Should You Do-It-Yourself or Hire a Professional?You've heard the old adage ... measure twice – cut once. In the world of replacement windows this couldn't ring more true. The correct window type, fit, and proper, professional installation can make or break a replacement window project. If you're replacing wood or metal windows, this can require additional expertise and work. If you choose a professional, check the reputation of the company. Though there are many reputable window installation companies to choose from, you should be aware that there are disreputable ones as well. Look for a professional that backs their installation work with a warranty on labor and parts in addition to a product warranty.
New Construction vs. Replacement (Retrofit) Windows You will often hear contractors and manufacturers use the terms New Construction or Replacement (Retrofit) when discussing residential windows. While neither window must be used exclusively for the project after which they're named, each has specific advantages designed for these different installation methods.
New Construction Windows:
New construction windows typically have a nail fin. When homes are built, the framing is likely constructed of wood studs. The nail fin rests against the outside of the stud, and nails or screws are driven through the holes in the fin. All other exterior materials are then applied and butted up to the frame of the window or trim.
New construction windows also can be used in a replacement project. The exterior materials, such as window trim (if it exists), siding, stucco or flashing, are removed, exposing the wood studs. The new window is then installed as it would have been when the home was originally built. Exposing the original studs also allows your contractor to see potential damage (typically rot) or home settling that may have occurred. The damage can be repaired, and the new window installed with proper insulation to minimize air infiltration between the new window and the studs. As you can imagine, this method can be more time consuming and will cost more than other replacement (retrofit) methods.
Replacement (Retrofit) Windows:
Replacement windows have been developed as a labor and cost-cutting alternative. There are two main types of replacement windows:
- "Flush fin" (also called Z-bar) replacement windows are typically used in California and other markets with aluminum windows in stucco home exteriors. This method leaves the original aluminum window frame intact and provides very little opportunity for the stucco siding to be damaged.
- "Block frame," or insert replacement windows, are typically found in markets where wood windows are in place, and the exterior is siding or brick. In most parts of the country, the block frame window is simply a new construction window frame with the nail fin removed. Your contractor will want to ensure that there's been no damage to the studs and there is proper insulation and flashing before using this type of window.
Consider how long you plan to be living with your new windows.If you're replacing windows because you're selling your house your priorities may differ. While beauty, maintenance-freedom, and energy savings is a common consideration, remember that when selling your home, vinyl windows recoup an average of 71% of the initial investment according to Remodeling Magazine's 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report, and can be an advantageous selling point to prospective home buyers – especially when providing a transferrable warranty to the new homeowner. Consider which features are most important to you ... price, quality and durability, energy efficiency, warranties and repair, appearance and design, and ordering and installation.
Read the label and do your homework. In addition to recommendations from industry experts, family and friends, do your own homework and check the label before you make a purchase. Look for credible, independent third-party endorsements such as Better Business Bureau, Angies List, AAMA (American Architectural Manufacturers Association), NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) and the ENERGY STAR label. These organizations use carefully constructed criteria to evaluate manufacturers and products. If a company or product doesn't make their list, they most likely should not make yours.
Now that you've narrowed your options, learn the language for energy efficiency.ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy designed to help you save money and protect the environment though energy efficient products and practices. The NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) is a third-party, non-profit organization that independently tests and certifies all ENERGY STAR qualified windows so you can compare the energy and performance features.
The NFRC label can be found on all ENERGY STAR qualified windows, doors, and skylights and provides performance ratings in five categories:
U-Factor measures the rate of heat transfer and tells you how well the window insulates. U-factor values generally range from 0.25 to 1.25 and are measured in Btu/h•ft2•°F. The lower the U-factor, the better the window insulates.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) measures the fraction of solar energy transmitted and tells you how well the product blocks heat caused by sunlight. SHGC is measured on a scale of 0 to 1; values typically range from 0.22 to 0.80. The lower the SHGC, the less solar heat the window transmits.
Visible Transmittance (VT) measures the amount of light the window lets through. VT is measured on a scale of 0 to 1; values generally range from 0.20 to 0.80. The higher the VT, the more light you see.
