Of course, the options and improvements in new-generation windows affect the cost, but like most choices about how to improve your home, these decisions should be weighed in relation to long-term benefits. Except for sash kits and replacement windows that don't require removal of the old frame and trim, installation costs for a given window will vary little if at all. What's more, differences in the up-front purchase price may eventually be offset by other factors: energy efficiency, overall quality, and required maintenance.
Aside from normal variations in retail pricing, two other factors can affect what you pay for windows of a given size and quality. First, try to work with standard sizes from a manufacturer. Prices for custom-size windows can easily double just to give you a variation of an inch or two in either direction; usually it's cheaper to modify the rough opening in the wall than to purchase custom goods. Besides, odds are if you're removing a window, it was a stock manufactured size and shouldn't be hard to replace with another. Second, see if you can work with what the retailer stocks. When asked about the vinyl-clad wood window, one home center also offered to special-order a "cheaper" nontilting version from the same manufacturer. But because the tilting version was stock inventory, it actually cost $15 less than the nontilting model.
Continued on page 7: Decisions, Decisions