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The HomeQuote's ultimate guide to storm windows

Before the late 70th, most American homes featured single-pane windows, and the only way to prevent drafts and air leakage was to install additional storm windows. These days people who are forced to choose between installing replacement and storm units often opt for the latter. The reason for that is their affordability and better energy performance. Exterior storm windows block outside noise and keep moisture away from the central sashes. Besides, they protect the existing windows from pests infestation and resist corrosion. Modern storm windows are generally made of durable materials and come with sliding glass panels. That ensures their longevity and perfect energy-saving properties. If you decide whether to go for the replacement or storm window units for your home, our comprehensive guide is what you need to make an informed decision. Read on to learn what are the primary storm window types and functions. Besides, we show the difference between interior and exterior storm units and explain their installation process.

The HomeQuote's ultimate guide to storm windows

Table of contents

1. What are the primary functions of storm windows?

2. What are the types of storm windows?

3. Exterior storm windows

4. Interior storm windows

5. Fixed storm windows

6. Temporary storm windows

7. Wood storm windows

8. Vinyl storm window frames

9. Aluminum storm windows

10. What should you expect to pay for storm windows?

11. How to install storm windows?

Storm sashes are protective units mounted either on the outer or the inner side of the existing window panes. They might be applied to almost all types of windows with the only requirement to fit the measurements. Exterior units are commonly made of aluminum, plastic, and wood and are attached to the outer part of the primary window frame to withstand the elements and other external factors. Interior storm windows, in their turn, are made of rigid plastic, vinyl, metal foam, and acrylic and are attached to the inner part of the window frame. They're used to prevent drafts and leakage.  

Storm windows are meant to ensure ultimate energy efficiency and thermal insulation without the need to replace the original units. They're commonly seen in regions prone to storms and high winds as they protect the main glass panes from hail and debris that might fly about during hurricanes. Besides, quality storm windows usually serve as the best alternative for homeowners who can't afford to install new windows.

Keep reading to learn about the storm sashes' construction, types, and functions. 

What are the primary functions of storm windows?

In layman's terms, storm sashes serve as an extra layer over the existing window to enhance its insulation and protect it from the elements. However, these are not the only functions they can perform. Take a look below to find out what else you can avail yourself of installing storm windows: 

  • Insulation

As mentioned before, storm sashes are overlaid over the existing window, creating extra insulation layers. One layer is formed by a storm sash itself, and another by the air between the pane of the current home's window and a storm one. As a result, you get a reliable solution to boost the energy-saving properties of your home windows without overpaying for the new replacing units. 

  • Weatherproofing

As their name implies, storm windows are made to protect the central units from storms and rough weather. They safeguard panes from hail, airborne debris, tree branches, and other elements that can break the glass during the storm. Consider installing exterior storm windows if you live in an area with unpredictable weather. They will ensure your peace of mind and help to save hundreds of bucks on costly repairs. 

  • Energy bills optimization

Storm sashes are commonly installed instead of replacement units to prevent air leakage and lower spending on electricity. According to the Department of Energy, storm units can save up to 30% on utility bills depending on the annual energy consumption. 

  • Burglar protection

Storm windows make your house a fortress, reducing the options for intruders to come inside. They cannot substitute an alarm system but can become a great addition to it. Add the extra layer of protection to your existing window units to prevent people with ill intent from accessing your property.

  • Soundproofing

Another advantage of the exterior storm window is that it blocks sounds transferred through the panes. This soundproofing function goes both ways - for noise coming from the outside and noise within your house that might travel out. Storm windows are reasonable to install in busy neighborhoods where noise pollution is extremely high. 

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What are the types of storm windows?

Storm sashes come in different types depending on their mounting, tracking, as well as frame and glass options. Take a look at their classification to decide what you need for your home:

Exterior storm windows

These units fit into the outer side of a window frame. They enhance the home's curb appeal, prevent heat loss, and protect the existing windows from high wind, stormy rain, and hail. Exterior storm windows do not possess insulating features like their interior counterparts because weep holes direct the accumulated moisture out. They are available with wood, vinyl, and aluminum frames and are commonly equipped with glass panes made of standard, tempered, or Low-E glass. Windows of this type are installed permanently, so you won't be able to take them off every season. 

Exterior storm windows come in various configurations, including:

  • Two-track units. Windows of this configuration have a fixed half-pane of glass and a screen on one track and a movable glass pane on the other track. This construction is most common as it is simple to operate and allows ventilation. Two-track slider storm windows have the same structure but are opened horizontally. 
  • Triple-track units. These windows have more complex construction than two-track ones. They feature two panes of moveable glass and a moveable screen in separate tracks. These windows can be opened wide enough to ensure adequate ventilation. 

Now when you know how exterior storm windows work, let us highlight their key advantages and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Historic windows protection. If you live in a building that has historical value, you have to preserve old wood windows. That is where exterior storm units come into play. They protect original windows from the elements and decay, delaying maintenance by years.
  • Protection against condensation. When installing storm windows over the existing ones, moisture condenses on the outer glass while inner panes and sashes remain unaffected. That makes your windows sustainable to temperature fluctuations. It's especially true for aluminum storm windows that are not prone to moisture and are best for handling condensation. 
  • Energy savings. If you want to keep your heating or cooling energy and save on utility bills, exterior storm windows with Low-E glass are a solution. They block UV rays, promoting better heat resistance and preventing your furniture pieces from fading. 

Cons

  • Visual obstruction. When exterior storm windows are installed over the original ones, they create an obstruction and hide the original style. If your choice fell on triple-track storm windows, you should expect them to protrude from the original windows. This design looks quite cumbersome. 
  • Complicated installation. A DIY installation of external storm windows is hardly possible. Due to their weight and construction, they're far more complex to mount than the interior storm units. Besides, you will need more tools and skills to attach them to the existing window frame. 
  • Tricky dismounting. Compared to interior storm units, exterior ones are difficult to take off from season to season. They're tightly attached to the original window construction, and it's pretty labor intensive to dismantle them.

