windows, you must consider many factors. From style to material to cost, it's important to outline your project's wants, goals, and needs.
What is your budget? How long do you want your windows to last? What do you want them to look like?
Just like shopping around for a new washer and dryer or new refrigerator, you look at a wide range of options varying in cost and quality.
You know you can purchase replacement windows at big box hardware stores, like Home Depot and Lowe’s, but…should you?
As a trusted San Antonio window replacement company since 1989, Southwest Exteriors offers custom, high-quality replacement windows for any Texas homeowner.
While we always strive to provide the best windows for our clients, we can’t be biased when educating you on all your replacement window options. We wouldn’t invest in windows from big box stores, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the right option for you.
This article will compare custom windows, like those offered by Southwest Exteriors, to big box windows in cost, styles, installation, and more.
Custom Replacement Windows vs. Big Box Store Windows: Cost
Before investing in any replacement product for your home, one of the first things you think about is the cost, especially in remodeling.
Replacing your home’s windows is not a small project. However, the cost of your new windows varies on many factors, like the size, style, quality, and material.
How much do custom replacement windows cost?
The cost of custom replacement windows fluctuates heavily depending on the quality of the window, manufacturer, installation, and more.
It’s important to remember this cost does not include installation and labor, so you must factor that into the total cost when purchasing windows from a big box store.
How do they compare?
Custom windows are inherently more expensive than windows from a big box store because, well, they are made custom to fit your home.
When calculating the total cost of your project, you must also consider the cost of installation, labor, and service. Most custom window installers will include these costs in the cost-per-window, whereas big box windows only show the baseline cost for the window itself.
When working with a professional contractor, you also won’t have to worry about adding on the cost of other materials, like insulation and caulk. That will be included in the total cost of your project.
If you’re a long-term homeowner looking to invest in high-quality windows that will last, choosing custom windows will be the best option for you.
If you are a house flipper or looking for the least expensive option to replace your windows, big box store windows may be the best option for you, but there are also inexpensive options for working with a contractor as well.
Custom Replacement Windows vs. Big Box Store Windows: Quality
After considering the cost of your replacement window project, you must consider the quality of the windows you want.
Cost and quality go hand in hand when it comes to home products. So, outlining how you want your windows to perform and how long you want them to last will help you determine the quality of the window you want.
What is the quality of custom replacement windows?
The majority of custom replacement windows are made to a higher quality than windows at a big box store. Whether you choose vinyl, fiberglass, wood, or aluminum, custom windows are made to withstand the weather and operate to a higher degree.
However, it is crucial to properly assess the quality of custom windows and where they are coming from. As we mentioned before, there is a wide range of cost and quality.
Even if you choose custom windows from a less expensive company, they will not be as quality as more expensive ones.
For example, vinyl windows are one of the most affordable window types, but they can be made cheap. If you choose a cheap vinyl from a custom company, they still can’t perform as well as you want them to.
Ask your potential contractor what the windows are made of, how they are made, and what features they have to combat your specific climate. This way, you can find the best replacement windows that will last in your home.
What is the quality of big box store windows?
Windows from a big box store are typically less quality than custom windows. But, there are some high-end windows you can purchase at big box stores, like Pella or Andersen, that will provide you with the same quality as custom windows from a contractor.
But if you purchase the least expensive big box window, you cannot expect it to perform and last as well as high-quality custom windows.
Cheap windows will typically warp, crack, and fade quickly. This leads to you needing to repair or replace your windows again in a few short years.
How do they compare?
Overall, custom windows are typically of higher quality than big box windows. However, there are some windows of reputable names you can purchase at big box stores.
Remember, the less expensive a window is, the lower the quality it will be. So, while a window replacement is an expensive investment, consider the quality and how long you want them to last.
If you want replacement windows that will last and consistently perform throughout the years, investing in custom windows is the better option for you.
If you aren’t concerned about quality as much and don’t need your windows to last as long, finding a quality window from a big box store may be right for you.
Custom Replacement Windows vs. Big Box Store Windows: Style and Customizations
You’ve considered the cost and quality of your replacement windows, so now it’s time to get into the fun stuff. What do you want them to look like?
While first factoring in your budget and overall needs for your replacement windows, aesthetics are equally important.
How custom are custom replacement windows?
When you choose to work with a professional window replacement company, the options for your new windows are virtually endless.
Every custom option and style depends on what the window manufacturer offers. If a contractor carries windows from various manufacturers, this gives you many more options than if they only offered one type of window.
With custom windows, you can customize the frame color, trim profile, screen type, glass type, and more. This allows you to create a truly unique window that will fit your home and match your personal style.
How custom are big box store windows?
Shopping for windows at a big box store is similar to looking at a car dealership parking lot - you get what you get.
Most big box windows are not very custom. While they do have different styles, colors, and grid patterns, they are premanufactured as opposed to custom-made for your home.
Simply put, choosing windows from a big box store limits your options in terms of style and customizations. However, if you spend enough time shopping around, you may be able to find the right window that matches your style.
How do they compare?
Overall, choosing custom replacement windows provides you with more style options and abilities to customize your windows to fit your home than big box windows do.
