Choosing a Window
How to Choose the right windows for your home
Strange as it might seem, the very first factor you must consider is your installation. Any window or door replacement is a penetration of the shell of the home; therefore, each step of the installation process, from start to finish, is critical.
There are two basic methods of window installation:
- The retrofit installation
- The new construction installation.
The retrofit installation fits your new window into your existing frame. You now have a frame within a frame. The advantages to this type of installation are:
- Less invasive – no stucco cutting or drywall/plaster finishing
- Takes less time to install
- Less expensive
The disadvantages are:
- The window frames are larger/the glass area is smaller
- May not be aesthetically compatible with the style of your home
- May actually decrease the resale value of your home
- The only waterproofing between you and the weather is caulking.
The ‘new construction” installation requires the removal of the window and its frame, causing a small amount of damage to stucco and interior wall surface. The advantages are:
- New construction processes assure structural and waterproofing integrity to the standards of the original construction or better.
- Easier to integrate new with existing windows, match style with home.
- Allows equal or better viewing surface
- Maintains better resale value
The disadvantages are:
- More labor-intensive installation; therefore, more expensive
- Installation takes longer
- Requires perimeter (small margin) of both exterior and interior surfaces to be redone.
Once you’ve decided on the installation choice, you will be primarily concerned with four factors:
Style and configuration: This will be largely dependent upon the style of your home and your own personal taste. You may choose a sleek plate glass picture window for a mid-century modern, or go for a traditional look by using grids (either simulated or true divided-lites) as an example. Your consultant will help you with recommendations.
Function: Does the window need to open? If it is a slider, which panel is active? Is it a single hung, double hung, awning, casement, tilt and turn? For any window that opens outward, such as awning or casement, you must consider the area immediately outside that window. If there is a traffic pattern (such as a sidewalk close to the house) you may want to choose a window that does not open outward.
For bedroom windows, there are stringent requirements for egress in the event of a fire. Be aware that older homes, built to standards allowable for that era, may have window openings that no longer meet egress standards. This means your contractor will have to resize the opening. If the room is currently a bedroom, the regulation applies; it does not matter what the room was or is going to be.
Egress issues may affect the window “look” – especially important when you are trying to match new windows with other existing windows – and may reduce the options available to you.
The window industry offers a number of choices, with more options being added each year. Each one has its advantages and its limitations. Considerations will be cost, appearance, energy efficiency, maintenance and durability, and of course, the availability of the window configuration and function offered by the manufacturer. Below you will find a brief description of each, its features and benefits, and its drawbacks, if any.
Vinyl is relatively inexpensive, durable and, when properly designed, quite energy efficient. Although it can be painted, painting is best left to the factory. Most vinyl framing is white, and therefore reflective.
Many manufacturers offer vinyl in a number of colors, maintaining a new look for years. Vinyl does degrade overtime, but is somewhat maintenance free. For these reasons, and cost, it is sometimes the product of choice.
The quality of the vinyl window product is all across the board, and while it is a cost-effective choice, it is a choice that must be made with care. Among the things to compare would be the thickness of the frame, thickness of the glass, the ratio of the vinyl frame to the actual viewable glass, the fit and function of the operable parts. In general, the higher quality of window, the higher the price.
Wood has many advantages, in that it can be painted or stained to offer a variety of detailing options that may be unavailable in other window products. Wood is strong, a good insulator, and harmonious with the style of the “character homes” we have in San Diego. There are also some disadvantages: wood can be susceptible to rot and termite damage (though many manufactures have new corrections for this). Regular maintenance is required to avert the damage caused by sun and rain. The market has opened the “clad” variation to overcome the obvious drawbacks of the all wood products.
