Milwaukee/NARI Members Offer Homeowners Many Options When It Comes to Window Replacement
Window replacement can have a substantial impact in improving the value of your home and quality of life. The marketplace has an abundance of materials, colors, and styles that can enhance the curb appeal of your home as well as provide energy savings.
Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., celebrating 50 years as the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource, offer suggestions to homeowners on choosing a replacement window.
Window Frame Materials
“Because there are a lot of different options and products to choose from, it can be confusing for the homeowner,” said Tod Colbert, co-owner of Weather Tight Corp., West Allis, which offers windows from a variety of manufacturers. “The first thing we ask people to think about is what their objectives are – do they want to stay in the home long-term for a payback over a period of years or are they doing a quick fix such as for a resale?
“If you are planning to stay in the house for a period of time, then you need to think how windows are going to hold up and how they are going to perform. The first step is to think about the weather because we live in one of the most extreme climates – the range of temperatures between hot and cold is acute,” he said.
“Wood windows are not a great choice for the Wisconsin climate. Chiefly they don’t hold up to moisture problems associated with windows. Aluminum is an option, but aluminum is a good conductor of heat and cold and can get extremely cold in wintertime and can form ice. We recommend vinyl frame or fiberglass.”
Check the Glass Rating
While there are many things to consider in window replacement, a key element is the glass.
“Older windows tend to be a single-pane glass window, far less efficient than the double or triple paned windows available today. Low-E (Low-Emissivity) glass coatings and double and triple paned windows can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs,” said Keith Valerius, co-owner of Four Lite Window & Door LLC, Milwaukee, which also offers window selections from several manufacturers.
“The rate of heat loss is indicated in terms of the U-factor of a window assembly. The lower the U-factor, the greater a window's resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating properties. For efficiency, look at U-value and solar heat gain and make sure the numbers are low,” Valerius said.
The U-factor is included in the energy performance rating label from the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). The U-factor measures how well a window prevents heat from escaping and the rating scale ranges from .20 to 1.20. The lower the U-number, the greater the window can resist heat flow and the better its insulating value.
Solar Heat Gain (SHGC) measures how well the window blocks heat from sunlight. The lower the SHGC, the lower the heat gain through a window.
Many Style Options
When replacing windows, it’s not necessary to replace a double-hung with another double-hung or a picture window with another picture window. There are many options for replacing within an existing opening or creating additional space, including casements, awning windows, bay and bow windows, as well as pictures and double hungs.
“Homeowners don’t have to be limited,” said Brad Flanagan, Marvin Infinity Window specialist at Callen Construction, Muskego. “There may be other factors to consider, such as the actual opening or roof pitch, but that doesn’t mean a new style of window is not doable.”
Flanagan said a popular kitchen window replacement for double hungs or double casement is the awning window. “An awning window is basically a picture window which cranks out from the bottom so you alleviate lines. It’s a great window for the kitchen because it opens up the view to the backyard. Gliders are also getting more popular, taking the place of double casements. The main thing about them is you don’t have to crank it out; it slides to the side. That’s a great option when the window opens into a porch or walkway because it eliminates an obstruction.
“Many older homes in this area have single-pane glass divided by grids. These windows can be replaced with grid patterns between the glass for easier cleaning, but still retaining curb appeal,” he said.
Grid patterns are available in cottage style, where the top window is smaller than the bottom or vice versa; prairie style where its more rectangular and off to the side, standard rectangular and/or a custom grid for a completely individual look.
Flanagan pointed out another option is simulated divided lights for an authentic divided glass look. Simulated divided light bars are permanently adhered to the outside surfaces of the glass with a spacer bar between the panes of glass.
Homeowners can paint the interior grids or choose a wood grain finish; exterior fiberglass grids are available in many colors.
Window replacement installation methods are done by typically two methods – pocket and full tear out.
A pocket window installation is taking out the sash and storm window, but leaving the sill and the jamb and interior wood moldings in place. The window is fit to the size of that opening exactly, so that they simply slide into that existing opening.
“The upside of that is it is less costly to install and it takes less time and is less messy,” said Colbert. “But the downside is that sometimes we have to leave whatever is there from the original installation, which may not have been done correctly. There might be air leaks around the frame, so the window might be tight but the frame around it might not be. There is really no way to know unless you take it all apart.
“A better way of doing it is removing the sash, storm window and frame and get back to the rough opening. We and the homeowner then know for certain what is underneath – that’s a better long-term installation method. It’s more complete install, a little more costly, but probably better in the long run,” he said.
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