What's the Difference Between Full-Frame and Insert Window Replacement?

Understanding the difference between the two, and which method is right for your home, is a key step in your project.

We know our customers are interested in a LOT of things when it comes to new windows. Time and cost to replace them. The aesthetics of the product. Energy-efficiency and improved home comfort. But when the jargon begins – sash, lineals, grilles, U-Factor values, visible transparency, thermal efficiency – it’s easy to get lost in myriad of details and information overload. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

What sets Renewal by Andersen apart is our focus on the whole-window performance for improved comfort of your home. Where competitors concentrate solely on glass or the material in the frame, we understand that the best window for you is more than the sum of its parts. A functional window isn’t just a pane of glass. Neglecting the condition of the frame, sash, casing, and trim can lead to unsightly aesthetics, as well as expensive energy bills and uncomfortable summers and winters. At Renewal by Andersen, we understand that proper installation is a precise sequence of many crucial steps.

Whether your home overlooks the Alaskan tundra or the Sonoran Desert, our expert craftsmen will do the job right. In fact, Renewal by Andersen is one of the few companies to warrant the installation process as well as the window,† granting customers the confidence and security they deserve.

Because installation is so important to us, we want to talk about one of the most common questions we hear from homeowners who are investigating all of their options and all of the factors that go into making an informed window replacement decision—full-frame versus insert installation: what’s the difference? (And, honestly, what do they even mean?)

So if you’re considering window replacement and wondering whether full-frame or insert replacement is the right choice for your home (or you just want to learn more about fenestration), read on as we take a closer look at both options, their advantages and disadvantages, and other factors to consider.

Insert Window Replacement

Insert replacement, also known as retrofitting, involves the removal of the existing sash and glass while leaving the existing frame intact. The new window is then installed into the existing frame. This method is often used when the frame is in good condition and the homeowner wants to update the style of the window or improve energy efficiency.


Insert replacement is a less expensive and less invasive process than full-frame replacement. The cost can vary depending on the extent of the work required and the type of materials used.
This method is ideal for homeowners who want to update the look of their windows without the added expense of a full-frame replacement.
Since the existing frame is left intact, there's less disturbance to the surrounding trim, siding, and brickwork.


Insert replacement may not be as energy efficient as full-frame replacement, especially if the existing frame is old or damaged (for this and many other reasons, we do not recommend using an insert in the case of damaged frames).
This method is limited in terms of changing the size or shape of the window opening, as it requires the new window to fit into the existing frame.
If the existing frame is damaged or rotting, insert replacement may not be a suitable option.

Full-Frame Window Replacement

Full-frame replacement involves the complete removal of the window frame and sash and the installation of a new frame and sash. This method is often used in cases where the existing frame is severely damaged or the homeowner wants to change the window's size, shape, or style. Full-frame replacement is a more extensive process than insert replacement and can require the removal of siding or brickwork around the window.


Full-frame replacement offers the opportunity to change the size and shape of the window opening. This can be particularly beneficial for homeowners looking to increase natural light or improve ventilation.
A new frame, sash, and glass provide the opportunity to improve energy efficiency, reduce drafts, and help increase sound insulation.
This method is a good choice for older homes with outdated or worn-out frames that are beyond repair.


Full-frame replacement is a more expensive and time-consuming process than insert replacement. The cost can vary depending on the extent of the work required and the type of materials used.
The installation of a new frame can cause more disturbance to the surrounding trim, siding, and/or brickwork. This can result in additional work and cost.
Full-frame replacement may not be necessary if the existing frame is in good condition and the homeowner is not looking to change the window's size or shape.

Factors to Consider

When deciding between full-frame and insert replacement, several factors should be considered:

The condition of the existing window frame and surrounding trim, siding, and/or brickwork.
The desired energy efficiency, sound insulation, and aesthetic improvements.
The cost and budget for the project.
Whether the homeowner wants to change the size or shape of the window opening.
The extent of the installation and the amount of time and labor required.

When deciding between full-frame window replacement and insert window replacement, it's important to consider the pros and cons of each method and your specific needs and budget. Because not every situation can use either method, consulting a professional when you’re thinking about replacement is an excellent first step. When you work with us, at your design consultation appointment, your consultant can help determine which option is right for your home. 

Regardless of which option is recommended, Renewal by Andersen® replacement windows have glass options that can provide numerous benefits, such as increased energy efficiency, improved sound insulation and UV reduction, and a refreshed look for your home.

If you have any further questions about which method is right for your home, and what your options are, we’d love to speak with you. Schedule your consultation today and we can provide additional insights and advice based on your specific situation.

We hope this blog post has helped you understand the differences between full-frame and insert window replacement options and has provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision for your home.

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