“REPLACE YOUR OWN WINDOWS – DO IT YOURSELF WINDOW WORKSHOP”
As promised, here is the second step to the 6 step do-it-yourself replacement windows workshop. Dig in!
Step #2 – Window Selection, How To Decide Which Window is Best for You.
There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to windows and the options that are available. This step will break it down into a format you can understand, and itemizes everything so you can make an educated decision based on what’s important to you. Let’s begin with the frame types. There are four main types, aluminum, vinyl, fiberglass and wood windows. Let’s begin with aluminum.
ALUMINUM WINDOWS – AVOID THESE AT ALL COSTS.
Aluminum windows are the cheapest but they are very inefficient. The only reason you would use these is if you just need to replace one or two because the existing windows are damaged so bad. You are selling the home and just need to get some windows in there and get out of the house for cheap. Otherwise steer clear of aluminum windows.
VINYL WINDOWS – MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Vinyl, fiberglass and wood all carry about the same energy efficiency values. However of the three, vinyl is the least expensive. Some doubters claim that vinyl doesn’t hold up over time. However, most vinyl windows come with a lifetime warranty, in my experience they hold up just as good as the others.
I usually tell people yeah, wood and fiberglass are stronger but how strong do they need to be? Some shady sales people will show you how you can stand on fiberglass but vinyl will bow if you try to stand on it. Well how many of your windows are you planning on standing on? It’s not a ladder, it’s a window…
FIBERGLASS WINDOWS – LONGEST LASTING
Yes when your house is worn and faded away to dust and smithereens your fiberglass windows will still be there. They are a solid, excellent choice for windows. If you are planning on staying in your home a long, long while then by all means, look into fiberglass windows.
The cost of fiberglass windows usually render them prohibitive, especially if you are hoping to recoup your costs in the near future. They won’t save you any more money than vinyl but they are strong and durable and if that is what is most important to you then by all means.
WOOD/ ALUMINUM CLAD WOOD WINDOWS – MAINTENANCE
By far wood windows are the most beautiful of the available window types. They are great insulators but are very expensive. It will take a long time to recoup the cost of wood windows. If beautifying your home is the most important to you, then you should consider wood windows. They have the most options as well, and therefore can get very expensive real quick.
If you choose simulated divided lites, upgraded hardware and a few other custom options you can get well above 1,000 dollars per window real fast. We will get more into frame materials later but for now let’s go over the different configurations of windows now that you have a feel for the basic frame types.
Casement windows open like doors, with a hand crank swinging the window open to the desired angle. These windows usually open to 90 degrees to allow easy cleaning from the inside. Casement windows offer clean lines and a wide viewing area with maximum ventilation.
Double-hung windows are the traditional, classic style; both sashes can be raised and lowered for optimum ventilation, and both tilt in for easy cleaning. These traditional windows can be combined with architectural windows to add a touch of elegance to a formal room. These windows are generally expensive so there is a cheaper alternative with the same look, namely. . .
Single-hung windows have one operating sash; the lower sash can be raised and lowered for ventilation. This is the most economical operable window. Single-hung windows are an economical way to create the traditional look of hung windows.
Fixed or Picture windows provide the most viewing area. Because there are no operating sashes, no ventilation is possible. Create stunning window walls by combining fixed windows with casement, awning or architectural windows, even French patio doors.
Transoms are a type of fixed window used higher on a wall, usually above an operating sash window. Transom windows enable you to create taller viewing spaces and add more light. Transom windows are particularly effective over patio doors.
A slider window has one or two operable sashes that slide from side to side for ventilation. One type of slider windows called a “Roll-and-Turn” allows you to swing in the sashes for easy cleaning. Three section glider windows have large picture window in the center with two smaller operable sashes on each end.
Awnings are an operable window with a sash that tilts out and up, using a crank like a casement. These windows are often used to add ventilation above or below other large windows. The slim lines of an awning ensure more viewing area.
