The Real Reason Window Installation is So Expensive

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When building a house or renovating, window installation is a key aspect of making the house liveable and safe. However, many people are shocked to discover that window installation can be extremely expensive, and it’s not usually a good idea to DIY the project. So just why is it so expensive?

Many factors influence the price of window installation, including glass costs, a labor shortage, glass composition, inflation, and the need for custom-made materials. The price can range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, which includes both materials and labor, depending on where you live.

Let’s take a closer look at all of the reasons window installation is so expensive, if it’s possible to do it yourself, and what to consider when planing to install windows.

Why Are Windows So Expensive?

The window installer adjusts the hinges and checks new windows in the cottage under construction

There are a few reasons windows are so expensive and, for the full picture, it’s important to look at everything in depth.

Glass Costs

Glass costs can get pretty high. The cost of glass can vary depending on a variety of factors such as the type of glass, its size, thickness, and any special features or treatments that may be required.

Some types of glass, such as laminated or tempered glass, can be more expensive than regular annealed glass due to their enhanced strength and safety features. Similarly, glass with special coatings or treatments, such as low-E or insulated glass, can also be more expensive than standard glass.

Additionally, the cost of glass can also be influenced by factors such as regional pricing differences, supply and demand, and the supplier or vendor you choose to work with.


Inflation refers to the increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. A moderate level of inflation is considered healthy for an economy, but high levels of inflation can lead to various problems such as reduced purchasing power of money, increased production costs, and reduced economic growth.

Inflation is what we are experiencing right now, due to various factors such as supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and increased demand for goods and services as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Installing windows is pretty labor intensive and time-consuming, meaning that not every handyman or contractor knows how to do the job. It takes time, skill, and experience to have confidence in installing a window, and there are many jobs around the house that are simply much easier to do than others.

There are also reports of labor shortages in many countries, including the United States, due to various factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in the job market, and shifts in workforce demographics.

During the pandemic, many workers were laid off or furloughed, and some of them may have found new jobs in different sectors or industries. As the economy recovers and businesses reopen, there may be a shortage of workers with the necessary skills and experience to fill open positions—and with something that requires a specific skillset like installing windows, this is particularly pertinent.

Additionally, changes in the job market and workforce demographics have also contributed to labor shortages. For example, there may be a lack of workers in this industry due to a mismatch between the skills workers have and the skills that employers are looking for. 

Custom Made Materials

When installing windows, a lot of people need custom-made materials, as windows are all different shapes and sizes. The fact that people need these materials to be custom-made increases the cost, making it more expensive to have a window installed.

Glass Composition

There are different glass compositions available for windows, and some of them are more expensive than others. The most common composition for windows is soda-lime glass, but some people may opt for other types.

For example, borosilicate glass is made by adding boron oxide to the mixture of silica, soda, and lime, which creates glass that has more thermal shock and has a lower coefficient of thermal expansion than your more common soda-lime glass.

Another example is lead glass, which contains lead oxide and has a higher refractive index than other types of glass, making it suitable for use in high-end optical lenses and crystal ware.

What is the Average Cost of Installing Windows?

Construction workers installing plastic window

The cost of installing windows can vary widely depending on various factors, such as:

  • The type and size of the windows
  • The material of the window frames
  • The level of energy efficiency
  • The complexity of the installation process
  • Regional and local factors

That being said, the national average cost of window installation is around $5,000-6,000, but could be anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000. This average cost includes both the cost of the windows and the cost of installation labor.

Is It Worth Going the DIY Route?

Installing windows can be a complex and labor-intensive process, and it takes specialized knowledge and tools. While it is technically possible to install windows by yourself, you shouldn’t unless you have experience with construction and window installation.

How to Install a Window

Installing a window can be a complex process, and the specific steps can vary depending on the type of window, the framing material, and the construction of the building. However, here are the general steps for installing a new window in a rough opening:

  1. Before purchasing a new window, measure the height, width, and depth of the rough opening to ensure that the new window will fit properly.

  2. Remove the old window and its frame from the rough opening, and clean the opening thoroughly.

  3. Install the new window frame into the rough opening, ensuring that it’s level.

  4. Install the new window into the frame, and secure it in place according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use caulking to seal any gaps between the frame and the rough opening.

  5. Install flashing around the window frame to prevent water getting in, and install trim around the interior and exterior of the window to provide a finished appearance.

  6. Test the new window to ensure that it opens and closes smoothly, and that it is properly sealed and insulated.

However, as stated above, it’s not recommended you try this yourself unless you have a lot of experience with installing windows, as a lot of problems can arise from this being done incorrectly.

What Happens if it Goes Wrong?

If window installation goes wrong, it can lead to a range of issues that can be costly and difficult to fix. Here are some of the most common potential issues.

Air Leaks

Improperly installed windows can create gaps and cracks between the window frame and the rough opening, allowing air to leak in or out of the building. This can result in drafts, increased energy costs, and reduced indoor comfort.

Water Getting In

If windows are not properly sealed and installed, water can seep into the building through gaps and cracks. This leads to water damage and mold, which can even evolve into structural issues if the water is left to seep into the building.

Energy Loss

Poorly installed windows can also result in energy loss, as air can leak in or out of the building, reducing the energy efficiency of the windows. This will also increase heating and cooling costs, which you may not even notice until the bills start rolling in after the job is done.

Safety Hazards

If windows are not installed according to local building codes and regulations, it can create safety hazards such as the risk of the window falling out or not providing adequate egress in case of an emergency.

Code Violations

Lastly, it could result in building code violations in your area. If you aren’t familiar with the rules surrounding this, it’s easy to break them, and this can come with a hefty fine—as well as having to redo the job entirely, causing even more expenses on top of the fine.

How to Find a Contractor

Window installation in the house

While many contractors will claim they can do any job around the house, you need to find someone who specializes in and has experience with installing windows, as this is an intensive process that can be very costly if it goes wrong.

Many legitimate companies likely exist in your area. Ask for references and look at reviews before you commit to hiring someone.

You should also make sure they’re licensed and insured. A license gives them permission to work on your home, and insurance means that if anything goes wrong or is damaged, they can pay to fix it. It also ensures that if the workers get injured on your property, you won’t end up having to foot the vill.

Overall, there’s no denying that window installation is an expensive process. Due to inflation, glass costs, glass composition differences, labor shortages, and necessary customization, the price of installing a window has really been driven up and you should be prepared to pay a few thousand dollars.

However, don’t let this tempt you into doing the job yourself if you have no experience. This is a labor-intensive process that requires specialized tools and a specific skill set, and it’s best left to the professionals.

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