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Ask The Contractor: Pick windows carefully; visit Home Show

We just purchased a home and the windows are not in the best shape. They are drafty and do not look good. How do we go about purchasing new windows? — Nancy and Don, Prescott Valley.

A window is not a window is not a window. How do you select windows without making a mistake and how do you avoid spending money you do not need to?

For better or for worse, new windows can change the look of your entire home. It starts with selecting the right material. Vinyl windows might look fine on one style of a home, but they would never work with another style. It is important that windows match the quality and price point of the house. Following are some tips to help you selct your windows.

5 Types of Window Materials to consider:

Wood — Very durable and energy efficient with classic good looks. Needs regular care (AKA painting).

Composite — Made of modern wood products such as particleboard. More resistant to moisture than wood.

Vinyl — Easy to maintain and affordable. The frame can be filled with fiberglass for more insulation.

Fiberglass — Very strong, sturdy. Can also be filled with insulation.

Aluminum — Probably the most affordable. Not good for energy savings in cold climates because they conduct heat.

After material, comes window-opening style:

Single-hung windows — Only the bottom opens.

Double-hung windows — Both the top and bottom open. The most common and easiest to clean.

Sliding windows — They slide open to the left or right. Great for hard-to-reach places, like over the kitchen sink.

Casement windows — They crank open from the side, allowing more air in.

Know window features:

Triple-pane windows — Recommended for extremely frigid climates.

Low-E-glass — Has an invisible coating that keeps the home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Helps prevent sunlight from fading your furnishings.

U-factor — It’s a rating (from 0.2 to 1.2) that measures a window’s insulation. The lower the rating, the better. Not usually worth the cost to pay for a rating below 0.3.

Other considerations

Look for lifetime warranties and/or certifications on your windows from Energy Star, The National Fenestration Ratings Council, The American Window and Door Institute, The American Architectural Manufacturers Association.

And, an expert installer may be even more important than choosing the window itself. A poor installation of a high-quality window will result in poor window performance.

It is important to visit window showrooms, and ask about manufacturer certifications. And as always, consider multiple bids. Anyone can screw a window in and, believe me, we have seen some disastrous window installations.

As another very important item, inasmuch as Prescott is in the Wildland Urban Interface Area, windows in particular are considered to be one of the most vulnerable portions of a structure when it is exposed to fire.

This vulnerability is due to several factors. The thermal shock of direct exposure to flames or the impact of airborne debris could shatter the glass, permitting burning brands or flames to enter the building, virtually assuring its destruction.

Conventional wisdom holds that the window frame is also susceptible to burn-through under direct flame exposure. Radiant or convective heating, such as from adjacent burning shrubbery, might not break the glass but could ignite or deform the window frame, allowing the glass to fall out and again exposing the building to subsequent entry of flames.

If you are building your home in the Wildland Urban Interface Area, there is an applied building code for windows and doors. Per Section 504.8 of the WUIAC, exterior windows, window walls and glazed doors, windows within exterior doors, and skylights shall be tempered glass, multilayered glazed panels, glass block or have a fire protection rating of not less than 20 minutes. Windows must be double pane or laminate construction. Section 504.9: exterior doors shall be approved non-combustible construction, solid core wood not less than 1.75 inches thick or have a fire protection rating of not less than 20 minutes.

Home and Garden Show

There are many great window products, companies, manufacturers and dealers in our area and this weekend at the YCCA Home and Garden Show, you will have the opportunity to meet them and discuss windows.

Plan to stop by the 39th annual Yavapai County Contractors Association Home and Garden Show this weekend at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley. You won’t want to miss the great event.

Admission is FREE! The hours are Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beyond windows, homeowners can meet with experts, receive professional advice and find everything needed for home improvement, remodeling, and decorating, landscaping, painting, pavers, spa relaxation, HVAC and the list goes on.

Where else can you meet so many vendors under one roof? Looking forward to seeing you there.

And, please, please, please bring non-perishable food items to support our most loved Bob and Ann Wilson of Yavapai Food Bank. Thanks.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” every Saturday or Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130AM/99.9FM or on the web at kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.