This week, we delve into the world of windows, discussing various considerations and options for homeowners looking to replace or upgrade their windows. There are so many details to consider and, as always, your unique situation as a homeowner impacts the decisions you make for your home. It’s such a detailed project category that we started a company dedicated to doors and windows called 26 Entries. That company focuses on the impact that the entry points in our homes have on our lives, from pictures on the first day of school to trick or treaters and backyard BBQ’s… all the many other life experiences we have in our homes. The truth is doors and windows are like peanut butter and jelly… they just go together. As a result, they often become combined projects.
Today, we focus solely on windows. With that in mind, let’s systematically walk you through our thought process when discussing a window project with a client for the first time.
Types of Window Projects
When receiving calls from homeowners, we distinguish between those replacing a few windows and those embarking on a full-house window replacement. Why do we do this? Because we need to understand from the very beginning if you are replacing one problem window that will be intended to match all of the others or will this window replacement be the first of many windows that get changed, in which case you might upgrade the type of window you choose to install as it is the precursor for many to come in the future. The questions are directly tied to the length of time you plan to spend in the home as well. That brings us back to your unique situation in this home.
The key is to work with someone who asks these questions about future window replacements in an effort to help tailor their approach on this particular project so as not to adversely affect you on future projects you may have in mind.
If you happen to be in a place where you know all windows will be getting replaced in one project, then these considerations mentioned above are certainly less important and the next series of questions will be more helpful.
Window Material Options
This high-level overview is meant to give you a sense of some of the characteristics of the products available, but please be sure to listen to the podcast (Episode 41) for more details about each of these material options.
- Vinyl Windows: Cost-effective but may not withstand changing elements over time. If you plan to be in the home for a shorter period and have an issue you need to address, this product can be a viable option, but this isn’t your answer if the home is your “forever home” and you don’t want to do this again.
- Fiberglass Windows: A more durable alternative, especially useful for long-term investments. Withstands the elements and change in seasons effectively but has size limitations. Like the product a lot and don’t hesitate to use it when sizes work, but quality varies amongst manufacturers, so beware. Also, please note some color limitations, although white, beiges, bronze and black are available.
- Fiberglass Exterior, Wood Interior Windows: Combines the elegance of wood interiors with the durability of fiberglass exteriors. Again, withstands elements well, but has size limitations. The ability to have the wood interior is a very nice feature and this is a popular choice amongst homeowners when sizes allow.
- Aluminum Clad Windows: This is generally considered the best option amongst many professionals and the price is higher than prior options listed. The aluminum cladding offers many more color options to the homeowner, and it does not have the size limitations of fiberglass, although there still are some reasonable limitations. Make no mistake, you can get very large individual windows in this product line. The key difference here across manufacturers is in how they apply their aluminum cladding. Some manufacturers utilize a very thin aluminum while others use a very thick roll form aluminum. There is a substantial difference across manufacturers that will affect the life of the window.
- Aluminum Or Steel Windows: There are an array of products at higher price points that allow for incredibly large openings and take you straight to fancy town. We won’t spend much time on those aside from mentioning that they exist as they will likely be the topic of a future newsletter.
Manufacturer Product & Warranty Considerations Vary
This was alluded to above, but not all manufacturers are the same. As noted, some use thin aluminum, some use thick. Some apply their aluminum differently than others when constructing the window. There are also paint finish considerations that are outlined below, and all those details affect the length of warranty each manufacturer will offer for their product. Some of the most popular manufacturers will only offer a 1 year warranty on their product while others will offer a 20 year warranty. As you might imagine, those product price points are likely to be different as the materials and workmanship that go into a window offering to stand behind their window for 20 years is far different than a company with a 1-year warranty.
Paint Finishes and Exterior Considerations
There are 2 different technical terms for paint finishes on windows that we most commonly see in the market. They refer to how long these paints last in the South Florida sun without fading, which is especially important on the bronze and black windows that have become so popular in recent years. If you have ever seen a window that started black and now looks like a dusty gray, you will understand the importance of paint finishes.
- Windows that come with a 2803 paint finish are often warranted by the manufacturer for only 1 year not to fade.
- Windows with a 2805 paint finish are warranted by some manufacturers for as long as 20 years not to fade, thus highlighting the significance of a robust exterior finish, especially in climates with intense sun exposure.
Grouped Window Replacement
As mentioned at the outset, not all windows have to be replaced at once. We often employ the strategy of replacing windows in groups to maintain consistent sight lines and aesthetics is common for homeowners. Not everyone replaces all their windows at once. We believe a partner willing to emphasize that not all windows need to be replaced simultaneously is a partner you can trust because so many companies want to put on the full court press, hard sell approach on you instead of offering flexibility to homeowners.
Customization and Options
There are so many details once you determine a path on which windows product line you choose to move forward with. Just know that other decisions to follow include selecting from the various grid patterns available, as well as considering the need for any obscured glass for windows in bathrooms. This is not to mention the basic decision of the actual window style (double hung, single hung, casement, awning, side slider, etc.) We will address those options in a separate newsletter because as windows and doors are made larger and larger, these options continue to expand.
We encourage homeowners to consider their unique situation prior to having conversations with window companies. If you can explain how you are approaching the key question of how long you plan to be in the home and give the provider a sense of whether you prefer a basic, low cost window… or a middle of the road product… or a higher end, longer lasting (and likely more expensive) product, then they can guide you from there!