Your guide to understanding the difference between insert and full frame window replacement solutions.

When it’s time to replace your windows, you’ll be presented with many choices. In addition to size, shape, aesthetics and how the window functions, you’ll have the option to choose between insert replacement and full frame replacement. When you’re unfamiliar with window and door terminology—or like many, are replacing windows for the first time—these terms can be confusing. We’re here to demystify the process and to explain what you’ll need to know to choose the right window replacement solution for your home.

What is Insert Window Replacement?

The quick explanation: Insert window replacement is when new windows are installed within the existing frame. Only the old sash, hardware and covers are removed and replaced.

  • Benefit: less extensive installation and typically lower cost; preserves existing interior and exterior trim
  • Limitation: only an option if you have structurally sound wood or aluminum frames—and you may see a slight reduction of light opening

Tell me more: When you choose insert window replacement, new windows are installed within the existing window frame. Also known as “frame-in-frame replacement” or a “pocket window,” it’s an option when your existing wood or aluminum window frames are structurally sound and you want to preserve existing interior and exterior trim. The existing sash, operating hardware and covers are removed and the new window unit is inserted into the old frame where it is anchored, insulated and sealed.

Because existing trim and siding are not disturbed, this is generally a quicker installation and typically a lower cost replacement solution. An insert window is a great option when you’re happy with the size, shape and operating style of your existing window.

Even relatively new vinyl windows—less than ten years old—can suffer from seal failures and degradation from exposure to weather, and may need to be replaced. Note that insert replacement is usually not an option when replacing vinyl windows since the vinyl frames commonly lack the structure to support a quality and long-lasting replacement solution.

What is Full Frame Window Replacement?

The quick explanation: Full frame window replacement is when existing windows are completely removed down to the studs and the new window is installed in the opening.

  • Benefit: Allows a professional to inspect for and repair water damage; offers flexibility to replace with a new style or size window
  • Limitation: More extensive installation and typically higher cost; requires removal of interior and exterior trim, and occasionally siding

Tell me more: When you choose full frame window replacement, existing windows or doors are completely removed down to the studs, along with interior and exterior trim—and occasionally some siding—and the new window is installed in the opening. By exposing the original opening, full frame replacement allows for inspection and repair of areas with rotting wood and water damage where the existing window’s failure has allowed weather into your home’s structure.

Full frame replacement is a more extensive installation process and typically carries a higher price point, but it also offers the flexibility of replacing with a new style or size window. Consider replacing a hard to reach double hung window with an easy-to-open awning window over the sink. You can add a door where there was a window, or extend your view and let more light into a room by bringing the window sill closer to the floor or your kitchen counter. Changing the size can affect the price, but working within the height and width of the existing opening can help to limit additional expense.

Full frame replacement is usually necessary when you have vinyl frames, your frames have sustained damage over the years, or you are remodeling your home.

Looking for more guidance?

A window and door dealer can help you evaluate the needs of your home and choose the most cost-effective solution for window and door replacement. Find dealers by zip code using our dealer locator.

Posted by:Marvin

Marvin is a fourth-generation family-owned and -operated business, headquartered in Warroad, Minnesota, with more than 5,500 employees across 15 cities in North America. The Marvin portfolio of products for builders, architects and homeowners is designed to provide exceptional solutions for any project with a focus on creating better ways of living. Marvin products are distributed nationally through a network of independent dealers and are also exported internationally. Visit to learn more.

12 replies on “Insert vs. Full Frame Window Replacement

  1. It sure is nice to know that a full window replacement will allow a professional to have a look at any water damage possibilities and the options for a new style of window. We have had a pretty bad experience with the past typhoons, and our windows have had it worse. I think replacing the water damaged ones will have to go, so I think we need to call on a professional to help us out.

  2. Kit, we’re so glad this content has been helpful to you in your window replacement process – especially considering your prior history with wet weather conditions! Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any additional questions as you go along.

  3. Thanks for mentioning that full frame window replacement offers flexibility with style and size of the window. My husband and I just bought an old fixer-upper home that need to have new windows installed. It’d be really fun to play around with the window design, so thanks for pointing out we can do that by choosing full frame replacement windows.

    1. Daryl, thanks for asking. Each home and window situation is different, so it’s very difficult to estimate a full frame replacement cost. Restoration of your frame could be a great option, potentially allowing for a less invasive insert window replacement opportunity. The best way to review your options is to connect with a window professional in your area. You can easily find one near you by visiting:

  4. I never knew that a full-frame window installation will help you to cut down costs since it will preserve the interior and exterior trim. My husband noticed that the windows in our cabin look damaged, and we are looking for advice about what to do. I will let him know about your recommendations to help him choose the right path to follow to fix our cabin windows.

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