Homeowners indicate that it is often difficult to determine the replacement window options that are available. This isn’t surprising given that much of the information on replacement windows assumes an understanding of industry terminology that isn’t familiar to most homeowners who haven’t had the occasion to research windows. Adding to the confusion, several different terms are often used to describe the same option.

There are two common replacement window options. These are:

  • Full Frame Windows
  • Insert Windows

When a Full Frame Replacement Window is used, the window sash, entire window frame (head, side jambs, jamb liner and sill), interior and exterior trim (brick mould) are removed and replaced. Mid South Windows recommends expertly removing and re-installing the original interior trim when it is in good condition and homeowners want to maintain the integrity of the home’s original design.

With a Full Frame application, the opening is taken back to what is referred to as a rough opening in the building industry. While the term Full Frame is normally used by window companies and window manufacturers, Full Frame replacement windows are sometimes imprecisely referred to as a new construction window.

There is some logic behind this terminology because new construction and Full Frame windows share many characteristics. However, Full Frame replacement windows, unlike new construction windows, are custom built for a specific opening in the home. In contrast, the majority of new construction windows are selected from standard sizes. Higher priced new construction homes often do have custom built windows. The difference is that in new construction the opening is built to fit the window.

This is an important distinction. In a replacement window setting the opening already exists. The window must fit the existing opening or the opening must be altered. Altering the size of an existing window opening should be approached with care to ensure that the structural integrity of the home is maintained.

Additionally, the misperception about Full Frame replacement windows may occur because until recently, new construction windows were usually the only option available to homeowners wanting a Full Frame replacement window. However, today, homeowners have the option to purchase a Full Frame window that is designed and built for a replacement window application.

Insert windows are also often called pocket frame windows. When an Insert Replacement Window is used the window sash and existing balance system are removed and the new Insert window is installed inside the original frame. The gap between the original frame and the new frame is caulked and then covered with trim. The amount of glass in the window decreases with an Insert window because the original frame and the Insert window frame are now both in the original opening.

When an Insert window is used the exterior and interior trim are normally not removed and replaced. Exterior trim (brick mould) is often wrapped with coil stock to create the look of a new maintenance free exterior. It is critical to ensure that any existing damage to the exterior trim is properly repaired prior to installing the aluminum wrapping. The aluminum covering over the exterior trim does not create a weather and moisture tight environment; therefore, the covered exterior trim will potentially continue to be exposed to heat, humidity and other elements.