New window technology has advanced considerably, and a new set of windows could make your home much more energy efficient. Here are the key features and styles you should consider when shopping for new windows.
Windows take a lot of abuse and must withstand strong winds, heavy rains, hail and heat. Over the years the weather will take its toll on your windows. But a draft here or there shouldn't necessitate a whole window replacement -- start with improving the weatherstripping around your window which should make a huge difference in energy loss.
If your windows are damaged beyond repair, however (especially if there is water damage to the sash or casing), you should consider replacing your window. Damaged windows can lead to bigger issues with water gaining access to wall cavities and your foundation.
Check the health of your wood windows by tapping the frame with a flat-blade screwdriver to see how soft the wood is. If the end of the screwdriver can be pushed easily into the wood, it's usually a sign of decay.
The first steps to buying new windows is to determine your needs, design, budget and window functions. Window purchases are a big commitment, which means it's a costly mistake to order the wrong type.
Choose Your Window Materials
New windows are available in wood, aluminium, vinyl and fibreglass. Wood frames are a common choice for remodels and can be bought to match existing windows if you aren't planning on replacing all of them. Wood window sashes can be replaced to update a drafty window, but they require a bit more maintenance. Still, they offer a classic look, so for an older home to retain its original style, wood windows are often the only option.
Clad-frame windows feature an aluminium or vinyl shell. They are used most frequently in new construction and are attached with nailing flanges that fit underneath the siding material. The quality of clad can range from roll-form aluminium, the thickness of a soft drink can, to extruded aluminium.
Vinyl clad windows are available in a variety of colours, and they don't require as much maintenance as wood windows (and don't need painting). They don't look quite as nice as wood windows, but they're cheaper, and insulate almost as well. Fibreglass composite windows are stronger than vinyl, but are slightly more expensive.
Select Your Glass
There are a lot of window glass options to choose from, but your specific application and location can help make your selection much easier.
Single-pane glass is outdated in most situations and suitable only in very mild climates or in outbuildings. Double-pane windows have a sealed air space between the layers of glass to reduce heat loss. They are available in several variations with improved insulating ability, including "low-E" glass with an invisible coating of metal on one surface and windows containing an inert gas like argon for added insulation.
If you live in a cold climate, you may consider triple-pane windows, which are sealed with a mix of gases including argon or krypton. As with the double-pane, this gas provides a layer of insulation. A triple-pane window can save 2-3% on your heating bill compared to double-pane, but they will cost 10-15% more -- something to consider if you don't plan on staying in your home very long.
Double and triple pane windows also provide a good level of sound insulation and are a must in urban areas or homes facing busy streets. Better insulated windows are also less likely to have condensation issues as the interior window glass will be closer to room temperature which avoids foggy windows which occur when warm air meets a cold window surface.
Watch For Energy Efficient Windows
As you shop, look at the R-values of your windows -- they will indicate the energy efficiency of building materials in insulation and windows. Higher R-values mean better insulating properties. A clear single-pane window has an R-value of 4, while quality double-pane windows can have an R-value as high as 4.0 when coupled with low-e glass and gas filling. Triple-pane windows are in the 5-7 R-value range.
Conversely, U-factor is the rate at which a window, door or skylight conducts non-solar heat flow. The lower the U-factor, the more energy-efficient the window, door, or skylight.
The Fun Part: Choose A Window Style
Choosing a window style can be a personal preference, but is also a design consideration based on what exists on an older home and how you'd like the windows to look from the inside. Here are a few types to consider.
Casement windows pivot on hinges located on the side of the window frame -- that is, they open like doors. They're usually taller than they are wide, and they provide top to bottom ventilation.
Casement windows offer an unobstructed view, along with a more contemporary and modern look.
Double-hung windows slide up and down and offer a traditional look. Modern day double-hung windows have a spring mounted mechanism instead of the old weight and pulley style .
Sliding windows can be less expensive, and they require little maintenance -- but they don't provide as much ventilation, since only half of the window will open. They do offer an unobstructed view like casement windows.
Bay windows make a dramatic statement and can help make a room look (and feel) larger. They are perfect for breakfast nooks, giving a dining room more breathing space, or just adding a spot for the dogs to lie down.
Lastly: Buy And Install Your Windows
When it finally comes time to buy your windows, be sure to check the wall thickness before you order. Manufacturers will customise the frame jambs to match whatever wall construction you have. Find your wall thickness by measuring the jamb width on an existing door or window.
Pre-hung windows come complete with finished frames and can be inserted as one piece into the rough opening left by the old window. Once the old window has been removed measure the rough opening size and be sure to purchase a new window unit that will fit right into the existing opening.
Most good windows must be custom ordered several weeks in advance. Don't be overconfident about the delivery schedule. It's extremely risky to remove existing windows prior to the delivery of your new windows. Shipping delays could leave you with a big hole in the side of your house and nothing to cover it with. Play it safe by keeping the old windows in place until the new ones arrive, and you have thoroughly inspected them for damage and size.
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