Replacement Windows – Confused About How to Buy Them? Don’t Give Up! 6 Tips to Simplify Buying

1. MATERIALS. Think about how you want the interior of your home to look. Do you want to be able to change colors when your d├ęcor changes? Or are you the type of person that wants it done once…and never worry about changing the look again? The materials that windows are made of are wood, vinyl, composites or aluminum. Then there are the combinations of those materials. Wood with aluminum or vinyl cladding, vinyl with vinyl, “foil” or wood interior laminates, thermally broken aluminum, solid vinyl, cellular vinyl and wood-dust /vinyl-dust composites. Each one has characteristics that may solve your particular needs.

2. GLASS. There are dual pane, triple pane, dual pane with a film sandwiched between them, plus many types of glass coatings that reduce heat, light and UV radiation from passing through. You absolutely want at a minimum, a Low E coating which reflects heat off the glass. In the winter, when the heat is coming from inside the house, you want it to bounce back into the house. In the summer, when the heat is coming from outside, you want it to bounce off and stay outside. This is what Low E glass does. There are many grades of Low E. Get the best you can afford. You may also find windows with self cleaning coatings.

3. FEATURES. Everybody wants to have their windows to tilt-in for easy cleaning. Almost all new windows can do this today. However, some are easy to tilt, and some are difficult to tilt. You may want to try them out before you buy so there are no surprises. There are various options, such as dual locks, screen locks, vent locks for partial opening, all available on most quality windows. Stay away from “single hung” windows. These are the ones where the bottom sash goes up and down and tilts in for easy cleaning, but the top sash does not even open! Single hung windows are a cleaning nightmare!

4. COLORS. Today’s state of the art windows are available in a surprising variety of color combinations. Manufacturers can make a vinyl window with the same color on both sides such as bright white, soft white, tan or almond etc. Or they can paint the exterior surface with a long lasting paint that binds to the vinyl. There are dozens of exterior colors available using this method. Then there are what are known as co-extruded frames. This is where the base interior color is extruded (like toothpaste coming out of a tube) and a secondary color extruded on the exterior surface at the same time. This process makes an even longer lasting exterior color surface. The third method is to apply a vinyl laminate to the exterior surface. This is also a very stable method due to the space age glues used in production. Interior laminates are also available in various woodgrains and even paintable-stainable “foils” which look and feel like wood. Finally, you can even get real wood laminates on the interior, with maintenance free vinyl on the exterior. Pick a color/material combination that goes with your home!

5. DECORATIVE OPTIONS. Call them muntins, grilles or grids, the bars that break up a large glass area into smaller sections can add interest to any style window. The bars themselves are available in flat, contour, pencil, snap-in, between the glass, bonded to the exterior surfaces of the glass, and even “true divided lites”. True divided lites mean that a window with 6 small panes is actually 6 individual pieces of glass (either single pane or double pane). Simulated divided lites are manufactured by bonding the grid material to the exterior surfaces of the glass. They normally have a spacer bar installed between the two panes of glass to complete the effect of simulating a true divided lite window. Grids are available in many colors and materials to match the surfaces of the windows. Some manufactures also have leaded glass, and etched glass as options. Many of these options are actually separate panes of glass, sealed between the double panes of insulated glass.

6. WINDOW STYLES. There are only 9 basic style windows available in the U.S. market. The most common is the double hung. Joining them together can add many more window configurations.That is both sashes slide up and down for ventilation. Sliding windows are similar, but open by sliding to the left or right. Picture windows are fixed and do not open for ventilation. Casement windows are the type that crank out for full top to bottom ventilation with a full screen. Bow windows – these have equal width casement or picture windows mounted on a gentle curve. Bow windows are considered more of a contemporary look. Bay windows have a center picture window with either a double hung or a casement on each side…usually mounted at a 30 degree or 45 degree angle. The bay window is a more traditional look, and a very dramatic visual statement. You may need to add a roof or “pent” to keep the elements off the top of the projected bow or bay window. Garden windows project out 90 degrees from the house wall, and have a built in glass roof. These are great in a kitchen to grow herbs and can have casement vents to allow ventilation in the summer. Awning windows crank out from the bottom, and are used where the shape of the opening is wider than it is high. You can leave these open in light rain, and still get ventilation. Lastly there is the “hopper” window. This type of window opens into the house from the top of the opening. It is usually used in a basement. You can join many of these style windows together to get combination windows that will fill a specific need. A professional window dealer will be able to help you sort out what is best for your home and lifestyle.

Whether you want to replace your windows for energy savings, reduced maintenance or increased visual appeal, today’s window options can fit any lifestyle and budget. Don’t forget to learn about the installation process to insure that your investment will pay back year after year with minimum effort.