Should I upgrade my home windows?

I have over ten years in the locksmith business and three years of specializing indoors & frames. I took a job selling windows recently and would love to share with you what I learned.

To start, The reason why I ventured into selling windows was due to the high demand of requests I had with selling doors. Most of the verbiage of windows is very similar to a door frame. They borrow the same words from locksmithing, doors, and frames. One of the door factories I worked for, started sending me window clients and I wasn’t tough to transfer the same knowledge over.

Although, the windows requests and information was all done for me. Incidentally, being an order taker can be the best way to train yourself in a new trade. Entering that window information, allowed me to see what correct configurations could be made, allowed me to learn verbiage and parts of the window.

From there I saw a job opening with a window company recently that was looking for a window and door salesman. I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about windows.


I learned a few things while I sold windows.

First of all,

A company and owner who boasts about their outstanding reputation of being in business for 13 years that only has five employees that rotate faster than a daily special. Is not a good company to work as an employee.

They also are not the best to hire, in my opinion. As they use subpar installers, sweep their complaints under the rug by brides and give you the run around when resolving issues.

Choose your window replacement company very carefully.

Second,

Windows are not hard to learn and understand. Honestly, there’s not much difference between the glass each manufacturer use. As there is only a handful of companies that manufacture all the glass for windows. Most of the glass for residential homes only come from one or two manufacturers.

Meaning one company may call a glass package one thing, which is the same as another window makers that call the same rating something else. The glass coating, ratings, and spacers meet the same standard.

All window companies offer good, better, and best packages. However, as you know, the best is not the best all the time — just the priciest.

Last and most important,

The biggest thing that I learned about windows is not choosing the right window or company to buy from.

The most crucial part of window replacement is installation.

Too many installers are not skilled and use the wrong products to install. What I learned is that the longevity of the install is the most important thing to look at.

Yelp is excellent to find reputable companies and ones that send out a sales associate.

However, if they show up without a crew that misbehaves, not adequately dressed for install or they don’t give the impression of professionalism. Do not have them install your windows.

There are items like doors that are not hard to install. Windows are unbelievably challenging depending if they are covering the existing frame (jump frame), removing the current frame, or doing a fresh install.

You should do as much research on the install company as the company you are purchasing the windows through. You may be shocked that most window replacement companies, even the big ones, subcontract their installs.

Read here to learn the terms and definitions of a window.

Terms and definitions of a window

How are Windows Rated?

windows and skylight energy star regional ratings

I will make this portion sweet and straightforward as the information can be overwhelming.

Here is the simplified version

  • U factor = How much non-solar heat is passing through the glass. Rating encompasses the entire window not the glass Lower the U factor, means a more efficient window.
  • SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient = How much heat is coming through the window and staying in the room. Lower the number, the more effective the window blocks heat.
  • VT( Visible Transmittance) = How much light will be seen through the lass into the room.
  • Air Leakage = not all manufacture give you this information. The reason why this should have considered is if you live in a part where humidity is a problem. Condensation can build up in between the glass panes.

 Remodeling Magazine reported that replacement windows have an 83.4 % return on investment

What should I keep in mind when shopping for new windows?

Operation types of window to choose from.

Most popular with new home construction. Because it meets egress code, it is the most natural choice for builders.

Windowpane, Slides, either way, depending on you configure it. Left or right.

Horizontal Sliding window
Horizontal Sliding window

A double slider is either quartered or third divided for larger window openings.

Double Sliding Window
Double Sliding Window

Also a typical operation style. More common back east with double-hung units. A single hung unit only opens from the bottom up. A double-hung unit, both upper and lower panes slide. They sometimes meet egress code.

Single Hung Window
Single Hung Window

A double-hung unit, both upper and lower panes operate.

Double-hung units are meant for homes where you want to ventilate air from the top of the window. These types are windows leak the most air and have sealing issues. I do not recommend based on price and problems I have seen throughout the years with these types of windows.

Double Hung Window
Double Hung Window

Casement windows are my favorite but are the most costly, can be more substantial, and they have their limits in size. The difference between casements and awnings are simple. Casement windows and awning windows use either a turn crank handle or a latch and push out system. Casements rotate out either left or right-handed.

Casement window
Casement Window

Awning windows crank or push out vertically. Perfect in rainy places where you can leave the window cracked open. The portion of the window acts as an awning, hence the name.

Awning window
Awning Windows

These are stationary windows which do not operate. No Operation. They allow beautiful views to transfer into your home. They allow the largest sizes to be made, but they do not meet egress code. So you must have at least one operating window in a room for someone to escape in case of a fire.

Picture window
Picture Windows

Radius windows look luxurious and give compliments to architecture. Same as above just with a radius or arched glass header. They are more money and have limits on them. However, a great way to add design and style to any room.