Air Leakage (AL) measures the rate at which air passes through joints in the window. AL is measured in cubic feet of air passing through one square foot of window area per minute. The lower the AL value, the less air leakage. Most industry standards and building codes require an AL of 0.3 cf•m/ft2.
Condensation Resistance measures how well the window resists water build-up. Condensation Resistance is scored on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the condensation resistance factor, the less build-up the window allows.
Make a comparison checklist.You've determined that price, energy efficiency, warranties and service are most important to you, for example. Next, develop a comparison checklist to determine which products and companies can provide the highest level at the lowest possible price. Our sales team will provide you with a full checklist that you can use that detail's all of our features and benefits vs the other companies.
Narrow your options on Budget.In general, wood is more expensive than vinyl or aluminum, and may require more maintenance. The Window Design Group also offers different pricing scales within its window lines – from Custom and Economy, to more modest, Standard options. When it comes to budget, consider the long term value beyond the initial purchase price. Energy efficiency and a longer warranty can all help save maintenance and replacement costs over time. Resale value is also a key consideration – beautiful, more efficient windows are a big selling feature. You can also defray some of your initial costs with the current government tax credits.
Make sure that the price of the windows include accessories you may need as well as installation, removal of the old windows and the dump fees?
Narrow your options on WARRANTIES.Does the warranty cover air leaks, and broken seals and if so, for how long? Does the warranty cover labor and glass breakage? Is the company reputable and what recourse do you have if they go out of business? Do they carry liability insurance and are they licensed to work in your state? Do they have national backing by a third-party such as The Better Business Bureau and Angies List? Is the warranty transferrable to the next homeowner?
Narrow your options on ENERGY EFFICIENCY. If your home is located in a warmer, sunny climate, the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient measurement will be more of a consideration. Consider heat-reflective Low E glass and insulating Argon Gas to not only block the sun's rays in the summer but to prevent heat loss in the winter.
Narrow your options on QUALITY and DURABILITY. For life-long durability, choose solidly constructed frames with steel, reinforced sashes that prevent warping, and sloped sills to remove rainwater. Look for double fin mylar weather-stripping, double ventilation locks, and fusion-welded sash and frame. Are the windows custom manufactured for your specific home? Are the products American-Made?
Narrow your options on Appearance and Window Type.Casement, awning, single-hung, double-hung and sliding windows are available in many shapes and sizes, including radius and geometric, and combination units. When choosing the type of a window, first consider practical factors such as how it opens, then consider aesthetic options such as how it will affect the curb appeal of your home. Picking the right opening method may depend on whether there are obstacles, such as furniture or plants, on either side.
Maintenance.In the past, wood has required more maintenance than vinyl or aluminum. In fact, vinyl is virtually maintenance free. However, for homeowners that want real wood with less maintenance, The Window Design Group has spearheaded a number of innovations. Windows in Wood Clad feature Cladding which is an aluminum "cap" that covers the exterior of some wood window and comes in an array of different colors. It never needs painting, and the interior side can remain un-clad to display the natural beauty of wood. We estimate that nearly 90 percent of our wood windows are sold with cladding.
Sun Clean Neat Glass. For the glass, our Wood and Vinyl Windows come with optional Sun Clean glass that has a layer of titanium dioxide and reacts with the sun's UV rays (even on cloudy days) to break down and loosen dirt. This allows rainwater to easily rinse away grime. A thin layer of silicon dioxide lets water disperse evenly and evaporate quickly, which greatly reduces spots. You virtually will not need to wash your windows in most environments.
Optional Features.Add style and functionality to your windows with a variety of optional features, especially for our Custom Windows. For example, for screens, The Window Design Group offers invisible screens that allow the screen to roll up and out of sight when not in use. Hardware finishes are important to consider for any windows and The Window Design Group has a wide variety to choose from. Vinyl window options included on The Westbridge Series offers a clean contemporary window design with a variety of grid options and configurations. optional features of the Westbridge window include Low-E Glass, Argon Gas, Insulated Frames, Equal Sight Lines, SunClean Neat Glass, 3 1/4" frames, Edgetech Super Spacer's Warm Edge Technology, Set Back Glass and Lifetime Glass Breakage Warranty.
