A close-up of a window with white trim on the grids with a gold lock piece. The glass is slightly worn and old looking.

As you open your window above the sink to help ventilate the kitchen, you notice a skinny crack stemming from the bottom left corner. You dismiss it and figure it can’t be doing any harm. 

A few weeks later, you look back and notice the crack has grown, almost reaching the other side of the window. Now, this can’t be good.

You know you should get it fixed but aren’t sure exactly what you need. 

Can I just fix the crack? Do I need to replace the glass? Do I need to replace the entire window? These are all viable questions you may have. 

Video: "Full window replacement vs. Glass-only replacement: Which is right for you?" Link Below

Southwest Exteriors has been an established window replacement contractor since 1989. While we only specialize in full window replacements, not repairs or glass replacements, we’ve encountered plenty of homeowners who are only looking for a glass-only replacement to fix their problem. And when that happens, we’re honest in telling them whether they should truly consider a whole window replacement or if they can get by with just replacing the glass. 

The truth is that not every window problem warrants a total replacement. We want you to understand the difference between a window replacement and glass replacement and when you might need either. 

It is important for you to know the difference between a window and glass-only replacement so you can find the right contractor to do the right job for you. If you only need a glass replacement, then you can save money by not having to pay for a full window replacement.

This article will explain the critical differences between a full window replacement and a glass replacement. We will also outline when you can just get a glass replacement versus needing a full window replacement. 

After reading, you will know whether you need a full window replacement or just replace your glass. 

What are the key differences between a full window replacement and a glass replacement? 

One of the main reasons homeowners need a glass repair is because of a crack or broken glass. However, when this occurs, sometimes you might think, “Should I just get my full window replaced?”

If you have relatively new windows, getting the glass replaced might be your best option. If you have older windows and notice more problems than just cracked glass, you might consider replacing the entire window. 

The three biggest differences between a glass replacement and a full window replacement are the cost, warranties, and solutions they offer. 

1. Cost of a window replacement vs. glass replacement 

The cost to replace your window glass is less expensive than the cost to replace the entire window. However, depending on what you want to get out of your project, the price may not be an influential factor.

For a full window replacement, you’ll pay on average $1,000-1,600 per window for a standard 3 ft. x 5 ft. window. 

For just a glass replacement, the average cost is $200-300 for one sash. The price is for a standard 3 ft. x 5 ft. window with two sashes.

Like the cost of a complete window replacement, replacing the glass depends on a few variables. Things that affect the cost of a glass replacement are the size of the window, the number of panes to be replaced, and the number of sashes to be replaced. 

When factoring in glass versus window replacement cost, consider whether you are looking for a long-term solution or a short-term fix. If you’re experiencing more problems than just cracked glass, it may be more worth it for you to spend a little more to replace the entire window. 

2. The warranty of a window replacement vs. glass replacement 

With any home improvement project, your new product is going to come with a warranty. This warranty assures what is covered to replace or repair your new product and for how long. 

For full-window replacements, most window manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty for all window parts. This can include glass, but not always. This means, typically, your windows are covered against issues caused by manufacturing defects for as long as you live in your home. However, each manufacturer has its warranty guidelines, coverages, and exclusions. 

For glass-only replacements, the typical lifetime of the warranty offered is five years. This means that if your glass cracks or breaks, it will only be covered for five years. Again, each manufacturer and contractor offer their warranties, but this is the industry average. 

This is another crucial factor to consider when thinking of a glass or window replacement.

3. Will a glass-only replacement actually fix my problem?

When you’re experiencing problems with your window, such as the locks, balance, or frame, a glass replacement will not fix any of those issues.

A glass replacement will only provide a solution for cracked or broken glass or sometimes fogginess between panes. 

If you are experiencing other issues around your window, you may need a full window replacement. 

A full window replacement is necessary if you are experiencing seal failure, which causes water and air to leak around the window, issues with locks, balances, sashes, rotting around the frame, or other problems caused by a poor installation. 

To sum all that up, the key factors you should consider when thinking about a glass or window replacement are the cost, warranties, and solutions they provide for your problem. 

