Any home upgrade is a huge deal – a fact that’s especially true for window replacement. Given the amount of time and money you may spend in this project, you’ll want to make sure you can fully get the most out of it. But, where do you start? Window replacement is a process most homeowners go through only once or twice. As such, it’s perfectly understandable if you don’t have the slightest clue about the essentials involved with the upgrade.
Fortunately, getting you started on the project is easy. Just make sure you take the following tips to heart, and you’ll be well on your way to window replacement success:
1. Determine If You Truly Need Window Replacement
Take a walk around your home and examine the condition of your existing windows. As exterior components, they spend all days of the year exposed to the harsh elements. They’ll sustain wear and tear over time, resulting in damage that gets in the way of your windows’ appearance and performance.
Not sure if you’re due for new windows? Check for the following signs:
Rotting frames and sashes. This is particularly common in wood windows. Water and moisture can wear down frames from the inside, allowing for large gaps and holes. These openings don’t just lead to significant energy loss, they can also be risks to safety and security.
Difficulties in operation. Are your windows prone to jamming and sticking? Window frames can sometimes warp or have adjustment issues, making them hard to open, close or completely lock.
Cracked or broken glass. Your window’s thermal performance depends largely on its glass. Any damage to it increases the potential for air leakage, compromising your home’s thermal stability. Not only that, cracked or broken glass can hurt you and your family, so it must be replaced right away.
If you see any or all of these telltale signs, you should forgo repairs and invest in something better and longer-lasting: window replacement. This home improvement project can help improve your home’s comfort and energy efficiency while helping it make a bigger impression from the curb.
2. Plan Accordingly
Now that you’ve decided on a window replacement, it’s time for the next step: careful planning and preparation. This upgrade can be rewarding, but it’s also rife with potential mistakes. You’ll want to avoid these issues if you want to everything to go on without a hitch. You should, for example, figure out your home’s needs and relate them to your window replacement.
Don’t forget to set aside a contingency budget as well. There may be unwelcome surprises, even for a seemingly straightforward project as window replacement. To cover the unexpected costs and avoid overspending, it’s better to have a bit of money set aside. If it turns out you don’t actually need to use the emergency budget, you can spend it on that premium upgrade you’ve been eyeing – like lovelier window hardware or a better insect screen.
3. Choose the Right Window Style
One factor to consider in your replacement project is window style. Most homeowners just go with windows of the same type and style, but this can be a mistake. Window replacement offers the perfect opportunity to invest in the advanced features now available in newer, better window designs. These features may include the ability to improve indoor comfort and reduce energy costs.
Additionally, consider your home’s specific needs in your window selection as certain styles can offer certain functions better than others. Here are some examples:
Casement and double hung windows for natural ventilation. During warmer months, having windows that can help cool your home naturally is a huge advantage. Casement and double hung units are the perfect options for this. The former can be opened wide or angled to direct breezes into your home while the latter has two operable sashes, which you can open at the same time. This allows for cooler, fresher air to enter your home through the bottom sash while warm, stale air exits via the top.
By increasing access to natural ventilation, casement and double-hung windows can help reduce cooling costs. Another win: they aid in improving indoor air quality, preventing mold growth and other adverse health effects. For this reason, these are excellent in rooms that produce an excessive amount of warm indoor air. These include the kitchen, bath and laundry room.
Picture windows for better daylighting. Given their expansive glass areas, picture windows are known for framing stunning outdoor views. That’s not the only thing they’re good for, however. Their large glass area also allows a significant amount of natural light to enter your home, helping you make the most of your daylighting efforts. Cutting back on artificial lighting during the day is also a great way to reduce energy costs.
Bay and bow windows to maximize your home’s available space. Because they protrude from your home, these windows create a deep sill that offers a number of great functions. You can, for instance, use them as a cozy breakfast nook, a reading lounge, a small storage area or a spot for displaying decorative items like plants and photos. Bay and bow windows also have a curved appearance which, coupled with a large glass area, allows plenty of natural light to spill into your home from different angles, which can make a room feel more spacious.
4. Take Window Framing Material Into Account
Your choice of window style can affect your home’s energy efficiency, but that’s not the only thing that does. The framing material your replacement windows use can also make a difference in their overall energy performance. There’s a wide selection of window materials available today. It pays to weigh in each option’s pros and cons before you decide.
Wood is beautiful, durable and highly insulative. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of upkeep to keep performing well, something for which not all homeowners might be ready. If it’s easy maintenance you’re looking for, don’t overlook vinyl. Just make sure to clean it regularly, and you can count on it for years. However, the material doesn’t do so well under extreme temperature changes, and it will eventually warp.
Wood and vinyl windows have been the leading choice for replacements, but what if you’re looking for a mix of both? One option that’s fast gaining popularity today is composite, such as Fibrex® from Renewal by Andersen®.
Made of reclaimed wood fibers and PVC, it can provide wood’s durability and insulating value, plus vinyl’s maintenance-free performance. Composite also doesn’t rot, pit, corrode or warp under extreme thermal changes. Because of its strength, the material can be shaped into any window style or shape.
5. Don’t Overlook Glazing Options
It’s not a complete window without the glass, which is why you should take into account the ones included with your replacement units. Fortunately, advancements in window technology have allowed for better glass options that can help increase your home’s energy savings. Some of them include:
Heat-absorbing tints. This type comes with special tints that change the color of the glass. It helps absorb a considerable amount of solar radiation coming through the window, reducing glare and visible light. Tinted glass, however, doesn’t minimize all the heat from solar radiation because of conduction and re-radiation. This makes this type of glazing not particularly helpful during warmer months.
