If you’ve never bought a set of replacement windows before, you might not know what to expect. While it would seem like a simple decision, there are many aspects that have to be considered carefully. Considering the fact that replacement windows aren’t cheap at all, it is very important to choose wisely and get the right windows for your home. For those who don’t have any experience, we present our ultimate buyer’s guide to replacement windows. We hope that it will be helpful to you.
Step #1: Always Research The Company
When you buy a new replacement window (or a set of them), you are probably also buying an installation plan. While you could attempt to install the windows DIY-style, it is not recommended for most people. A small mistake could end up costing you a lot of money if you start messing around with things you don’t fully understand.
That means dealing with a company that will install your windows. Since these are the people that will actually be working on your home, you need to do as much research on them as possible. You might not know how to do this, but don’t worry! It’s actually pretty easy.
Start by looking up the company on the website of the Better Business Bureau. While their ratings might not always reflect the truth, they are a good place to start. Don’t worry if the business hasn’t been accredited by the BBB, as this is not necessarily a red flag. If they have been accredited by the BBB, on the other hand, that is definitely a positive sign.
Of course, you shouldn’t stop there. A simple internet search can generally yield reviews for any company. When you look at these reviews, you should be aware that companies will sometimes hire people to “review-bomb” rival companies. When you see complaints that aren’t reasonable, for instance, that is a red flag. In any case, those review-bombers won’t be everywhere. By reading lots of reviews, you can get a sense of how satisfied their customers generally are.
When researching window companies, you should also take a look at their prices. You probably don’t want to spend more than necessary, but you also probably want to buy a quality product that will last. And so, higher prices are not necessarily a deal-breaker. However, there must be something to justify that higher cost. For instance, if the window has special roll-up screens built into the frame, that might be worth a little extra money.
Other questions to ask about your window seller and/or installer:
- How old is this company?
- Has this company’s products been involved in any recalls?
- Does this company have any professional awards or accreditation’s?
- Are the prices comparable to others on the market?
Step #2: Choose Your Window Type
The window is a very basic invention, so it’s no surprise that people have invented many different types and styles. While the needs of your space will dictate this decision to some degree, you will rarely be limited to one option.
Single-Hung and Double-Hung Windows
Most windows in most homes are “single-hung” or “double-hung” windows. These styles are favored for several reasons, but most of it comes down to a mix of low cost and convenience. These windows get their name from the fact that they consist of two panes, one on top of the other. The bottom panel and frame can be lifted to open the window, and most of them are equipped with a simple locking device.
The double-hung windows are also made with a removable top panel that can slide forward or backward. The removable top panel is meant to provide better ventilation in hot weather, as both halves of the window can be opened. It is also much easier to clean a double-hung window. For windows that are not on the ground floor, this is an ideal solution that eliminates the need for expensive (And dangerous) window-washing services. As far as we can tell, this top panel is the only real difference between single-hung and double-hung windows.
Instead of going with the most common option, you might choose to get casement windows. These are the windows that swing outward on side-mounted hinges. They might consist of one panel or two, but both of them provide extremely good ventilation when open. There aren’t even any bars in the middle to obstruct the airflow. These windows also allow much more sunlight to enter the home, helping to keep things bright with less electrical lighting.
When these windows are functioning properly, they are very energy-efficient. There is only one seal to worry about, and that’s the seal around the frame of the panel. As long as that part of the window is secured tightly, you should find these to be very energy-efficient. When open, these windows are usually held open by a piece called a “casement stay.” You should inspect this piece and make sure that it’s durable enough to withstand the highest winds in your area.
These are the large, open windows that have nothing obstructing the view. They are called “picture windows” because they are designed for optimal viewing. These kinds of windows are very common at tourist sites and public attractions such as zoos and historical sites. Picture windows are a very attractive addition to any home and give the entire place a less cramped, more spacious feeling.
At the same time, there is one big disadvantage to a picture window: They do not open. That means no ventilation, which defeats one of the purposes of a window. By focusing on one purpose, they have chosen to neglect the other. However, this may not be a problem for you. If your other windows provide sufficient ventilation, then a picture window might be an ideal choice. In the category of smaller disadvantages, we might mention that these windows are a little easier to break unless heavily reinforced with multiple panes.