When should I get my whole windows replaced? 

Now that you know the main differences to consider between a full window and glass replacement, the next step is to determine whether you need a full window replacement or just a glass replacement. 

Three common signs tell you you need a full window replacement: feeling drafts, fogginess between panes, and visual deterioration. 

1. Feeling drafts

The first telltale sign you need a window replacement is if you feel a draft when near your window. This is caused by seal failure, deterioration in the caulk, or improper installation and allows air to move between the inside and outside of your home. 

If the window is not measured to fit the exact size of the frame, it is not going to fit correctly.  This means there will be gaps around the window filled with caulk or foam that will not seal the window properly. 

Drafts in your windows also mean they are not insulating your home as well as they should, letting heat in during the summer and cold air in during the winter. 

2. Fogginess between glass panes

Fogginess or haziness between glass panes is the second sign you should replace your windows. This can also be caused by seal failure, allowing excess moisture to build up between the panes with no easy way to escape, causing visual impairment. 

Fog between the glass is not the same as condensation on the outside of a window. Condensation is caused by excess moisture buildup on the outside or inside of the window. This condensation has room to evaporate or can be wiped away. 

This is also an indication that your windows are not insulating properly. Depending on the range of fogginess and cause, sometimes, you may only need to get the glass replaced. 

3. Visual deterioration

The third most common sign you should get your windows replaced is visual deterioration. This can include rotting or cracking around the frame or peeling caulk.

In some cases, a broken part, like a lock or hardware, can just be repaired or replaced without replacing the entire window. If you find your window will not stay up when you open it, this means the balance is broken. This would warrant a window replacement. 

Performing a visual inspection will allow you to determine if you notice any drafts, fogginess between panes, or visual deterioration. All of these signs lead to underlying issues like energy deficiency, water leakage, and rot. 

Now that you know the most common signs you need a full window replacement, when do you only need to replace the glass? 

When do I need a glass-only window replacement?

If you notice something wrong with your window glass, you may wonder if you need to replace the entire window or just replace the glass. 

The most common signs you only need a glass replacement are cracks in glass, foggy panes, or looking to spruce up the look of your windows. 

1. Cracked or broken glass

The most common symptom you need a glass replacement is cracked or broken glass. A hairline crack may not seem significant, but it can grow and lead to breaking the entire pane.

If a crack or broken glass is the only issue you experience with your window, then you can just get a glass replacement. However, if you have older windows, you will want to inspect them for any other signs that you may need a full replacement. 

2. Fogginess between panes

Minor fogginess between panes may warrant only a glass replacement. However, foggy windows are typically caused by seal failure or improper installation. 

If only minor seal failure around the glass allows moisture between the panes, then a glass replacement and proper seal can fix that. 

If the window were installed improperly, like out of square, causing fogginess between panes, then a full window replacement would be your best option for a long-term solution. 

3. If you’re looking to give your windows a newer look

Whether you're looking to sell your home soon or just want to make the front of your house look shiny and new, a glass replacement may be the option for you. 

If you do not experience any other symptoms with your windows, like drafts, rot, or deterioration, then a glass replacement would be the less expensive option to give your home an upgrade. 

Similarly, if you notice the glass of one or two windows looking dingier than the others, a glass replacement would be a simple solution for that brand new look rather than a full window replacement. 

Now that you know when you need a full window replacement or a glass replacement, you can find the right contractor to do the right job. 

Is a glass-only replacement or a whole window replacement right for you?

Before you do anything, your first step is to determine whether you need a full window replacement or just glass replacement is important to save time and money. Some contractors only do full window replacements, while others offer glass replacements. 

Identifying the problem with your window is the first step to knowing which type of replacement you need. Then, you can find the right contractor that can do the job you’re looking for. 

With Southwest Exteriors, we only offer full window replacements, not glass replacements. Even if you think you need a window replacement, you may not need our services. 

Whether you’re looking for a full window replacement or glass-only replacement, you’ve probably got a ton more questions you need answered. This article will walk you through the answers to the top 21 most frequently asked questions about new windows