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Replacement Windows Guide

Raising home value and greatly increasing the attractiveness of your home is as simple as replacing ones windows. This is not necessarily an action to be taken only when you are getting ready to sell your home to make it more appealing to buyers. An installation of replacement windows for old ones can create a much more comfortable living space for you and your family. Not only that, but one can additional efficiency through a window replacement than they would with storm window installation. This is typically in the area of 2 to 3 times greater efficiency.

Many older style windows suffer from inefficiency due to age and construction methods from days passed. These windows can be difficult to clean, not provide much in the way of ultra-violet ray protection, and may leak air around the sashes or frame. Installing new window sashes may provide a temporary relief, but if there is problems with the frame around them then they may leak just as bad.

Some indications that it is time to consider replacement windows is a difficulty controlling the temperature of the house in winter and summer, the windows rattle with strong winds, and they are difficult to operate. These factors indicate that there are gaps in the installation freely allowing movement and air to pass through. A replacement window installation will greatly increase window efficiency and drop heating and cooling costs.

The following guide is designed to help you make informed decisions about choosing replacement windows for your home. It will cover the most important aspects of choosing the type of window and the features it has that are right for you. Feel free to visit each subsection for more specialized information on a given topic.

Types of Replacement Windows

When shopping for replacement windows it is important to understand that there is no one end all, be all answer to every job. Certain kinds of windows perform better in specific roles, which should come as no real surprise. What might be surprising is that this can sometimes be dependent on the climate, location of the window in your home, and general weather of the area you live in. Be very wary of any dealer or contractor that tells you, "You need this specific type of window" before understanding your home and situation. A knowledgeable professional will be able to offer sound advice once they have more information on your home.

Standard double-hung or sliding windows are a staple for many replacement projects. This type of window may be popular, but it is not necessarily very efficient due to its sliding action. The sliding of the window compromises the integrity of the seal which can lead to higher heating and cooling bills or draftiness.

Hinged windows such as awning, casement, and hopper generally offer a much better seal. The downside is they require a fairly large deal of operational room outside of the house. Having one that looks out onto a porch can turn it into a potential safety hazard when the porch is being used.

Different materials are available with the different styles of replacement windows. Common ones include aluminum, vinyl, wood, vinyl-wrapped, and wood-wrapped. Each material has its uses and some serve better in certain climates than other. This guide will help you decide what would be best for your home.

As you can see, there are a number of choices each with their own pros and cons. Making an informed decision about what you need and want for your home means you will be able to enjoy their efficiency and benefits.

Replacement Window Kits

Replacement window kits are available for a more specialized approach to updating one's windows. If it seems like only a particular segment of the window is not functioning correctly; a replacement window kit may provide a less costly option for replacement. There are three basic types of kits available.

Sash Kits

A sash kit allows you to give an old frame new moving parts. New hardware can allow you to preserve the original frames and windows if it is a concern for your home. This may be the case with historic homes or any other location with reason to keep the original windows as intact as possible.

Insert Replacements

This is the most common form of window replacement. An insert replacement is the window and secondary frame all set to be installed into a pre-existing frame opening. General window replacement kits are what you will end up with for a normal replacement project.

Full-Frame

The full-frame kit is meant for installations that require total replacement of the frame where the window sits. These often include a head jamb, side jambs, and a new window sill. Reasons for full-frame replacement can be varied; from efficiency factors to moisture or pest damage. An incorrect installation of a past frame can result in unsquared replacement window installation. This will decrease the efficiency of the window in addition to making it difficult to operate. A full-frame replacement is typically much more costly and requires more work than the others.

Replacement Window Styles

One does not need to feel as though they are restricted to traditional styles when looking for replacement windows for their home. Advances in technology and manufacturing have allowed manufacturers to create interesting, yet functional designs. Many times these can easily be adapted to an available window opening through some minor changes.

This type of addition can be a bit more difficult to install for someone that is not used to doing so. Installing a non-traditional window replacement may be better left to a professional installer rather than tackled as a Do-It-Yourself project. This section further explores the different types of styles that have come available for a window replacement project.

Replacement Window Ratings

A few ratings exist to help the consumer judge the efficiency of their windows. These ratings help to set an industry standard and should be one of the first things to understand and check when shopping for replacement windows. These ratings help to ensure consumers understand what they are getting with their replacement windows and the measures taken to enforce it.

NFRC

NFRC is an acronym for National Fenestration Rating Council. Fenestration refers to products that go into an opening of a building of any sort; such as windows, doors, skylights and so forth. A window with an NFRC certification behind it means that window has been scrutinized by these professionals to meet a high standard. Ask the window dealer for any applicable certification information. They should be able to provide it.

AAMA

AAMA is an acronym for American Architectural Manufacturer's Association. This group has stood strong for developing standards, regulations, codes, and product certification. Check to see if the windows have an AAMA certification. If they do, they meet very high standards of quality and performance.

Energy Star

Energy Star is a label that is backed by with government-regulated standards to help consumers choose efficient windows. Products are subject to testing to ensure they meet efficiency standards. Look for an Energy Star label for the windows. That label indicates that the windows have passed the standards and will provide great efficiency for your home.

U-Factor (U-Value)

This value is a measure of the heat loss that a window has. The lower the U-Factor it has, the better the energy efficiency will be. This should not be confused with R-Factor. R-Factor deals with insulating properties that work in the exact opposite fashion. The R-Factor more deals with the transfer of heat or cold from inside of the house to the exterior.