You might also opt for bay windows. These are windows that project outward from a building. Adding windows like these can be a little bit more of a challenge because you have to add to the frame of the house before you can install the window or windows. In most cases, bay windows will have three sides, and a window for each one.
There are several benefits to a window of this type. First of all, it creates a small ledge that can be used for a variety of purposes. You can turn it into a couch, bench, or bed with the addition of cushions. You could use it for potted plants, which look nice and improve the air quality as well. Finally, this kind of window will allow light to enter at different angles, providing better natural lighting than any other window type.
These windows are composed of many parallel slats set in a frame. They can be tilted using a knob or other switch, opening and closing by changing the angle of the slats. If you don’t understand what we mean, just understand that these windows work like window blinds, except that they are made of tougher material and set in a frame.
These windows are very popular in hot-weather areas because they provide great ventilation without allowing too much sunlight to enter. When the sun is beating down in Arizona or New Mexico or somewhere like that, less sunlight can be a good thing. The only real problem is that the jalousie window doesn’t provide a very good view. Even when transparent slats are used, they fall short in this area. Because they are composed of small pieces that are easily broken, they are also a little less secure unless reinforced.
Awning windows work a little bit like jalousie windows, except for the fact that they only have one movable panel. The top halves of these windows will normally be fixed in place, and look about the same as the upper half of a double-hung window. The lower half, however, pivots outward through the use of a crank. They usually pivot from the top, opening at the bottom and swinging upward. However, there are some models that pivot from the bottom as well.
These windows have most of the same advantages that you would get with jalousie windows. However, they offer better security because they are more solid and harder to break. Also, these windows are great for rainy climates because they protect your home from the rain even when open. When cranked all the way out, the window becomes a small awning that allows for good ventilation without letting water inside.
These windows work pretty much the same way that a sliding-glass door works. You have two panels, one in front of the other. Each of them has small wheels and rides on tracks, making it easy to open and close them. These windows offer an ideal solution for those who want maximum convenience and a clear view.
Slider windows offer easy access and a very large opening. For windows that might require a person to climb out (emergency thinking, of course), a slider window is a great thing to have. At the same time, these windows do not seal as tightly as most other types of windows. The gap between the two panels of glass will always produce some degree of air leakage, making them less energy-efficient.
There Are Plenty Of Others
These are some of the most common window types on the market, but this list is by no means complete. There are all kinds of specialty windows out there for those who want something a little different. If your tastes lean toward the unique, we would recommend you ask your window dealer about specialty products.
On this subject, we should mention one little thing: Always avoid single-pane windows. These are common in older homes, but only because of their low cost. A single-pane window is very prone to breakage, and it doesn’t take much impact to destroy one of these. They also offer very poor insulation, making them very inefficient in terms of energy usage. In short, they should be replaced whenever they are encountered.
Step #3: Choose An Installation Type
If you walk into this project without any knowledge of its terminology, you are taking a risk. At the minimum, you won’t get the results you want because you didn’t describe them in a way that was understood. At worst, you could even be fleeced by an unscrupulous contractor. That’s why it pays to learn the following terms and concepts.
Retrofit installation is the simplest, the easiest, and (most likely) the cheapest. With this kind of job, you do not replace the entire window. Only the glass panes are replaced, leaving the original frame in place. This is a good option for instances in which the glass is broken, but the frame is still sound.
Stud To Stud Installation
This is a repair job in which the entire window is replaced. The window and its frame are removed down to the stud and then replaced with an entirely new frame. This one takes a little longer and costs a little more, but it is the only option in cases where the frame itself is damaged.
Brick To Brick Installation
This is the most hardcore and expensive option available, but it’s also the only type of installation that is sure to resolve all existing issues. Much like a stud to stud installation, the entire frame and window are replaced. However, they go a step further and replace the trim around the window frame. By cutting out every component of the old window, you get a complete replacement job.