Interior storm windows

Interior storm units, or how else they're called storm window inserts, are pressed into the existing frame through magnets or flanges. They're fitted with weatherstripping to protect single-pane windows from drafts and leakage. Interior storm windows vary in construction and materials. Some units feature low-emissivity glass, and others are constructed from acrylic sheets or sturdy vinyl panels. Depending on your needs and the original windows' construction, you may want to install a double- or triple track to keep the interior unit in place. Triple-track storm window inserts come with two glass panes and a screen, while double-track ones feature one glass pane and a screen. Interior storm units are best for multi-story buildings where the exterior is hard to access. 

Let us discuss the pros and cons of interior storm windows to get a clue about their functionality and see the difference between their exterior counterparts. 

Pros

  • Energy efficiency. Storm window inserts provide a budget-saving method for enhancing the energy efficiency of the existing window units. They ensure proper insulation and prevent air leakage, allowing you to enjoy a comfortable temperature inside the home without putting much burden on the HVAC system. 
  • Replacement units alternative. New storm windows combined with current windows, no matter the latter's condition, can offer unmatched insulation, soundproofing, and thermal control. While serving as a more affordable alternative to double- or triple-pane windows, interior storm sashes possess competitive energy-saving properties.
  • Straightforward installation. Interior storm windows are simpler to install than exterior ones. Besides, they provide flexibility as you can remain in place all year round or dismantle them every season. Both dismantling and installation are easy to handle without professional aid. 
  • Multiple configurations. You may come across interior storm windows with fixed panels and those with movable sashes. The choice is yours, but you should expect to pay more for fully operable storm units. 
  • Compliance with home's exterior. Interior storm units do not interfere with a home's style and suit any historic preservation projects. They cannot prevent the outer part of the window from deteriorating like exterior storm sashes, but they do not alter the building's appearance and can be removed at any time.

Cons

  • No weatherproofing. In contrast to exterior storm windows, interior ones cannot offer reliable protection against rain, hail, wind, and snow. They're built for insulation, not weatherproofing. 
  • Increased maintenance. Regular inspections, cleaning, and sealing are inevitable to ensure a long life of internal storm windows. Besides, it makes sense to remove a fixed unit from time to time for natural air passage.

Fixed storm windows

These window units are made of a solid piece of glass. They're fixed and serve as a great protective solution for decorative windows like the arched, picture, and other custom options that do not open. However, they're complicated to install and replace.

Temporary storm windows

These storm units are also called disposable as they're not fixed and can be disassembled as unnecessary. They're often used during the coldest months and then removed in the early spring. They come as single acrylic panels fitting inside a primary window's pane. Besides, these units can be created using insulating films secured to the interior part of a window with adhesive tape. 

Wood storm windows

This type of storm window is typically made from solid wood and covered with a moisture-resistant coating. They can be hung at the top of the window with hooks or attached to the frame with clips. They can be dismantled by the end of the cold months and then reinstalled in the next season. Wood storm windows that come with Low-E glass provide the highest energy efficiency. 

Vinyl storm window frames

Vinyl is probably the best material for all types of windows, including the storm ones. It's affordable, lightweight, and nearly upkeep-free. However, their drawback is low resistance to high temperatures and direct UV rays. Vinyl storm units heat up quickly, which may result in cracking and warping.

Aluminum storm windows

Storm units made of aluminum are widely used in hurricane-prone areas. They're highly durable and can easily withstand weather calamities. Besides, they come with a corrosion-resistant coating that ensures their longevity and smooth operation. They're installed on the existing window's casing or screwed into the frame. You can find aluminum storm units with standard or Low-E glass panes. Besides, they come in a variety of colors and configurations. 

What should you expect to pay for storm windows?

Installing storm windows is a reliable solution to postpone replacing the existing units if they're drafty, leak-prone, or near the end of their service life. They're much more affordable than new replacement windows, especially those made of sturdy materials and feature two or three panes. However, their weatherproofing properties are not worse than top-of-the-line double-pane units offer. So, if you want to save yourself the bother of repairing and replacing your old window units, consider shopping for storm windows. 

Depending on the frame material and configuration, you should expect to pay from $170 to $450 per secondary window. Single-pane windows with vinyl frames will cost you about $170, while the price of double-hung wood units may rise to $430. On top of that, calculate labor costs to get an accurate estimate. Depending on the window size and its operational principle, installation is expected to cost from $80 upwards. The rates on replacement services range from $100 to $240 per standard-sized storm window. However, the price might be higher depending on the material and level of the window's deterioration. 

If you want to learn how much it will cost to install storm windows in your house, leave your request on HomeQuote. As soon as your request is processed, you will be provided with clear-cut estimates from local contractors specializing in storm window installation & replacement.

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Consider replacing your windows to ensure better home insulation and reduce utility cost

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How to install storm windows?

Hire an expert contractor to install new storm windows

Interior storm sashes are pretty simple to install. You don't need any special tools to mount storm windows, just a caulk gun, a drill, and a paint scraper. All it takes is to push sashes into place and fix them. Removing interior windows is as simple as installing them. However, we cannot say the same about exterior storm sashes. If you live in a multi-story house, installing them might be life threatening. Besides, exterior storm units require at least basic handyman skills to mount them right. You should be able to predrill holes in the existing window frame and firmly attach a storm sash to it to avoid gaps. 

To save yourself a headache and ensure airtight installation, consider hiring a professional window contractor to do the job. It won't cost you much, yet you can expect a professional service covered by a warranty. 

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