Radius picture window
Radius Picture Windows

A radius top can be added to single-hung and slider units as well. Some companies allow the windows to be mulled at the factory or in the field. Mulled refers to joining two or more windows together. A mull bar is a molding piece that marries two frames together.


Bay or Bow windows are more for aesthetic purposed and architectural detail. They can open parts of a room to bring dynamics or light into an area. These replacements can be costly and may require more reinforcement of your opening.

Bay and bow window
Bay or bow windows

Always receive at least three different bids and opinions of install before installing a bay or bow window. Certain materials, hardware, or repair, may be needed to install.


Keep the most important features, without compromising design. It can be overwhelming but luckily I worked briefly in the window industry and learned what a consumer really needs to know.

An egress window must satisfy all four International Residential Code (IRC) criteria:

  • Minimum width of opening: 20in.
  • Minimum height of opening: 24in.
  • The minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq.ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor).
  • Maximum sill height above floor: 44in.

Type of materials used in making windows.

Vinyl Windows

The most popular in materials today, vinyl windows, have longevity and affordability. Vinyl windows can withstand harsher climate conditions. Most vinyl windows are manufactured using extruded method then welded together or screwed together. In my opinion, for your money and features. Simonton windows make the best window I have seen far. Quality, time, and features do leave other manufactures in the dust. Check them out at www.simonton.com.


Wood Windows

A Wood window is the best insulator of heat and brings a luxurious look into any home. Wood windows though are more expensive than vinyl. Different wood window manufacturers use different methods of production and install. Milgard finished their wood-clad windows with a snap-in piece wood trim that hides the screws — giving a rich and wealthy look. Wood windows do require better weatherization of the opening to prevent rot. Just like wood doors, wood windows do require more maintenance but give you a superior look. Pella, Anderson and Marvin windows are known for their wood windows.


On a side note. I would not recommend Renewal by Anderson. Even though they have a well reputable name. These windows are of lower quality with a higher price tag. If you have received a quote from them, please check with two other window companies to make sure you are not overpaying.


Fiberglass windows

Fiberglass windows are the windows of the future. However, due to the time to produce fiberglass is a more expensive option. Extremely durable and robust, fiberglass windows are one of the best prospects in extreme climates. Also, fiberglass has the color finish bleed through into the fiberglass, making the finish color more durable than staining or painting.

In comparison to wood, fiberglass remains about the same price in most markets. Vinyl is the less inexpensive way to go, but in the long run, fiberglass will outperform vinyl and wood.

Not every manufacturer makes a fiberglass version, and like all windows they all have limits.


Aluminum Windows

Aluminum windows were once all the rage back in the ’70s, 80’s and ’90s. Although due to manufactures cutting corners and yielding cheaper aluminum. Aluminum windows are not as efficient as vinyl or wood. The main reason why people choose aluminum is for its sleek industrial look, and they most likely already have aluminum windows currently in their home. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of aluminum. Although for windows, it is my last option because of better materials available now. The cost is around the same price of fiberglass and wood options when you place the same efficiency on the windows.


Anatomy of an Energy-Efficient Window

Making an informed decision

Ask yourself these questions.

 

How will the window operate? Try not to replace like for like in your house. Your home builder, unless it was you, Did not design the house you live in for your families needs. Reflect on how would you like to use your windows and clean them.

How would you like the airflow to aerate your home?

If you are going to place a single hung window above a countertop, can you reach the window to close it?

This leads to a small option on many windows call a pull bar. Some windows place the pull bar on the top portion of the pane the slides up and down. That pull handle gives your fingers something to grip when pulling and pushing. The main reason why I liked Simonton Windows was the fact the put two pull bars on their windows. One of the top and bottom of the sash. So if you are a shorter person, you are still able to close the window by using the lower pull bar.

Material

Each material is going to give you a different look and features. Ask your salesman to bring as many samples as possible. Look at the features, quality, and look before discussing price. Price can lead you astray. Find what you like the look of, feel (as you touch and slide your windows a lot), and what is best for your climate.

Heat

If you are in a warmer climate like I am you want to keep heat out and coolness in. Subsequently, I would choose a Low-E film to keep the heat out and keep the interior cool.

Pro solar shade film for window heat gain

If you lived in a colder climate, you want to bo the opposite. Keep the heat in and cold out. You can configure to meet your unique needs by changing the film use and where the film is placed. Consequently, there is a dramatic difference in where heat, light, and temperature vary by switching, which pane the film applied.

You can place the right amount of heat and light in each room, depending on how you configure the window.


Decorative glass in a window

Glass Options

Different glass options are available on top of film coatings. Such as rain glass, bevel glass, pebble glass. This stylish glass is an excellent way to diffuse light and create a wow impression in your home. Just as doors. I would convince customers it is in your best option to pay a little more for a stylish glass. That elegant glass can change the look of a living room by eliminating an eyesore with beautiful glass, which means if you have an ill-placed window that is always closed. You can replace that window with decorative glass to allow light in, keep the blinds open, and enjoy the widow.


