Of all the products that must be selected when building a home or adding a room to your existing home, your choice of windows will arguably have one of the most profound and lasting effects in the level of satisfaction you experience from your new home or addition.
Material, style, features, energy efficiency and brand name are all factors that must be considered while choosing the best options to meet your needs. Amazingly, as important as these decisions are, it is not uncommon to discover that the client has given very little thought to such an integral part of their home. The following is a brief guide of things to consider.
- The window most commonly used in this area is vinyl or aluminum clad wood, for its strength and low maintenance characteristics as well as the diversity in sizes and shapes available. The cost of this window is mid-range to high end.
- Solid vinyl windows are not as popular in this area although they are widely used in many areas of the country. These windows are generally cost competitive but do not have the sizes, shapes and features available in the clad windows.
- Solid fiberglass windows are a newer offering and are said to be the strongest window on the market but lack the design versatility that clad windows offer. The price of this window is generally slightly less than clad windows depending on the manufacturer.
- Solid aluminum windows are very low cost but not recommended for this area.
- Casement windows are the type of window that opens with a door-like motion. This allows 100% venting when the window is fully open but may present an obstacle in high traffic exterior areas such as sidewalks next to the house.
- Double hung windows are a window that is divided into two horizontal sashes both of which slide vertically. Although this style of window has more venting options, it takes a much larger window than the casement to meet emergency egress codes.
- Awning windows are basically casement windows turned on a side with the hinge being on the top of the window. These windows are used in applications such as transoms or where privacy may be served with a higher sill height.
- Specialty windows run the gambit from arch top and trapezoidal to other geometrical shapes.
- Among the ever-increasing list of features that are now available with windows, hardware finish and styles are offered in a wide array with most windows.
- Screens are now available in standard view as well as the upgraded less obstructed view.
- A few window manufacturers offer blinds and shades positioned in between the glass panes as an option to more conventionally installed window treatments.
- Window grills are available in different patterns, sizes and wood species. Some window companies offer the grills in between the panes of glass as an option.
- Integrated exterior window trims are now offered by certain window manufactures.
- Each company offers a differing variety of cladding colors and wood species for interior jambs and sills if you are planning to stain your interior woodwork.
- Some companies offer different types of art glass for the areas you may want to accent or to provide natural light with a bit of privacy.
- Energy efficiency
- In my opinion it is virtually impossible to compare the energy efficiency from window to window. Some window companies measure their window as a whole while others measure it in the center of the glass which gives a bit of an apples to oranges comparison.
- If you feel this information is important to you, there are two numbers that will give you some indication of how windows from different companies compare.
- The number designated as the u-factor of the window measures the windows typical heat loss. The lower this number is, the less heat loss is experienced with the window.
- The other number is the solar heat gain coefficient and this is a measurement of how much heat is gained from the sun’s rays through the window. The benefit or disadvantage of solar heat gain really depends on many factors like the time of year, placement of the house and in what climate is the home located.
- Most manufacturers offer different types of glass or more panes of glass as options to increase the energy efficiency of their windows. Although this option may be initially quite expensive, the return on investment might make this a good move for those planning to be in their home long term.
It certainly is advisable to take advantage of your builder’s knowledge of windows and, as your builder, I can share with you what our experience has been with a given brand or type of window. It is true as well, that several brands may be equally reliable or a particular brand may, in my opinion, be better constructed in certain areas or offer more features for the money than a comparably priced window.
So then, deciding on what windows to use in your new home, room addition or remodeling project, is really a matter of determining what features are most important to you and that is where a little homework on the owner’s part is advisable. We would consider it an honor to help you through this part of the new home design process.