Bow windows are a series of windows that are combined to jut beyond the wall. A 10-degree bow is built with the windows on each end facing outwards at 10 degrees. Both operable and fixed casements may be included in a bow.
Bay windows jut further from the wall than bow windows. The windows on the end may be set at 45 or 30 degrees to the wall. Fixed, double-hung, single-hung or casements can be combined to create a bay window. Bay windows add a sense of space and graciousness to any room.
Architectural windows come in various shapes and styles such as: Extended Arch, Eyebrow, Octagon, Elliptical, Circle, Quarter and Half Round, Oval and Half Oval, Gothic and Half Gothic. These windows can be combined to create dramatic window walls.
Methods of Construction
As we discussed earlier, aluminum, for a lot of reasons is a terrible material to construct windows and patio doors with. When replacing your windows and doors, you should avoid aluminum windows.
Wood and vinyl however, are excellent materials for replacement windows. Both solid vinyl and wood windows clad on the exterior in aluminum are extremely well insulated, durable and attractive.
Wood windows and patio doors are absolutely gorgeous! The natural richness and beauty of wood cannot be equaled by any other material. Wood does, however, require finishing, for instance staining or painting. Also, many wood windows and door products only come in standard sizes, which may require some modification to the old window openings.
An aluminum-clad exterior is also very important to protect the windows from the elements. Make certain that the exterior coating is securely sealed to the wood surface so that it will not de-laminate.
The advantage of vinyl windows is that they are very easy to clean and maintain. They do not require painting and you can clean the vinyl with whatever you clean the glass with. Vinyl windows can also be easily custom made to fit your existing openings. There are hundreds of manufacturers and fabricators of vinyl windows, and their quality, features and price vary widely.
Although vinyl can be a durable, well-insulated material, it is very important to take into consideration the quality of the vinyl material. Cheaper vinyl can contain “regrind” or recycled vinyl and may contain fillers that reduce the overall strength and durability of the window. Building codes allow for up to 20% re-grind vinyl in window and door products. However, it is this cheap vinyl that is susceptible to sagging, warping and discoloration when exposed to the radiant heat form the sun.
Many windows manufacturers who use something called virgin vinyl tout the importance of windows made of “virgin vinyl” (uPVC) that contains no re-grind. This is good to have because the entire window will look the same forever, you won’t have different sections changing colors. However if the only feature the vinyl has is virgin vinyl then that will only assure that the window will turn yellow and fade at the same rate. A more important feature to look for is a UV inhibitor that further protects the windows from the damaging rays of the sun.
The vinyl should be a solid color throughout, so the color will not wear off or scratch. It should have a smooth polished finish that will be easy to clean. If the vinyl has a bluish tint, it is an indication that it is not virgin vinyl.
With vinyl windows the method of constructing the frame is very important. Better vinyl windows have “fusion welded” corners. Fusion welding is a process where the four pieces of frame are fused into one single piece eliminating air and water infiltration and unsightly joints. The best way to determine the strength of a weld is is to look at a cross section of a frame extrusion. The more surface area that is welded the stronger the weld will be. Vinyl windows that have “multiple channeled” frames will have far more surface area than those that do not.
Multiple channeled or honeycombed frames and sashes also add strength, structural stability and additional thermal breaks that provide insulation.
A “mechanical” frame has corners that are screwed together. They’re less likely to be airtight and watertight, and the corners may start to pull apart after being exposed to heat and cold. These windows are highly prone to service problems and should be avoided. There are some “hybrid” windows out there that use a mixture of vinyl regrinds, sawdust and glue. These windows should be avoided since they are known for these problems.
The strength of the main frame that holds the sashes is also important. If the frame is strong and square the sashes will fit properly and prevent air from leaking around them. Again, frames that have multiple channels provide more strength than those that don’t.
Make sure that you inspect a cross section or “corner cut” of the frame.
There is a disturbing trend by window manufacturers to lower the cost of their products by using cheaply made components such as balances, locks, rollers, etc. When inspecting a window sample, look for quality components and good design of the following features. Most windows will have all of these features, but the level of quality will vary greatly.
