Adding A Window: A Town Topics Column

by Lasley Brahaney Architects

QI have a windowless wall in my breakfast room and I'd like to bring in more natural light. Why is putting in a new window so expensive and is it worth it?

AYou’d think that installing a window in your house wouldn’t be such a big deal. I mean, really: how much can one window cost? Unfortunately, once you poke a hole in an exterior wall—let’s assume it’s on the ground floor—suddenly you’re dealing with much more than just the cost of one window. It could end up 8 to 10 times more. Is it worth the cost? It is, if you consider what you’re getting in return.

To get a handle on what contributes to the expense, let’s look at what needs to be done. Step One is to make a hole. The material on the outside and inside of the wall needs to be removed in order to get a better look at the interior. There could be electric wiring, ductwork and even a plumbing pipe or two. If that’s the case, all those will have to be moved because you can’t have a pipe where the opening will be.

Once all the material inside the wall is gone, sections of the wood framing (studs) will need to be removed to complete the opening. Because these studs are part of the frame of the house, the frame will have to be reconfigured to accommodate the new window and guarantee the structural soundness of the wall.

When it’s time to install the window, flashing has to be added and everything must be watertight. After the window is installed, the finishing part is to make everything look good again.

On the outside, new siding must be dovetailed into the existing adjacent siding so that the whole area looks seamless. After the new siding is on, nail holes must be plugged and sanded. Wood windows have to be primed. On the inside, sheetrock will need to be replaced. After the sheetrock goes up, it must be taped, spackled and sanded before it’s primed and painted. The window trim and sill then go on, and the interior wall surface must be repainted so the space looks like your breakfast room again. You might even want to paint the whole room to make all the walls match.

Is it worth it? The only way to answer that is to consider what you’re getting in return. If the new window will allow you to bring more sunlight and/or moonlight into the room, lets in fresh air and breezes or gives you a view of the outdoors from a new perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. These are the qualities you won’t regret acquiring: in fact, you’ll find the investment was worth every penny.