When comparing the two, you must also consider the size of your windows and how they will fit. Custom windows are measured and made to order to fit your window opening down to an eighth of an inch. This is because no opening is truly square due to the foundation shifting over time.
This means if you purchase a cookie-cutter window from the big box store, it may not fit correctly, which could lead to poor installation practices and more issues in the long run.
Shopping around for big box windows to fit your specific needs also takes a lot more time and effort, so that is important to consider before diving into this project.
If you want truly custom windows that fit your home and match your style, going the custom window route will ensure your needs are met, and you will be happy with your windows.
If you don’t need your windows to have many bells and whistles or don’t have any strict custom requirements, choosing a simple window from a big box store may be the right option for you.
Custom Replacement Windows vs. Big Box Store Windows: Installation
Choosing the right replacement window is the first step to ensuring a successful outcome. The next piece of the puzzle is installing the window to guarantee their quality and longevity.
Even if you choose the highest quality windows on the market, if they are not installed correctly, they will not last.
How are custom windows installed?
If you choose to work with a professional replacement window contractor, you get custom windows with professional installation. This means you won’t have to worry about gathering other installation materials or finding someone to install them.
But it’s important to properly educate yourself on how windows are installed and ask potential contractors the right questions.
Understanding proper installation practices allows you to know whether a potential contractor will provide you with a high-quality installation or not.
How are big box windows installed?
When you purchase windows from a big box store, the installation becomes a question mark.
Are you purchasing them to install them yourself? Are you planning to look for an outside installer to hire? Are you exploring options provided by the big box store?
Considering any of these options can be risky. The last thing you want is to spend thousands of dollars on new windows only for them to be installed incorrectly.
Just like when vetting professional custom window companies, you must also educate yourself and ask the right questions when searching for someone to install your windows.
How do they compare?
Both custom and big box store windows require adequate education on best installation practices for replacement windows.
When choosing custom replacement windows with a professional contractor, you worry less about the installation. However, you must still choose the right company carefully to ensure your windows are installed correctly.
When you purchase windows from a big box store, installation is not included. This means you must then find a way to get them installed, which can lead to issues in the future if they are not installed properly.
If you want your windows to perform and last as long as they should, choosing custom windows with professional installation may be right for you.
If you want a DIY project or more budget-friendly window installation, purchasing big box store windows and finding an alternative installation solution may be the right option.
Custom Replacement Windows vs. Big Box Store Windows: Warranty
One of the final things you must consider when choosing replacement windows is the warranty that comes with them.
Replacement windows come with a manufacturing warranty, which covers the basics, like the frame and glass. Then, if you work with a professional company, they will have a warranty covering their installation.
What warranty do custom windows come with?
Because you typically get custom windows from a professional window replacement company, your windows will have a manufacturer warranty and installation warranty.
Similarly, the installation warranty will cover the company's workmanship. So, if anything is wrong with your windows and it is an installation issue, the company that installed them should cover it under their warranty.
This means your custom windows will come with a high-quality manufacturer’s warranty and installation warranty to protect your windows against potential damage, manufacturing defects, or installation issues.
What warranty do big box windows come with?
Big box store windows should also come with a manufacturer's warranty when purchased. These warranties may cover manufacturing defects and specific damage to the frame, depending on the material.
However, because you only purchase the windows at the store, you have no installation warranty. This means if you install your windows yourself or hire a local handyman to install them, you most likely won’t have any warranty coverage on the installation.
So, if anything happens with your windows, you will be paying out of pocket to fix them.
How do they compare?
Overall, custom replacement windows have a better warranty for both the windows and installation, depending on the company you work with.
When purchasing windows from a big box store, you do not receive any installation warranty, even if you hire a handyman. But, if you choose the installation services provided by the big box store, they may have a decent installation warranty for your new windows.
No matter which option you choose, reading the fine print and understanding the conditions of the warranty is important to know how long your windows are covered and what the company will provide in case of damage.
If you want to invest in high-quality windows that are backed by a quality installation for decades, choosing custom windows will be the best option.
If you aren’t concerned with the longevity of your windows and want an affordable option, choosing big box store windows may be better for you.
Custom Replacement Windows vs. Big Box Store Windows: Which Is Right For You?
Now that you know how custom windows and big box store windows compare in cost, look, quality, installation, and warranty, you have a better understanding of their major differences and which is best for you.
When shopping for any remodeling product, considering your wants, goals, and needs is the first step to finding the right product for you. The last thing you want is to invest in the wrong product that won’t meet your needs in the long run.
If you are a long-term homeowner or live in your forever home and want to invest in high-quality windows that will last and match your style, choosing custom replacement windows from a reputable, local company is the right choice.
If you are a short-term homeowner or house flipper who isn’t concerned about having the highest quality windows or a long-lasting warranty, affordable windows from a big box store may be better for you.
Choosing the right home windows all comes down to what you want and what your home needs.
Researching different window types, styles, customization options, installation options, and cost ranges will help you decide what windows are best for you. Then, you can find the right company to trust with your home and provide you with a successful window replacement.
Still not sure if custom or cookie-cutter windows are right for you? Check out this article that outlines 12 things to customize on your replacement windows.This way, you can better understand all you can customize and have a better idea of whether you want custom windows or not.