New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




Ask Habitat: How Do We Go About Replacing Our Building's Windows?

New York City

Illustration by Liza Donnelly for Habitat Magazine
Sept. 15, 2014

Your first step is to decide whether you need to repair or replace. Set up a window committee to look into the options, since you may be able to simply repair or refurbish them. Consider hiring an architect or engineer to conduct a survey of the windows' condition to help the board decide whether to repair or replace.

Don't Skimp

A big factor is cost: What you do depends not only on the windows' condition, but also on your co-op or condo's financial condition. Buildings generally replace all windows at once because they get a better price that way. Even so, replacement projects aren't cheap — but do not skimp. You don't want to install cheap windows that you'll only have to replace in five years.

Consequently, the building will have to find a way initially to foot the bill, even if the cost is ultimately passed on to the residents. The most common way to pay is through an assessment, although buildings can also pay for such projects from their reserve fund, through financing or a credit line, or with a combination of these approaches.

Set Performance Parameters 

Once the board has chosen the replacement windows, the architect or engineer develops drawings and specifications for the windows. Besides selecting the type of window and manufacturer the board wants, you can also set performance parameters and let the contractors select windows that meet those requirements. Then the board should bid the project out, which can take six to eight weeks.

Once the contractor is hired, your next step is to coordinate access to each apartment. Generally, your managing agent handles this, but for smaller, self-managed buildings without an agent, this becomes more of an issue.

Explain Things to Residents

Have your architect or engineer oversee the installation. Installation is messy, noisy and involves a lot of dirt, dust and unpleasantness, so expect residents to complain. You can head off such complaints by explaining clearly what's going to happen and when.

Most replacement windows can be expected to last 20 to 30 years, and all windows come with warranties from both the window manufacturer and the contractor that installs them. You will generally get a five-year warranty for the window and ten-year warranty for the glass.

New windows generally make apartments quieter, warmer and cleaner, so going through this process is worth it in the end. Bottom line: Have patience.


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Illustration by Liza Donnelly. Click to enlarge

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