Why bring in more light?A larger window can completely transform your room. As a home owner, there’s so many things that “need” to be done, and a lot of money is spent on invisible upgrades. I’ve been in my home about 5 years now, and I’m so thankful that I’m at a point where I’m not just doing work that needs to be done. Rather, I’m able to tailor the projects around the WAY I use the house, and what would make that easier or better. After enlarging my window in the office, I can honestly say that adding more natural light is a fantastic way to spend your money. It will make you smile. You will use the space more often. You will be in a better mood. It’s actually one of those renovations that you can enjoy EVERY SINGLE DAY. That’s why I wanted to share with you some tips for getting larger windows without blowing your entire life savings… because if you don’t know what you really want before talking to a contractor, you jaw will DROP at the price of some of the window options available. It’s unbelievable.
Types of Window EnlargementsThere are two basic ways that you can get bigger windows… a cut-down or an enlargement.
Cut-Down OptionA cut-down involves expanding the window opening downward. If you qualify for the “cut-down” option, this is the key to keeping the price down! Why? Well because a cut-down doesn’t affect the header above the window or the studs around it. Because the structural integrity of the walls surrounding the windows is not challenged, cut-downs usually don’t require a municipal building permit. This type of cutting requires less work than expanding sideways and costs less as a result.
Cut-DownHere’s a before and after of my office window. It’s the same width but enlarged downward from about 14″ to 50″ tall! If you are lucky enough to have crappy windows that are high on the wall but a decent width, you are the perfect candidate for what’s called a “cut-down.” Now you can save some money!
EnlargementThe enlargement option is the most expensive. An enlargement of your window means that you are either extending the window left of right (the width). There’s also the “cut-up”, which means the window is small and you want to increase the height of the window upward (this may be in addition to the “cut-down”). If you have to cut up or enlarge the width, the project will require a permit from your city/borough. This option is always more expensive than a cut-down because you are affecting the studs (enlargement option) and/or the header above the window (cut-up) option.
Pricing / CostI did some research before I had these windows installed (and even before I got quotes), and I found on Houzz that the cost for a cut-down would be about $500 in addition to the cost of the window. Well… in my experience this is absolute BS. I’m sorry if I mislead you by saying that this is a cheap project. It’s really not. The cost to cut-down my window was around $1,000. This is in addition to the cost of the actual side-by-side double-hung window which ran around $500. My area is typically on the lower side of cost when it comes to construction/renovation, so I’m not sure what this would cost in your area. But, the contractors I spoke with said to enlarge the window would be at least double this.
Tips for working with contractors
Get 3 quotesThis is always my advice: get 3 quotes on the project. You can get more if you want, but you need at LEAST 3 quotes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a project quoted to find that the prices were ALL OVER THE MAP. You need to get 3 so that you have some comparison. When I got the first quote, I was baffled by the cost because of the fake crap I read online about this being really cheap. Second quote, baffled again… but I suppose this was a reality check. The third time I was ready for it, although I was hoping that they were going to fall into that $500 range I saw online. Unfortunately, not… on this project all three quotes worked out to be within $100 of each other.
Ask for a line-item estimateOn a side note, I also had four basement windows replaced during this project. When I asked the contractors to line-item the estimate (you should always do this), the pricing was different… some were charging more or less for the basement windows, or more or less for the office cut-down project. If I wanted to be a complete scrooge I could have hired one company for the basement, and another for the cut down. But… it’s likely that the contractor would raise the price if I did this, or even not want to take the job because it was too small and not worth their time.
Get a contractIt’s important to get some sort of written contract or invoice from the contractor. Make sure that you cover everything. In a window project, you’ll want to make sure that the quote covers:
- repairing / replacing any exterior material like your siding or brick.
- interior trim — I recommend showing them another window in your home that you want the trim to look like so that they can give you an appropriate price. Some trim work is more labor-intensive than others and this can affect the price.
- payment terms — when do they need payment? I’d recommend giving them half down, and holding the other half until you are completely satisfied with the project. For example, if they are ready to leave, but didn’t finish the trim work, or did some damage to your drywall / plaster when they cut, you’ll want to make sure you address this before handing over the final payment. This is fair to the contractor as well– they won’t be called back to the jobsite after the fact to fix something that was just overlooked.
- warranty information — usually there’s different warranty times / coverage for the labor and the actual window. So, if your wall starts leaking or the seal breaks, you’ll need to refer to the labor warranty. If the window cracks or gets condensation inside, this is likely to be a defect in the window itself, which can be under a different warranty.
Don’t decide just on the bid priceIt’s easy to think that getting three quotes means that you will automatically pick the cheapest one. But… you really shouldn’t. I always judge contractors by the free estimate meetings I have with them. Do they seem like they are interested in your project? Are they able to answer all of your questions? Are they offering you multiple options (cheaper vs. more expensive ways to get the job done). Are you comfortable with them being in your home? Honestly, I go with my gut when the prices are close. If I liked one contractor’s personality over another, I will 9 times out of 10 choose that contractor. So… if there are any contractors reading this… be respectful, personable, friendly, and helpful during the estimate. I am always grateful for that and am always surprised at how many contractors are rude to me because I’m a woman, or because they are tired, or because I don’t know the basics about their trade that they somehow “expect” me to know. Customer service is really important to me, and it should be to you as well.
Wrapping UpSo, today we’ve learned that the cheapest way to get your windows enlarged is the cut-down option, which means enlarging the window downward vertically on the wall. We also learned that this can be about $1000, plus the cost of window so it’s actually not THAT cheap. But, it’s about half the price the alternative. Enlarging or cutting-up a window involves getting a permit and adjusting the header and studs, which affect the structural integrity of your home. We also learned a few tips for working with contractors on your window project. Make sure that you get three quotes with line-item estimates. In addition, make sure you cover things like repairing/replacing exterior brick or siding, trimming the window inside to match the other windows in your home, payment terms, and warranty information. Lastly, trust your gut, and don’t always go for the cheapest bid. Was the contractor friendly? Did he/she make you feel comfortable. Developing relationships with contractors is an important part of being a home owner… you never know when you may need their services again so take the time to find a good one! I’m interested in knowing if anyone else has had a cut-down window enlargement project done. Comment below if you would like to share the price of your project so that we can see what it would cost in different areas other than the Northeast Pennsylvania region. Thanks for reading and as always let me know if you have any questions. -Amy
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