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Double-Hung Window Replacement: A California Homeowner’s Guide
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Double-Hung Window Replacement: A California Homeowner’s Guide

From materials to eco-friendly options, here is a definitive guide for California homeowners.

Dikran Seferian

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7 min read

May 23, 2022

Window replacements are among the most common home improvement projects that a homeowner may come across at one point or another. Double-hung windows, in particular, are quite popular in California homes — and equally huge in the replacement industry. Their timeless appeal perfectly complements the unique charm that most houses in the Golden State are known for. It also goes without saying that windows of this type come with their set of benefits, as well as a few considerations to keep in mind when going for a replacement. That being said, it can be a good idea to get familiar with double-hung windows, their advantages, the costs involved, as well as a few ins and outs. 

What Are Double-Hung Windows?

Double-hung windows basically consist of two movable sashes which you can open either from the top or from the bottom — as opposed to single-hung windows which only have one movable sash. In certain cases, each sash consists of one pane whereas other varieties are divided into several panes. The dividers are referred to as “muntins”, or more commonly “grids”.

Besides the option of sliding either sash upward or downward, a lot of double-hung windows also allow you to open them inward. This feature especially comes in handy when you need to clean the exterior side of the panes.

As for the casing on double-hung windows, it’s normally thicker than that of the single-hung variety. This is due to the fact that each of the two sashes needs to have its own track in order to move independently of each other. Nevertheless, single and double-hung windows are pretty much similar in how they look — especially to the untrained eye.

Opening the sashes on double-hung windows is fairly simple. To slide the top sash down, grab hold of the muntins or rails and apply downward pressure. As for lifting the bottom sash up, simply push the rails upwards from under. Many modern designs of double-hung windows also feature a latch that you can use to tilt the sashes inwards. 

Commonly found in many homes, double-hung windows feature two movable sashes that you can slide downwards or upwards.

Advantages of Having Double-Hung Windows

With all the types of windows to choose from, not many are as advantageous as the double-hung variety. The very design of this popular option allows for better ventilation, more efficiency, enhanced safety, and easier maintenance. These benefits collectively result in the added value of double-hung windows, making them an excellent choice for a replacement. 

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Ventilation

Perhaps one of the main advantages of double-hung windows is the amount of ventilation they offer. To get the most out of this benefit, simply open both upper and lower sashes. While the lower opening will draw in fresh air from outside, the upper section will expel indoor air. This helps in enhancing the atmosphere in your living spaces and naturally cooling down your home — you know how hot summers can get in California. And if minimal ventilation is what you need, opening just one sash should be enough.

Energy-Efficiency

Besides allowing for a good deal of ventilation, double-hung windows tend to invite adequate amounts of natural light. This keeps you from having to turn on the indoor lighting during much of the day. In addition, double-hung windows are sealed in order to minimize energy consumption from HVAC units. That being said, you can also reduce energy loss by opening the sashes in the summer to create natural ventilation. The amount of energy you can end up saving results in smaller utility costs at the end of each month.

Safety

Another major benefit of double-hung windows is safety. The design of these windows make them impossible to open outwards, which means they’re completely safe if you have decks, patios, or walkways just outside of them. They are fully lockable as well, preventing intruders from making their way into your home. 

Ease of Maintenance

Double-hung windows are meant to make cleaning easier. They come with tilting sashes that make it easier for you to reach and wipe the outer side of the pane. Certain models even come with fully-removable sashes so you can give them a good wash-down every now and then. Besides the occasional cleaning, all you’d need to do is check that the movable parts are in good condition and lubricate them if necessary. 

Added Value

The functional features of double-hung windows make them more desirable than a lot of other options. This ultimately results in a greater return on your investment regarding the value it adds to your California house, and any real estate agent will tell you that this added value can prove beneficial should you decide to sell your home in the future. 

Aesthetic Adaptability

One characteristic that double-hung windows are known for is their classic look, which allows them to adapt to just about any home in the Golden State. These windows are also available in a wide range of colors, sizes, and finishes, allowing them to correspond with various design styles, be they traditional or contemporary. 

The aesthetic value of double-hung windows makes them popular among homeowners in California.