Fiberglass – As a building material, it is hard to beat fiberglass – durable, strong, and impervious to termites, water damage, drying, swelling, warping, cracking or peeling. Fiberglass can be painted, and if you want the look of wood, you can add a wood veneer to the interior. Fiberglass is generally more expensive than vinyl, but may be worth it in the long range. It is extremely strong and durable, energy efficient, and almost maintenance-free. It expands and contracts at approximately the same rate as the glass, which increases the effectiveness of the framing and seals.
Fiberglass is definitely the material of choice for windows or doors with strong exposure to the elements – virtually worry-free.
Aluminum is low maintenance and strong, it won’t rust or rot and does not need to be painted. Aluminum is available in a large variety of finishes, either anodized or baked on. Aluminum is a good conductor of heat or cold, so the seepage of either heat or cold is inherent in the material. Aluminum window manufacturers have improved their energy efficiency by the use of ‘thermal breaks’, a rubber or other barrier separating the interior of the frames from the exterior, thus reducing the conduction of heat or cold. In coastal areas, aluminum is a good performer, is long lasting, strong and durable, and resistant to deterioration and salt-air corrosion. (Aluminum offers Kynar a factory-applied color selection, and its slim frames allow for the largest viewing expanse, making it a favorite of view homes).
Wood clad is something of a hybrid – the durability and strength of aluminum on the exterior (not to mention low maintenance) and the warmth and beauty of wood on the interior. Aluminum is available in several different colors and finishes and, depending on the manufacturer, you may even have several wood options. This is often the window of choice in the higher end window product.
Other Things to Consider
Kynar is a paint that is the recommended choice if you are on or quite near the beach. It is the product most impervious to the extreme elements of beach exposure. Kynar is a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) coating (over aluminum) that is transparent to UV rays and comes in a wide variety of colors and sheens, including metallic and pearlescents.
Make sure you are choosing the appropriate style, function and type of product that fits and will handle your needs. There are many brands on the market, each of these companies swears theirs is the best. The required installation would be different for every product. This is just a sample of why we consult before you buy.
Is there a homeowner association? Before you get far into the planning process, check the rules and regulations that will affect your project. Chances are you will need to get HOA approval. Your HOA may require some conformity, especially for street facing windows and doors.
Consider not only your own home, but the surrounding neighborhood. Is there conformity within the community you want to match? Do all the homes have similar window sizes and styles? If so, you may want to stay within the style of the neighborhood rather than making a dramatic departure from the neighborhood norm.
What is your orientation? Consider not only what you see from each window (or potential window if you are adding some) but what can be seen from any viewpoint – the street, the neighbors’ homes, etc. If your orientation is toward a lovely pool and patio area, a canyon, a hillside or ocean view, then you probably will want to go large with your window space. If you need light, but value privacy, consider one of many choices in obscure glass – some quite stunning!
Warranties: Every manufacturer will offer some kind of warranty. Be sure to read it carefully, and keep copies of everything, including the labels from the windows. Use only well-known products. Research the company history, if you can. Talk to people within the industry for recommendations.
We offer a written warranty for our installations. When we back the manufacturer’s warranty with our own, it provides you, the consumer, with a powerful package.
Cost: What comes first – the budget or the dream? You have to start somewhere – start with the dream.
Although cost is an important consideration, do not let cost drive your decision. You want your project to stand the test of time. If you choose a cheap product, it can result in a complicated and often more costly installation.
It is hard to make your plan without the costs, but it’s impossible to determine the cost without a plan and that’s why we start with the consultation.
We recently had our new windows installed by Brad and Julian…I wanted you to know how impressed we were with their work. They were very friendly and quiet, did a great job cleaning up after themselves. It would be great if all workers we hire were like them. After the windows were installed, the men repaired the stucco, installed pop-outs around the window and repaired the interior drywall. They were very efficient, friendly and did a great job. – Jeanne W.
My wife and I just wanted to write you a quick note to inform you that we were very pleased with your installer. He was pleasant, efficient and effective. The two sliding doors look great. We look forward to replacing our front door (when the reserves are saved).
Thanks again. – Matthew P.