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Why Are Windows So Expensive? [12 Reasons 2023]

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Upgrading your home with new windows for greater energy efficiency, value, aesthetics, and protection is a worthy investment in a home.

However, the cost to do so is going to be thousands of dollars.

The window frame materials and glass type are the main causes of expensive windows. Installation factors related to the complexity of the job, insulation, and lead abatement increase cost. Additionally, the style and design, size, customization, and moveable parts are also factored in. Manufacturing practices, shipping, labor, and inflation along with brand competition, customer service, and warranties contribute to the overall cost.

This article will show you in greater depth why these costs are so high for windows.

1. Window Frame Materials

There are several options when choosing the material that the window frame is made out of.  

This table details the types of frames that hold the glass:

Type of MaterialsDetails
Vinyl (Plastic)

  • Cheapest

  • Weaker materials

  • Lightweight

  • Hurricane-certified

  • Not as secure in cases of theft

  • Low maintenance

  • Corrosion-resistant

  • Longevity 

Wood

  • Lower durability

  • Higher maintenance (needs sealing and glazing every few years to prevent rotting)

  • Not as durable in extreme weather or theft

  • Aesthetically pleasing

Fiberglass

  • Made out of glass fibers and resin

  • Handles temperature changes very well

  • Resists warping and decay

  • Durable

  • Longevity

  • Cheaper than wood, but more expensive than vinyl

Aluminum

  • Strong and lightweight

  • Longevity

  • Hurricane and security certifications

  • Cheaper than steel

  • Low maintenance

Steel

  • Strongest

  • Heaviest

  • Longevity

  • Hurricane and security certifications

  • Higher cost (for the time and effort to “mold” it)

  • Low maintenance

The cost can vary due to brand and local prices, but generally aluminum and steel are the most expensive.

2. Window Glass Logistics

Window glass is offered in compositions of double or triple panes that can provide the following benefits:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Noise reduction
  • Security (hurricane or ballistic)

Windows are fortified by combining tempered, heat, or annealed glass with polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or polycarbonate. The technique used depends upon what the homeowner is looking for in regards to the above mentioned benefits. 

The glass is then tested to make sure it will stand up against hurricanes or bullets, for example. 

Additionally, krypton and argon gasses are used to fill in the space between panes. This provides invisible insulation to reduce the transfer of temperature and energy loss out of the window.  For example, Energy Star-certified windows lower bills on average 12% per month.

Regardless, it takes time and equipment, and therefore, money to make the desired composition of glass.

3. Window Style And Design

People can order single- or double-hung windows, casement or sliding, or basement windows.

Windows that crank open at an angle, versus windows that open in a sliding motion, generally cost more. This is largely in part due to the mechanisms used to make the window move and seal tightly when closed.

Some window companies offer material parts that are more durable for longevity, but then also offer lower durability options at a lower cost. This allows the customer to choose what they want.

Windows with more intricate designs or glass pieces that curve or are colored will cost more.

4. Fixed Vs. Operational

If the window does not open at all, it will have less functional parts and hardware. Conversely, operational windows that open have screens to keep bugs and debris out, moveable parts so they can slide up and down or out, and locking features.

Operational windows also need more material for making the frame, construction, and testing to ensure it works.

Both movable and unmovable windows may have pane inserts between the glass pieces for decorative purposes. 

Generally, the more parts and greater functionality that a window has, the higher the cost.

5. Made-To-Order

Windows are made-to-order. Each window to be installed must be measured and fit to the dimensions required for your home.

The manufacturer will customize the window to fit in each designated space.

6. Manufacturing And Testing

Window manufacturing is a multi-step process that involves the following:

  1. The glass is produced per customized dimensions and qualities.
  2. The glass panes are cleaned and sealed together, with argon or krypton gasses.
  3. The frame is cut per the required dimensions and pieced together with all of the parts for the style of window chosen.
  4. The glass and frame are put together.
  5. The window is tested to meet any certifications and to ensure all parts are moving, if applicable. This includes checking any smart technology, the locks, the sturdiness of the frame, and so on.
  6. The completed window is packaged and shipped to the installer or retailer.

This process requires machines, maintenance, and skilled laborers that must make a living wage.

7. Market Rates

The costs of supplies and materials to manufacture windows will fluctuate depending on current market trends and inflation.

As a result, when these prices go up, the final customer cost will also go up

8. Size And Shipping

The bigger the window that is needed, the more materials that are needed to make the window. 

For example, bay or bow windows require more glass and are often seen in large rooms since they take up a great portion of a wall. 

When dimensions change, the manufacturer must ensure that the window still meets required certifications such as energy efficiency, hurricane, security, or ballistic. 

If your windows are made in another country, shipping fees and internal taxes will also add costs.

A bigger window will also weigh more, so it will need more packaging and higher shipping costs. Shipping may be factored into the overall cost, or it can vary depending on how far they must go.

These factors add up to a higher cost.

9. Installation

A window installation expert can install windows properly if you choose not to do so yourself. An installer may charge per window or square foot.

Installers will ensure there are no air gaps for precipitation to get in or loss of energy, using insulation and other materials around the window. 

The installer may put in wood trim or wrap the metal around the window depending upon the type of siding your home has. They will seal both the interior and exterior seams as well.

Installation cost may or may not be included with the purchase of windows.  

Overall installation costs could be higher due to the following situations:

  • More than one installer is needed
  • Complexity of the job (i.e. roof climbing or equipment is needed to reach upper floors)
  • A problem is discovered when an old window is removed that needs to be fixed
  • Increased hours of labor

10. Lead Abatement

Homes built before 1978 can potentially have lead paint in them. 

An installer will test the paint around the frame of the window that needs replacement. If there is lead, then there will be an additional fee for safely removing the old window. 

The installer needs additional materials to keep lead dust at bay as well as proper disposal costs.

11. Brand Competition

Some well-known companies create consumer brand loyalty for their high-quality products and warranties. This creates competition with smaller, local companies. As a result, prices will vary.

If you buy from a big-box store, the costs may be higher than if you were to purchase directly from a warehouse. This is because there are “middleman” charges in shipping and the store needs to make a profit.

12. Warranties And Customer Service

Window manufacturers and installers will offer varying levels of warranties and guarantees. They can be limited or lifetime warranties. 

Situations that would involve the need to apply these warranties or guarantees create the potential for loss of revenue. So, to counteract that, prices will be higher.

A company may have customer service to address needs and warranty conditions. They may handle the scheduling of installers or send out a representative to review work done or damage. These professionals will need to be paid to work for the company.

Conclusion

Windows are an expensive investment because of the material composition, design complexity, size, installation, manufacturing, testing, warranties, and shipping and handling. Labor is needed for manufacturing practices, selling, branding, and customer service.

Altogether, these factors contribute to high costs for windows.

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