Selecting The Right Window
James recently expanded his home office. Talk about a quick, clean job. Wow! Any way, one of the biggest decisions he had to make was choosing the right windows for the job. The wall that was being “pushed out” contained a window and a sliding door and James wasn’t sure whether he should nix the window and replace the smaller sliding door with a larger one or go with just windows or reuse what he had. Decisions, decisions, decisions. He really anguished over the choice. He wanted it to be just right. But then who doesn’t?
Whichever he chose he knew that he had to select something that was going to be consistent with the shapes and sizes of the windows and doors along that same exterior wall. Also he didn’t want to modify the type of window frame – new had to match existing – exactly! Since his house is relatively new, and because the windows were modern and energy complaint, he had no thoughts of changing the overall window theme. It was one of those “what you see is what you get” kinds of decisions.
Besides looking great windows are very functional. They are a key element in promoting natural ventilation and modern ones can conserve energy. While you enjoy the view outdoors weather is kept outside away from you – where it belongs. Can you imagine a home without windows? Shopping for residential window installation involves several important decisions. Here are a few rules of thumb:
- You don’t want your remodel to look like one. If you aren’t going to change all of the windows then you may want to strongly consider matching the frame of the new window type as closely as possible to the frames on the ones you already have. Nothing looks as bad as architectural potpourri.
- Regardless of the frame type you should consider upgrading to insulated glass. One, two or three sheets of glass – who cares. They all look the same at a glance but the better the insulative value the more comfort will result. R-value measures energy efficiency of glass the glass. The higher the R-value the more efficient the glass. U-value measures the efficiency of the glass and the frame together. The lower the U-value the better.
- Do some research. Each type of window has advantages and disadvantages. Wood frame windows are more energy efficient and reduce condensation, but they are maintenance intense and expensive. Metal frame windows are low maintenance and inexpensive but transmit heat and cold and condensation can be a really big problem. Wood windows that have plastic or metal exterior covers are a good bet. Less maintenance on the exterior side (where wood is most often in need of maintenance) and top energy efficiency. Unfortunately, metal or plastic over wood is the most expensive kind of window. Vinyl windows are low maintenance and better suited to resist condensation than metal. However, plastics have a tendency to become brittle. As far as we are concerned the “jury is still out on vinyl frames”.
- Keep in mind that most folks are “light conscious”. The brighter a home is, the more natural light there is, the more a home is appreciated. If you are upgrading don’t downsize. If anything, you may want to upsize. This will add value to your home for sure.
- As with any manufactured product be sure to purchase from a major manufacturer. With today’s insulated windows you can expect guarantees that extend from 10 years to life. Sounds kind of like a prison term. Any way, the best of insulated windows fail. Warranty is really important. Smaller companies may offer a good warranty, but may not be there to honor it later.
- If you intend on using wood interior windows look for wood that will compliment other wood on the interior of your home i.e. cabinets, wainscot, chair rail, door trim, etc.
- Make sure that the window you choose is easy to operate. Sliding windows are among the easiest to operate. However, a large window with a heavy wood frame that you have to reach over a counter to get to can be murder to open. With just about any type of window large moving panels can be a bear to open. Keep operating sections manageable in size. Casement windows are easy to operate, but require interior screens – a design element you may not wish to have in your home. If you do decide on casement windows make sure the operating assembly is smooth and easy to use.
- Finally, don’t forget low E glass. It is more energy efficient and will save dollars on your heating and cooling bills.
There you have it. Wood frames are the most energy efficient and they are even better when blended with metal or plastic covers on the exterior to reduce painting maintenance. Glass should be insulated for extra energy efficiency – the more layers the merrier. Also, the glass should be the low E type for even more energy savings. Finally, the window should have a lifetime warranty and should come from a well known major manufacturer so that the warranty can eventually be honored.