Ask the contractor: More to window shopping than you thought
We needed new windows and we called Yavapai County Contractors Association. Sandy told us to go “window shopping” because a window is not a window is not a window. Wow, what an education. Sandy, please share your “lecture” you gave us about window shopping, it taught us a lot and we are forever grateful.
— Margie and Ed
Here is my lecture on windows: New windows certainly can make a home quieter, more attractive, less drafty, and more energy efficient. Replacing windows can be expensive, and there are countless decisions to make before you swipe your credit card or write your check. Here’s what you need to know:
Does the entire window need to be replaced? If the existing frames and sills are still in good condition you possibly can use partial replacement units and/or energy efficient glass. Replacement units are fully assembled units that slip into the existing frames and can save you money on materials and labor. If the frame needs replacing you will need full-replacement windows; the frame, sill, and jambs.
Next, the hard part – selecting a window type. There are double-hung windows (the lower inside sash slides up and an upper outside sash slides down), improving air circulation and making full screens ideal. Cleaning is easy, because you can tilt the sash on any of the tested windows. Casement windows are hinged on one side, like a door, and a crank lets you open them outward, ideal for hard-to-reach areas such as over a kitchen sink. When fully open, casements allow for good ventilation and easy cleaning. Sliders glide on a horizontal track. Awning windows are hinged at the top and open outward, while hopper-style windows are hinged at the bottom and open inward.
Next, pick a frame material. Wood frames tend to be the most expensive and sometimes are clad in vinyl, aluminum, or fiberglass on the exterior to protect the wood and eliminate painting. Fiberglass-framed windows don’t need to be painted. Vinyl frames are usually the least expensive and they do not need to be painted or stained.
When replacing windows it is also important to note the warranty. Compare the warranties for parts and finishes. Probably the most frustrating (and expensive) problem is the failure of the seal between double pane glass and the resulting fogging. Look for a warranty that covers glass replacement up to 10-20 years. It is important to keep the receipt for your window purchase and the warranty in your records.
Glass is also important and there are several variables. Energy-efficient double-pane glass is fairly standard now. But it’s almost always worth paying a bit extra for two additional features: a low-E coating and argon gas between the panes. Most manufacturers have two variations of this type of glass, one designed for cold climates and one designed to control sunlight in warmer climates. If you spend more for air conditioning than for heating, choose the warm-climate type, and if you spend more for heating, choose the cold-climate type.
It is important to remember when you installing new windows, there are many benefits, from improving your home aesthetically, economically and environmentally. Of course, the most obvious value is in improving energy use. With the right kind of windows you can save as much as 27 percent to 38 percent on heating bills in winter and 16 percent to 32 percent on cooling bills in summer.
Probably the most difficult decision to make when it comes to replacing your windows is choosing the right style and materials. The overall cost depends on the style and quality of the materials, what type of glass is used, overall energy efficiency, and warranties.
Sandy Griffis is executive director of the Yavapai County Contractors Association. Email your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-778-0040.