Addition-Friendliness

The design of double-hung windows makes them suitable for additions. Since the sashes are meant to slide upwards and downwards instead of outwards or sideways, the windows should have no problem accommodating an AC unit or a screen.

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What to Consider When Replacing Double-Hung Windows

While the benefits of double-hung window replacements are clear, you may also want to account for the costs involved, the duration of the process, as well as the materials and sizes that are available on the market. It can be a good idea to discuss these details with a contractor before going ahead with the replacement.

Average Price of Double-Hung Window Replacement

Double-hung installs are often the go-to option when it comes to replacing windows in California. On average, you can expect double-hung window prices in the Golden State to range between $500 to $900, depending on the frame material and the type of glass. Regarding the latter, energy efficiency upgrades such as double-pane units will drive up the price. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the amount you’ll be saving on energy bills down the line is worth the extra cost.

Another factor is whether you choose to go for a high-end brand. Double-hung windows on the upper end of the price spectrum tend to carry a price tag of $900 up to $1500. That price will naturally be higher when you factor in the labor cost of the installation which averages $45 an hour in California.

Double-Hung Window Replacement Types and Sizes

Another thing to consider when replacing double-hung windows is the frame material. You can find the frames in vinyl, wood, fiberglass, aluminum, and composite. Vinyl window frames, for instance, are the least expensive. However, they’re not the best type of window in terms of durability. Fiberglass is higher on the price spectrum but offers a decent combination of strength, insulation, and weather resistance. While aluminum window frames are also quite durable and weatherproof, they tend to fall behind in the insulation department. 

Double-hung windows are available in wood, vinyl, fiberglass, aluminum, as well as composite materials.

Wood frames are one of the most durable window types — and the most expensive. Despite their durability, however, they are prone to expanding and contracting but with good maintenance, this shouldn’t be an issue. On the other hand, composite frames are made from a blend of materials such as wood fibers and thermoplastic polymers, offering the best qualities of each.

As for size, double-hung windows are available in a wide variety of dimensions. The width typically ranges from 24 inches to 48 inches and the height from 36 inches to 72 inches. 

FAQs About Double-Hung Window Replacements

Can You Replace One Section of a Double-Hung Window?

If one section of your double-hung window needs to be replaced while the other one is perfectly fine, it is possible to just have the faulty section switched with a new one. This works for both the upper and the lower sash. To tilt out the upper sash, you simply have to lower it by 8 to 12 inches. 

Can You Replace a Double-Hung Window Without Removing the Interior Trim?

Whether you can replace a window without removing the interior trim generally depends if it’s a full-frame replacement or an insert. Since we’re talking about inserts, however, you should be able to install a new window without removing the interior trim. 

Do You Install Double-Hung Replacement Windows from the Inside or the Outside?

It is typically easier to install double-hung windows from the outside. But since no one home is the same as the other, the replacement process might need to be carried out partially or entirely from the inside. 

How Long Does It Take to Replace Double-Hung Windows?

To begin with, it is generally recommended that you hire the services of a licensed window installer for this project. Aside from the fact that these professionals have the necessary skills and expertise to get the job done, replacement windows often come with an installation warranty that — in most cases — is only effective if the work is carried out by contractors sent by the manufacturer.

The replacement process of double-hung windows is best handled by a skilled contractor.

The amount of time it takes for double-hung window replacement essentially depends on several factors. Whether you’re going for standard or custom double-hung windows is one of them, the latter being more time-consuming. Another factor is how skilled the installer is; an experienced one will naturally be able to complete the double-hung window replacement process in a smaller amount of time.

The material of the window also has to do with how long the replacement will take. In the case of windows with wooden frames, for instance, you need to account for the priming, sanding, and painting. Other factors include the size of the windows, the damage level around the existing window, and of course, the number of windows you plan on replacing. An experienced window installer can typically install up to 15 windows a day. However, the average time it takes to replace a window is 40 minutes.

There are also a number of measures you can take in advance to speed up the replacement process. These include clearing up the space around the windows, removing any window treatments, deactivating sensors, and placing drop cloths on the floor to prevent a mess.

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