Reliability. Warranties are important: proper installation and following the manufacturer's specific maintenance requirements are a must to maintain warranties and keep windows looking and performing beautifully for years to come. The Window Design Group offers an industry leading lifetime warranty on energy efficient, low maintenance vinyl windows.
Accessibility & Safety.We offer a variety of window types, handles, cranks and locks that are ADA compliant or recommended for home owners with limited mobility. If you have small children, then you may want consider the distance between the bottom of the window and the floor, especially on upper stories, The Window Design Group offers a variety of textured, tinted, self cleaning and Low E glass options for windows that provides privacy while still allowing natural light to enter. They also help reduce fading of interior furnishings and increase energy efficiency.
Noise reduction.The Window Design Group offers a QUIET LINE of windows where sound transmission is reduced. Compared to a single pane of glass that has a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of around 27, an insulated laminated glass unit can achieve an STC rating of up to 35, which has the ability to block even loud construction noises. Even without laminated glass, there are other options for reducing sound transmission with insulated replacement windows.
Security.Consider glass strength and the locking mechanism. Most of The Window Design Group windows meet forced entry test requirements. Other technologies such as Low-E glass use thicker double strength glass, which is twice as resistant to breakage compared to single strength glass. Our vinyl windows with our Positive Action locking mechanism with a tamper-resistant design that is easy to operate with one hand, locks automatically when shut, and can't be seen from the outside, which offers additional protection. The Window Design Group offers high line laminated glass protection, made for extreme weather conditions, also provides added security.
Termites.Termites can be found in nearly every state in the nation, causing billions of dollars worth of damage to buildings and homes. Choose a material specifically designed to prevent insect damage, such as The Window Design Group Westbridge series vinyl, fiberglass or aluminum windows.
Green Building.In addition to energy efficient windows, The Window Design Group offers windows made from sustainable materials, such as Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) certified wood. Green building also encourages home builders and owners to take advantage of natural process for heating and cooling. When planning your windows, consider which direction they face to maximize use of sunlight and shade.
You can reduce your reliance on air conditioning by taking advantage of natural air currents. Hot air rises, and cool air sinks. If you have double-hung windows, open the top sashes on the sunny or warmest side of the room, and the bottom sashes on the cooler side: this will create a cross-breeze. The same principal may be applied to different floors in your house. Open the top floor windows on the hottest side of the house, and the bottom floor windows on the coolest side. Ceiling or window fans can also help, and still use less energy than air conditioning.
How to Determine if it is Time to Replace your WindowsHere are some guidelines for evaluating the current condition for your windows and assessing if replacement is needed. If a window simply shows signs of wear and tear or exposure such as cracked paint but operates normally, then it's likely time to refinish it according to the manufacturer's instructions. However, if a window shows clear signs of the following, then replacement is needed.
Fog or moisture between the glass.
If the seal between glass panes is broken, cold air and water can leak into the window. Moisture or fog in between the panes is a good indicator that the seal is broken.
Moisture or condensation.
Windows that let in moisture can lead to more severe problems such as mold growth. Look out for condensation on the window or standing pools of water on the windowsill.
Windows without protected wood can decay and rot if they are exposed to the harsh elements or if a home has termites. Signs that wood may be decaying include soft wood that breaks away easily in irregular pieces or wood that has moisture in it.
Problems opening or closing.
In older homes, wood windows may have been painted over numerous times or may have become severely warped due to age and weather conditions. Windows that don't open and close easily or properly is more than just annoying; it's a safety issue and a sign that it's time for a replacement.
There are many tests to determine if a window is drafty, such as placing a lighted candle next to the window to see if the flame moves. If it does, you have a draft and your energy bills are paying the price.
Typically, older, single pane windows don't block as much noise as new double pane windows. If you can hear your neighbors chatting across the street as they are getting their mail, it is probably time to upgrade your windows.
BONUS: Most Importantly, have fun.
Replacing your windows should be a highly satisfying home improvement project. One that not only saves you energy and increases the value of your home, but also adds comfort, security and beauty inside and out. As one of California's Largest Home Improvement Company's, The Window Design Group is here to help. If you'd like more information, please call us at 800-577-0643. or complete our on-line form for a complementary free in-home estimate.