What’s the Difference Between Insert and Full Frame Windows?


In the world of window replacement, there’s a lot of technical jargon that’s used, whether in how a product is named or how it’s installed. We’re here to break it down for you.

However, having an understanding of the different types of windows and how they’re installed can help when trying to decide if now is the time to replace those old windows and what options to choose. But first, let’s explore some fundamental steps homeowners can take to prepare for these types of projects.

Project Planning for Window Replacement


As the old saying goes, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” When it comes to your home you really want to have an understanding and involvement to preserve the well-being of the structure, including the materials that are used throughout. Nowhere is this likely more important than when referring to what’s known in the trade community as “the envelope.” The envelope includes products like siding, roofing, and windows and doors.

And while replacing a window might not be high on the home improvement list (like a new appliance), there are other factors to consider such as the increased energy efficiency a new window can bring to your home.

Check out these articles we’ve featured on window replacement, from knowing when it’s time to replace and how to compare the different options.

Another major step in this process is proper budgeting. Fortunately, there are creative ways to approach this – from working with your installer on when pricing may be more flexible based on their availability to phasing out your project, especially if you have more than a few windows to replace. Plus, this type of job can happen year-round so that can also factor into when and how you schedule your job.

What are the Different Types of Window Installation?

As we mentioned earlier, windows come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most common and popular window styles is the double-hung. The various components that make up a double-hung window include the frame, the movable sash (that holds the glass), the hardware, and the interior and exterior trim. For a deeper dive into the “DNA” of a double-hung window, read here.

And similar to the differences between window types, there is more than one way to replace them, specifically a full-frame vs. insert replacement.

So, why should a homeowner be concerned with knowing the difference between a full-frame vs. insert window? While there are benefits to both, first it’s helpful to understand what conditions determine which will ultimately be in order for you.

When working with a professional window installer, they will identify things like – whether the window frame is in good shape and structurally sound, is the sash functioning properly, and is the old glass providing optimal energy efficiency.

Full Frame Replacement Window

Full Frame Window Replacement

While more involved, there are valid reasons to consider a full-frame replacement window. Perhaps the existing wood in your window frame – including the casing, trim or sill – is rotted out from water damage. Another reason to go full-frame is that your existing window is out of square, which can render it inoperable.

The process involves removal of the entire old window frame, both upper and lower sash, as well as the window stops, trim and casing, as well as the sill. What’s left behind is what’s referred to as the “rough opening.” With the window completely removed, the next step is to drop in an entirely new, self-contained window and secure it to the studs (as it would in a new construction home).  The final step is to conduct the appropriate finishing work, such as new painted or stained trim.  A full frame replacement ensures that you will have optimal glass area and efficiency.

Insert Replacement Window

Insert Replacement Window Installation

Also known as a pocket window replacement, the main difference between this and a full-frame is that the frame itself doesn’t get replaced – the only components being replaced are the sashes themselves, which are installed within the existing frame without touching the existing interior and exterior trim.

The conditions that allow for an insert replacement are very specific.  For instance, no rot in the existing window frame, or a frame that’s nice and square.  Another factor is whether the existing frame is already properly insulated.  If that’s the case, then an insert replacement might be an option for you.

Remember, whether it’s a full-frame or insert replacement, you’re making a worthwhile investment in your home that checks a number of boxes like curb appeal, comfort, and energy efficiency.

Having a Trusted Partner Goes a Long Way


Speaking of investment, at Davis, we guide homeowners through every stage of the window replacement project, with replacement product solutions and services that fit any budget.

It’s our promise to ensure that every window we install leaves our customers delighted.

So, if you’re ready to replace your windows and want to gain a better understanding of the window replacement process in general, you can always reach out to us. In the meantime, click here to read our window installation guide.