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What to Look for in Replacement WindowsDecember 13th, 2012 by
This article was crafted with the help of Steve Drummond from Texas Energy Concepts
There are several reasons why homeowners should take a little extra time when choosing replacement windows. First of all, as a key component of energy efficiency, windows have lately become much more varied and high-tech. Moreover, windows are a defining feature of every house, so homeowners would be wise to find replacements with curb appeal.
Steve Drummond, owner of Texas Energy Concepts in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, understands the many factors homeowners must consider before installing windows. “It’s almost like buying a new car,” he says, noting his customers’ desire for windows that are energy efficient and durable and have the right look.
According to Steve, a little education can make the installation process much easier. “It’s important for a designer to sit down with people and make sure they know what they’re getting,” he says. Whether you’re in the market for replacement windows or just want to learn more, Steve’s 16 years of home improvement experience provide a great deal of insight into the industry.
When to Upgrade Your Windows
If your windows are irritatingly difficult to open and close or you notice drafts around your windows, you should consider having them inspected or possibly replaced. According to Steve, it’s common for homeowners to be disappointed in their home’s original windows; he notes that until recently, homebuilders often neglected to invest in quality windows.
“For many years, people didn’t realize the importance of efficient windows,” says Steve. “Homeowners and homebuilders upgrade homes with granite countertops, crown molding—things like that. But whether it’s a $100,000 house or a $1,000,000 house, a lot of times people didn’t use superior windows.”
Even if your windows aren’t drafty or difficult to open, improved energy efficiency is a significant reason to upgrade. When installed properly, Steve says that replacement windows can noticeably reduce energy costs.
Because windows are just one aspect of a house’s insulating envelope, and each window installation project is different, the resulting savings will be different for each homeowner. However, Steve tells people to “expect 25 to 30 percent lower energy costs after a whole-house installation of energy-efficient windows.”
Should Your Windows Be Replaced or Rebuilt?
If homeowners decide to upgrade their windows, they should first know the difference between replacement windows and new construction windows. It may be something you’ve never thought about, but the distinction is easy to grasp.
Unless you’re building a new home or undertaking a heavy-duty renovation project, you probably won’t be installing new construction windows. Even if your windows are dilapidated or impossibly difficult to open, as long as the trim is intact and free from extensive rot or termites, then you will probably be able to replace your windows instead of having to reconstruct them.
Replacement windows can be custom-made or bought ready-made to fit into existing window trim. The sashes and window stops—essentially, the moving parts of the window that hold the glass and the tracks on which they slide up and down—are removed.
A new, ready-made window, comprising new sashes and window stops held together by a frame, is then fitted into the existing trim.
Choosing a Material for Your Replacement Windows
According to Steve, there are four main types of replacement windows available:
While these windows are inexpensive, Steve says that they’re increasingly less popular because of their lower energy efficiency. “You cannot make aluminum windows as energy efficient as other products in today’s market,” says Steve.
“Aluminum doesn’t insulate against the heat or cold very well.” Aluminum also doesn’t provide a good sound barrier, although features like dual panes of glass with different thicknesses—to muffle the sound of multiple frequencies—can improve acoustical performance.
Typically a visually pleasing choice, “wood windows are some of the prettiest out there,” says Steve. He adds that “the negative thing about wood concerns its limitations and cost.”
After about ten years of being exposed to the elements and sitting in the trim of a slowly settling house, Steve says that a wood window probably won’t perform as well as one made of a more robust synthetic material.
Made of glass-reinforced plastic, Steve notes that fiberglass windows have so far proven to be very durable. However, because they are a relatively new product, fiberglass windows are costly and untested in the long-term.
“Fiberglass windows can cost as much as wood windows,” notes Steve, “and they don’t have a tried-and-true history in extremely hot and humid climates yet.”
Resilient, energy efficient, and economical, these windows appeal to many practical-minded homeowners. One potential drawback is that vinyl windows are sometimes made with bulkier frames in order to increase their strength.
As a result, homeowners may notice that the size of their window panes has been reduced after installing certain kinds of vinyl replacement windows.
Ultimately, Steve recommends replacement windows made of vinyl to many of his customers because of the material’s cost-effectiveness and longstanding track record in the Texas heat and humidity.
He adds that it’s possible to install vinyl windows that don’t have significantly smaller window panes, as long as homeowners find the right contractor with the right product.
“There are vinyl windows that are both streamlined and structurally sound,” he says. “Salespeople tell customers that vinyl windows must be bulky, but homeowners can find vinyl products that are almost as cost-effective as aluminum and nearly as strong as fiberglass by working with a good contractor.”
What to Look for in a Window Contractor
Steve believes that working with the right contractor is the key to a stress-free window installation experience. In some locations, there may be many installers to choose from, and homeowners should pick one carefully.
Steve advises homeowners to refrain from price shopping or choosing contractors who say they can get the job done as fast as possible. He says that when contractors work too cheaply and quickly, it “can lead to practices that are done more for the ease of the installer than the benefit of the homeowner.”
It’s a good sign if a company provides testimonials or is referred to you by a neighbor in the first place. Steve also recommends contracting with a window installer whose approach to the business suits you, such as someone who will “sit down with you and take the role of an advisor or a consultant, rather than a high-pressure salesperson.”
With concerns about price, efficiency, and aesthetics, installing replacement windows can be a lot like buying a new car, to use Steve’s comparison. Homeowners should spend a little extra time researching their options and locating the right professional to help them.
The Best Pick designation, says Steve, allows homeowners to “know exactly what they’re getting so they are 100 percent satisfied.”
This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Texas Energy Concepts, a Window & Door Replacement Best Pick in Dallas. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.