Insulated. This refers to windows that have two or more glass panes. These glass panes are spaced apart and sealed, leaving an insulating air space in between. This lessens heat transfer through the window.
Low-emissivity (Low-E). This glass type is coated with a microscopically thin, metallic oxide layer, helping control heat transfer in your home via the window. More advanced options, like the High-Performance™ Low-E4® SmartSun™ glass from Renewal by Andersen, comes with a light, spectrally selective multi-layer Low-E coating on the inside surface of the exterior glass. This allows your replacement windows to maximize the visible light that comes through while lowering undesirable heat gain. By bouncing the heat back to its source, the glass helps keep heating energy inside your home during colder months while heat from sunlight during the summer is bounced back outside.
Combining your energy-efficient glass choice with a durable framing material can ensure superior, year-round energy performance from your replacement windows.
6. Look for ENERGY STAR and NFRC labels
How do you confirm, that your choice of replacement windows really are energy-efficient? Easy. Just check them for the ENERGY STAR® and NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) labels. This can help you determine your new unit’s energy-saving properties and even compare among them, letting you zero in on the best choice for your needs.
ENERGY STAR. This voluntary program established by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency provides unbiased, accurate information to help both homeowners and businesses make more informed decisions on energy-efficient products, including replacement windows. The ENERGY STAR label is easily recognizable by its distinctive white and blue design. Seeing this label on your new windows means they have met, or even exceeded, the stringent energy performance ratings set by the program.
NFRC. This nonprofit organization sponsors an energy efficiency certification and labeling program for windows, doors and skylights. In fact, the black and white NFRC label contains how your new units measure up to multiple energy performance categories, such as:
U-Factor, which measures the rate of thermal transfer of which a window is capable. The lower the U-factor, the better a unit insulates.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), which rates how your windows resist unwanted heat gain from the sun. If you want to keep cooling costs down, make sure to get replacement windows with low SHGC. If you want to take advantage of passive heating, a higher SHGC will benefit you.
Visible Transmittance, which measures how effectively your new windows light your home in the daytime. Windows with high visible transmittance let in plenty of natural light, which can help lower energy costs associated with using artificial lighting during the day.
Air Leakage, which rates how much air can enter a room through your windows. Choosing replacement units with low air leakage means less potential for drafts and energy loss.
7. Find Ways to Customize Your Windows
While energy efficiency should be a top priority in window replacement, you should also take aesthetic appeal into consideration. This is where window customization comes into play. With the right style, color, hardware finish and grille pattern, you can increase your home’s curb appeal and value by perfectly complementing your home’s architectural style.
Keep in mind that some window options work better with a specific home style. For example, picture windows are a staple in Contemporary and Modern homes because of their sleek design while casement windows are excellent for Spanish Colonial Revival, French Tudor and Prairie homes. Bays and bows perfectly complement Queen Anne homes because of their unique appearance while double hung windows have a timeless design versatile enough to match with most residential architecture, both traditional and contemporary.
8. Hire a Reliable Window Installer
One of the most important decisions you’ll probably make in your window replacement project is your choice of contractor. After all, you’ll be relying on them to ensure the work runs smoothly from start to finish. For this reason, make sure to work the right window contractor for the job. There are a couple of ways of doing this. You can, for example, ask friends and family for local referrals. While seemingly outdated, these will give you a clearer, more accurate idea on what to expect from a given window company because you’ll be provided with feedback first-hand.
Once you have a few potential candidates, you can narrow them down further with a bit of research, looking for the necessary licenses, bonds and insurance. All of these can help protect both you and your investment should anything untoward happen during the project’s course. Don’t forget to check for manufacturer certifications as well. A certified window company not only provides access to higher quality replacement windows, but also offers solid warranties for your peace of mind.
Planning on taking the DIY route? That’s not a very good idea. Window replacement looks simple enough to do by yourself, but professional workmanship still trumps DIY work. Because they know what they are doing, pros can ensure the work is completed on time and on budget. With their wealth of experience and knowledge, they can avoid costly mistakes, saving you money in the long run.
9. Prepare Your Home for the Work Ahead
Your window contractor can take care of bulk of the preparations before installing your new windows, but you can get a head start by clearing what you can around the work site. This may mean moving around furniture or wall decorations to provide the installation crew with an unhindered space to work. On installation day, your contractor will cover your floor and belongings with drop cloths to prevent unnecessary mess and damage to your home. Got pets or small children? Make sure to keep them away from the work area for their safety.
10. Learn More About Proper Window Replacement
An established window replacement process is one of the reasons it’s better to entrust your project to a pro instead of doing the work yourself. After all, it allows for a timelier, more efficient installation, and, given how time is money in most home upgrades, this is a huge plus. Having someone do the work for you means you don’t have to worry about anything, but it also pays to know what goes into proper window replacement.
A reliable window company will start with an in-home consultation, taking into account what you want and need to get out of getting replacements. They’ll also take precise measurements of existing window openings, so your new ones are guaranteed to fit perfectly.
Come installation day, they’ll arrive on time with all the tools and equipment available. After prepping the work area, they’ll remove your old windows and install the replacements, making the necessary adjustments along the way. They’ll make sure to seal any gaps with a special insulating foam for better energy performance, and then perform the finishing touches. Before they leave, they’ll make sure your windows are operating as they should. They will then clean up the work area and dispose of debris to wrap up the job.
Investing in window replacement may seem daunting, given the number of decisions you’ll make. However, once you’ve taken into account the essentials, guided by the above tips, you’ll find that ensuring a worry-free experience may not be difficult at all.