Dual and triple pane glass examples

Panes of glass

Dual plane glass is the norm, but triple pane windows are coming more and more common these days. Triple pane windows are mostly in countries like Finland and Germany. Triple pane is the way to go for the best efficiency but double pane, with a correct spacer and gas. Can be as efficient, but not as good.


Temper glass and Spacers

Tempered glass is extremely strong and used for its safety characteristics. Not only is it extra strong but, when it breaks, it breaks into little pieces without sharp edges. Tempered glass is ideal for reducing the likelihood of injury in the event of breakage in applications like patio doors and sidelights.

So when do you have to temper your glass?

  • The window measures larger than 9 feet
  • Less than 18in above the floor
  • Top edge is 36in above the floor
  • a walking surface within 36 inches of the glass such as a landing, stairs or ramps
  • If it is in a shower, hot tub, sauna or near a pool = 60in from the water’s edge.
 

Spacers

A spacer system keeps a window glass panes the correct distance apart and is designed to reduce heat transfer at the edge of the insulating glass unit.


Gas Filled

The two gases used in windows are argon and krypton gas. Argon is the most widely used and does an excellent job of slowing the vibrations of molecules in the gas, so heat dissipates faster. Krypton is a more dense gas but a lot more expensive.

I do not recommend filling are your windows with argon. Choose only picture windows, single hung, or slider that get direct sun. The gas does leave over time, even though they say it doesn’t. The gas does its job but at $20-40 per window. Add it to your windows using your discretion. 

Locks

Usually, only two locks are often offered. Old fashion pain in the ass cam locks. Which just flip. The other option is typically some kind of one-touch auto-lock. I recommend those hands down as they are easy to operate and are always locked when closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you choose the right one for your budget?

Generally, the answer is always the simplest.

Find a reputable dealer that also installs their windows through their own installation company.

Make sure they are bonding, licensed, and have a fair amount of good and negative reviews. Someone with no negative reviews is paying off their customers not to complain. I have worked in the industry too long to know you cannot please or have every job go smoothly. The test of a good company is how they resolve those issues.

Find three companies that you like or are recommended to receive a window quote. Never buy windows without receiving more than one quote.

Find a company that will come to your home with samples. Again do not ask about the price. Base your assessment on the quality and features you need. Warranties are significant as well with windows. Always ask about the manufactures warranty and their extended coverage of install.

Again do not buy based on price. Prices can be deceiving decision-makers. Discounts, packages, and deals are excellent. However, you can easily persuade the most educated individual with these tactics. You should always buy smart, but windows are an item that price should not be your deciding factor. Of course, the window needs to fall into your budget.

Setting that budget can be hard, although if you follow some simple methods, you can figure out your budget real quick.

Your budget should not be a made-up number based on how much money you and how much you would like to spend. A budget should determine itself after your initial quotes. Having various quotes on different models gives you an average price. Take that number and the highest quoted price. Divide that by 2. Now you quickly calculated your realistic budget. If you based your budget on money, you have in hand or a number you feel comfortable paying even if you have researched on the internet and read reviews.

Your budget must cover the removal and disposal of the old windows, weather sealing the windows, installation, clean up, and finishing the exterior to match if your budget is based on the price of just the windows you will exceed your budgets like almost every client I had selling doors and windows.

When dealing with windows, doors, air conditioners, and garage doors. The total price is based on materials, cost of labor, and time. Each state and county can have different rates, labor fees, disposal fees, and competition. All of these components change the overall cost of your investment.

Door, windows, bathrooms, and kitchens all increase the value and appeal of your home. Develop a realistic budget based on windows that meet your demands, increase the appeal of your home, are easy to clean and maintenance. If you buy windows based on this criteria, selling your home will be a breeze and increase the preserved value of your home. Not to mention, makes your home beautiful for you to enjoy.

Most problems with windows occur at least a year or two down the road. Make sure their warranty will cover the install for at least two years. All contractor by law has to warranty their work for at least a year. However, problems occur long after that.

Question their installation techniques and what they are using to weather seal your home. It’s your right to know what they are adding, removing, and covering.

By collecting all of this data and looking at your budget, you can be feel comfortable about your investment.


 

Lastly, the finishing touches.

One of the most overlooked parts of replacing windows is finishing the outside of the window to match your existing exterior. Whether your exterior is, stucco, siding, plaster or shingles, most installation companies do not do large drywall patches, stucco, or exterior siding. A third party company may have to be called in to finish the exterior or interior. Make sure to ask about this as it can take a large piece out of your budget to complete your project.

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