Step #4: Choose A Material For The Window Frames
At this point, you might think that you are done making decisions, but that would be wrong. After choosing a style, you must then choose the material of which it will be made. For most styles of windows, you will have more than one option. Most modern frames are made of wood, aluminum, or vinyl.
Wooden frames are the traditional choice, and they offer great beauty and durability. Wood does a very good job of resisting impact and other damage, and a good stain can bring out beautiful and unique patterns. At the same time, wood is always going to be more resistant to moisture. Most wooden window frames will be covered in a layer of water-resistant material or impregnated with some kind of plastic.
No matter what you do, wooden frames will eventually rot and need to be replaced. However, it will take a long time if your wood is properly treated. Wood also makes a great natural insulator against electric shock and provides good weather sealing properties as well.
Aluminum frames have a distinct advantage over wooden frames, in the fact that they never rot. They are also not vulnerable to mold or corrosion of any sort. In fact, most window screens are made with aluminum oxide. Aluminum oxide forms on the surface of all aluminum, so you can count on these frames to last a long time.
At the same time, aluminum is a soft metal. That makes it more prone to deforming on impact, and it can be very hard to bend it back into place without breakage. It should be mentioned that aluminum frames are usually more expensive than wood or vinyl and don’t provide very good insulation. Still, these frames can be painted to any color, are light in weight, and are great for warmer climates because of their tendency to dissipate heat.
These are the cheapest of the bunch. Still, don’t dismiss them entirely. Vinyl window frames have come a long way, and they aren’t always substandard in terms of quality. Vinyl provides better energy-efficient insulation than wood or aluminum, and it is not prone to rotting or corrosion. It will resist impact damage a little better than aluminum, as its springy texture will bend a lot more before it breaks.
On top of that, vinyl frames are the cheapest kind on the market. However, there can be some problems with this material. It doesn’t last quite as long as aluminum, and it can have problems with certain window types. Anything that uses a crank device will have a problem if made of plastic, as the mechanism will tend to strip out or break under hard usage.
A Word About Special Frames
While these materials represent your three basic choices, your window company might offer you any number of options. For instance, some manufacturers offer foam-filled window frames. As you might guess, these window frames are filled with a polyurethane foam that expands and fills every part of the interior. This little extra isn’t usually too expensive, and it helps to improve the energy-efficiency of the whole window.
Some companies also offer windows in which the internal cavity is filled with argon gas. Since argon is transparent, this can be injected into the space between the panes. This provides an extra layer of insulation and soundproofing, making it an innovative way to close the biggest insulation gap in the average home.
If your window company offers you “fusion-welded” frames, that isn’t a complex concept, either. These windows are thermally fused at the corners, making them essentially one piece. Without this thermal fusion, there will always be tiny gaps at the corners of each frame, and this will create a minuscule amount of air leakage. It’s a small difference, but a good advantage nevertheless.
A Final Tip: Don’t Forget The Warranty
By now, you should have a better idea of the various types of windows and how they work. However, there is one other thing that might warrant your attention when choosing a new set of windows, and that is the warranty.
First of all, you should always look for a decently long warranty. 25 years or more are common in this type of business. Any company that doesn’t stand behind their brand is probably not worth your business or your time. Make sure you always ask about a warranty and make sure to read it carefully. When you think about how much money you will be investing in these windows, a warranty becomes much more important. With more money on the line, companies will also have a little more reason to try and weasel out of the warranty.
When you read over that warranty, make sure to see which components or parts of the window are covered by the warranty. Many policies will have different coverage lengths for different parts of the window, so make sure they aren’t trying to pull a fast one. You should also make sure to see if the warranty covers labor costs in the event of a defect. It would also be a good idea to scan the entire document for exclusions and limitations of any kind. These little passages can sometimes contradict other parts of the warranty, so read them closely.
Buying a new set of windows is a large investment, and you owe it to yourself to do your research properly. By the time you read and understand this article, you should know everything that you need to know. At the very least, you will have a very good head start on the matter! We recommend that you follow the steps outlined above, modifying them as necessary, in order to obtain the best results when buying new windows. If you have found our work to be helpful, we hope that you will fill out the contact form below.