From Margaret Everton on May 02, 2007 in Window Replacement
Whether your main motive is giving your home a facelift or reducing your energy bills, this summer is a great time to replace your old windows. There’s even a modest federal tax credit if you get the work done this year. Since you’ll probably be living with the result for a long time, however, it’s worth your while to think your options through beforehand.
In general, installing the windows themselves takes only a few days, but getting to that point - measuring the window opening, determining the unique requirements of the job, choosing and specifying the windows you want and having them manufactured, getting window estimates- takes roughly six to eight weeks, so plan accordingly.
First of all, spend some time checking out showrooms, Web sites and magazines to get a sense of the look you want (and print out our handy list of window terminology when you do to help you cope with the jargon).
Decide what features you want and what you can live without some weatherproofing features, for example, are better suited to the East Coast, or perhaps the cabin at Tahoe, than to homes in our relatively mild climate. Advises Lance Schepps of HomeWorks in San Rafael: “Some of the high-end, expensive glass options such as triple pane or heat mirror glass are really for the colder snow climates; they’re not necessary in this market.”
What do you need? Says Dennis Lafayette of INCOTEC in Palo Alto, “The must-haves are argon-filled, low-E2, and a good multi-chambered frame to give you good energy compliance.” In considering windows, you may want to look at their NFRC ratings, but if you don’t want that much detail, rely on the Energy Star label.
Another crucial decision is what type of dividers you want, if any. Particularly with historic buildings, true divided lights (i.e., individual panes set in a grid) may be required by building codes, CC&Rs, or your own taste; being more labor-intensive, they’re also pricier. If you don’t need or want true divided lights, you have a couple of other options; Schepps explains, “Vinyl offers grills between the glass, whereas with wood and composites you can get dimensional ‘simulated divided lite’ grills on the interior and exterior of the window. There is no right or wrong here, simply architectural consideration.”
Whatever materials you choose, read the fine print on the warranty. Advises Schepps, “Try not to compromise value for cost. Not all windows are created equal just because they are ‘double pane’! Look at the warranty to make sure it is transferable if you sell the home, and that it covers the actual installation, not just the window itself. This is lost on many customers, who see a lifetime warranty on the window, not realizing that it does not cover the installation, which is where 95% of the window complaints come from.”
Ultimately, the installation matters at least as much as the window itself. Lafayette points out, “Installation is critical. A good window installed badly is worthless. A bad window installed really well is worth more.”
In choosing a contractor, be sure to choose one who’s very familiar with your local building codes and any relevant issues with homeowners’ associations. Otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time, effort and money planning a project that won’t be approved.
Also, be sure to pick a reliable contractor who’s in the business for the long haul and will be there if something goes wrong. (We’re here to help with referrals.) Says Lafayette, “One of the rules is ‘Get three bids.’ But whether you get three bids or 10 bids, it doesn’t matter, if you don’t know with certainty that the company you’re dealing with is rock solid, and that the product they’re offering you is equally solid. You could get three bad bids from three bad companies, and it still doesn’t tell you anything.
“It’s really about checking out both companies, the manufacturer and the installer,” he adds. “It’s a service business, and ultimately it’s the companies that have the longevity, that have proven themselves to be trustworthy, that are rated by various rating organizations, references, customer lists - those are powerful indicators that you’re making a good choice. If you choose poorly, you’ve wasted all your money, and you have to live with it. If you choose well - as the saying goes, if you buy the best you’ll never be dissatisfied. It might cost a little more than you planned, but you’ll never be unhappy.”
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[tags]window planning, house windows, window contractor[/tags]