SHGC

SHGC is an acronym that stands for Solar Heat Gain Coefficient. This is a measure of how much solar energy the window transfers through it to the interior. The lower the rating, the less solar energy the window allows to transfer through. The sun will stream through the window and some energy will pass. The window actually heating up from the sun will permit more of that energy to enter. This may not be favorable in extremely warm climates where air conditioning is often run.

VT

VT is an acronym for Visible Transmittance. This value indicates the amount of light that is able to be transmitted through the window. The value for this is generally between 0.3 and 0.8. The higher the value, the more visible light the window will allow through it.

AL

AL is an acronym that stands for Air Leakage. This value is a measure of heat gain and loss that occurs due to infiltration in the cracks of the window overall assembly. It is typically expressed as the amount of cubic feet of air that will pass through a square foot of window area. The lower the rating, the less drafty it will be.

Installing Replacement Windows

When it comes to window replacement there are two main avenues of accomplishing it. If you are not comfortable with more complicated Do-It-Yourself projects, then it may be more prudent to have your replacement windows professionally installed. For those that are able to undertake a major project such as this one; it is an accomplishable goal and has no specialized tools required to perform the installation. This can save you a chunk of money in the neighborhood of 15%-20% of the final cost if one were to have them professionally installed.

In this section one will find a walk-through on how to install a window as your own Do-It-Yourself project. Once again, be aware that this is a major job and not something to be undertaken lightly. Doing it correctly can save a bit of money; doing it incorrectly can cost a lot more.

Replacement Window Cost

A number of factors figure into the final cost of new replacement windows. Costs can be reduced by going with less features, a lower quality over window, and installing the windows yourself. One wants to ensure before making any of those choices that they fully understand what it is they are sacrificing from their replacement windows for the sake of cost. It may not be economical for you to purchase the highest grade windows with all the bells and whistles, which is understandable.

The key to finding the right windows is to know what you actually need and want out of your windows. If you don't live in a very sunny region, then it is not likely you will need windows that dissipate a lot of sun. Living in the south, one may find that having shatter resistant windows would be of great benefit when dealing with high winds, tropical storms, or hurricanes.

This section will help you to determine what features you actually need and what features you want out of your windows. Different regions will have different needs, so paying for what you need is the prudent choice.

Of the greatest importance for choosing windows is picking an Energy Star double or triple-glazed window with an inert gas insulator between them. These are some of the most efficient and modern window replacements available and should always be a consideration. A Low-E coating on the glazing may also be prudent to help reflect more sun out and keep the internal temperature closer to a livable level. A base Low-E coating is usually standard on most windows.

Replacement Window Reviews

As it has already been stated, choosing a window will be a fairly personal choice. You have certain goals in mind that your replacement windows need to make. One can not over-state the importance of ensuring that the windows they finally choose are made by a quality manufacturer and are backed up by warranties or guarantees from the company. Many window companies strive to offer the highest in service to their customers for they know they are competing in a market with a lot of like product. The way to stand out for retailers and manufacturers in this regard is to provide excellent customer service.

This section will review some of the more popular choices and their respective companies for window replacement. It should be noted that we do not endorse any one particular window or brand; so their being featured here should not be an admission of such. We want to offer you a decent starting point if you have no real idea where to begin. Looking at these models and their respective companies will provide a place to start when researching replacement windows.

Replacement Window Parts

Any mechanical device will inevitably break down or need maintenance. It is simply the nature of mechanical devices. With good maintenance, one can see their windows being used decades down the road with little difficulty. The Replacement Window Parts section is where to check for commonly used glossary terms in addition to parts that are readily accessible for repair or maintenance. If your windows are still under warranty, do not perform any repair work on them yourself without first consulting with the company. Performing repair work will often void a warranty which would have otherwise been a simple fix for a technician.

Replacement Window Installation: Questions to Ask Your Installer or Dealer

In the event that you do hire a professional to install your windows, there are some questions that you should ensure you have clarity on. This will protect your investment and help keep you knowledgeable of what to expect from the installer, dealer, or manufacturer in the future.

Note: These are things you should have answers to before the work starts!

  • What is the estimated length of time for this installation?
  • Are you licensed and bonded to be performing this type of work?
  • What is included in the estimate?
  • Are all aspects of this installation figured into the final cost or is there a possibility for expenses to come up?
  • Who will honor the warranty in the event that the windows have a problem with them?
  • Who performs repairs on my windows should I need them?
  • Can you provide references for past installations you've performed?
  • Are you going to remove the current windows?

Window Replacement Quick Tips

Get at least two bids from experienced, licensed, bonded contractors that can perform the job. Don't forget to ask for references.

Get at least three quotes from replacement window dealers to ensure prices are in the right range and you are getting the best value. Do not feel pressured to make a decision on the spot, and be wary of those that would try to force you to. It is an important decision and not one to be made quickly.

This guide is meant to be a starting point for you to understanding, researching, and selecting the best replacement windows for you. Each project is as unique as the respective home owner. Knowing what you need and what is best for you empowers you to make sound decisions regarding your home. If at any point you are ever unsure of information or are confused, ask questions! Always ask questions. You do not want to be met with any surprises after the window replacement was performed.