As any homeowner will attest, as your home ages, it seems as if one thing happens quickly after another so home improvement projects often go hand-in-hand. It makes perfect sense that you’ll want to try to space the timing of major projects to reduce the strain on your budget, the inconvenience to your family, and the “snowball effect.”

How many times have you heard about a renovation project that started out as a simple modification and turned into a full-blown tear-out? The “snowball effect” could be in place when you intend to replace a bathroom faucet but then learn that the plumbing has been leaking under the sink. With further investigation, you realize that water damage has occurred to the subfloor and then under the tub. Before you know it, the entire room has been torn apart and you’ve spent thousands of dollars.

So what if you have to replace both your roof and your windows? How do you decide which to do first? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer—it depends on many factors. Let’s look at some scenarios so you can determine which situation best fits your home’s needs: 

Roof Condition

If your home’s roof is aging or in poor condition, it should take precedence over the window replacement. There is no comparison to the damage that can be done from a leaking roof vs. leaking windows. In the majority of cases, waiting to replace a severely compromised roof will cost more in replacement and repairs for structural and interior damage than waiting to replace severely damaged windows.

You’ll want to replace your roof first if you find these issues:

  • Your roof is over 20 years old—this is the average lifespan of a roof before major problems start to occur.
  • Your roof is leaking. If you see beams of light coming through the roof in the attic (holes) or water stains on the attic ceiling.
  • Mold has formed in the attic—this is a sign that water infiltration has occurred. Mold thrives on moisture.
  • Insulation has deteriorated—this can be another sign that your roof has been leaking. Insulation damage may be more noticeable than rotting wood.
  • Cracked, damaged, curling or loss of shingle granules—this can indicate that the shingles have reached the end of their useful life.
  • Sagging roof—this could indicate rotting boards and a compromised roof structure.

Any of these conditions should be a red flag that your roof needs to be replaced before further damage occurs. In addition, a roof replacement often requires a tear-off of the original layer of shingles. To accomplish this, your contractor will likely scrape up the shingles, tar paper, nails, flashing, vent material, and other roofing materials, and push them over the side to the ground. Falling roof material can damage windows which may require repairs to your new replacement windows if they were done first.

Window Condition

On the other hand, if your roof is not in dire need of replacement, doing your window project first may prove advantageous in many ways:

  • Increase insulation, energy efficiency, reduce heat loss and save on energy bills.
  • Reduce air and water infiltration making your home more comfortable.
  • Diminish outside noise and make your home more sound-proof.
  • Decrease ultraviolet rays that damage furniture, carpeting and artwork.
  • Improve the operation and ease of cleaning.
  • Eliminate rotting, mold and mildew on windows for a healthier environment.
  • Improve the curb appeal of your home and add value for resale.

There are many new vinyl windows available in today’s market that will markedly improve the overall performance and efficiency in your home. Replacing your windows before replacing your roof will add immediate quality of life improvements to your home. You will see and feel the difference while you’re living there and will earn a substantial return on investment when you sell your home.

If you’re looking to save money on your window replacement, it may be possible to do a retrofit instead of a full frame installation and save approximately 10-15% on the project. A retrofit installation re-uses the existing frames and is used if the frame is structurally sound. The full frame installation replaces all the brickmoulds and casing to ensure the structural integrity of the complete window replacement.

According to Efficiency Alberta, upgrading to new, Energy Star-certified windows can save you even more—up to $1,500 in rebates are available for the purchase, installation and ongoing energy bills for triple pane, Low-E, and argon-filled windows. The program is limited, so you’ll want to take advantage of the savings by replacing your windows before your roof.

The Chicken or the Egg?

As the saying goes, which came first is a matter of perspective and the same situation applies when deciding what to do first—roofing or window replacement? To help you decide which is the best order for your situation, you need to determine which is more critical, which is going to provide the best overall improvement to your home, and which will be the most cost-effective?

If your roof is in bad shape and fails during the cold winter season, waiting to replace it could cost you in repairs to the structure and interior components such as drywall, carpeting, window treatments, flooring, and furnishings. It could also compromise your health if leaks cause mold growth. On the flip side, replacing the roof before the windows will give you peace of mind, improve the insulation of the entire home, and control heat gain and loss to save you money on energy bills.

If your roof is generally intact and you can get by with a few minor repairs, replacing the windows first can provide a significant positive impact to your home’s energy efficiency, comfort, aesthetics, and long-term durability for interior furnishing and accessories.

“There is no “one-size fits all” approach to what to do first—roofing or window replacement.”, says one ofthe managers of Ecoline Windows.“However, through proper evaluation of all the home’s components, a clear order will emerge to ensure you’re making the right decision for your personal needs.”

Take action today and schedule your roof evaluation with one of our team professionals.