Balances are used in double and single hung windows to keep the sashes in place when open. The most common are spiral balances that utilize a spiral rod of metal that is spring loaded at a certain tension, based on the size and weight of the sash, into a lubricant filled cartridge. Look for welded, stainless steel balances and avoid balances with a plastic cartridge.
Window Locks perform two functions. The first is to tighten the sashes within the frame to prevent air infiltration. Two locks should be included on double hung and slider windows to provide a tight seal. Secondly, locks fasten the window sashes for security purposes. “Cam locks” that swing completely around and lock in place will also be pick-resistant.
It is a popular option now to have “Auto-Locks.” Since one manufacturer came out with an auto-lock all other manufacturers have scrambled to provide their version and unfortunately quality has suffered because of it. The best auto locks will have an indicator letting you know from far away that the window is indeed locked. Many locks don’t latch every time and you may think your window is locked just because it is closed when the opposite is true, leaving your home vulnerable to break-ins.
Ventilation Limit Locks are stops that can project out from one of the sashes to allow the window to be partially opened for ventilation while maintaining security. Limit locks can be found on some slider windows as well as most double hung windows.
Look for the convenience of Tilt-In Design. Many double hung vinyl window designs allow the sashes to “tilt-in” to clean the outside of the glass from inside your home. If you have slider windows, look for slider windows that have removable sashes or a “roll-and-turn” swing-in design to clean the outside of the glass.
Weather Stripping is important to prevent drafts from coming in around the window sashes. There are various materials used for weather stripping. Typically, these materials form treated pile fibers that are fitted into a fin of vinyl that is inserted into a groove in the window and sash frames. Often there is a plastic or Mylar strip within the weather stripping to prevent matting. You don’t have to worry too much about weather stripping wearing out, you should make sure that it will not flatten out or become matted down.
Rollers on glider windows allow the sashes to easily slide back and forth. Each sash should have two sets of tandem rollers, particularly on larger windows to provide sufficient support. Look for brass rollers, not plastic or nylon. The difference is obvious. Your windows will slide open easily and the rollers will last much longer.
Because storm windows are no longer needed with insulated windows, Screens are generally included within the frame of the window. Since the purpose of screens is to keep insects out, screens should fit tightly to prevent bugs from coming in around the screen frame. Screen frames are usually made of extruded or rolled aluminum. Extruded aluminum, which is more ridged, will resist kinks and bends. Screening material is typically fiberglass or aluminum mesh.
There are various “Cosmetic Features” that should be considered with vinyl windows. Vinyl windows come in various shades of white, beige and brown. Some manufacturers also have simulated “wood grain” interiors that have the appearance of wood with the maintenance free qualities of vinyl.
Look for molded or contoured edges around the sash frame, next to the glass for a finished rather than “squared off” appearance. Also inspect the welds in the frame of the window to make sure they are de-burred and not rough in appearance.
Methods of Insulating Glass
Next to the overall quality of the construction of the window, the most important consideration when replacing the windows in your home is how well the glass area of the window is able to insulate against heat loss or heat gain.
Most of a window is made up of the glass area. Therefore, it is extremely important that you install windows that have high performance insulated glass units. Insulated glass will greatly reduce or eliminate unsightly and damaging condensation on you windows. Also, lower quality insulated glass units are susceptible to seal failure where fogging can occur between the panes of glass making it impossible to clean your windows.
The following information will help you determine what type of insulated glass will work best in your home.
Avoid Single Pane Glass. Only smaller manufacturers will even make single pane windows anymore, but if you do get offered single pane glass, stay away! In cold climates, as well as hot ones, single pane windows are best reserved for garages and other spaces that don’t require heating or cooling. Double Pane Glass consists of two sealed panes of glass, usually separated by a spacer that separates the two panes. The dead space between the glass provides a “thermal break” for insulation. Triple Pane Glass has two dead spaces or thermal breaks, providing even more insulation than double pane glass. Triple pane glass is particularly effective in large expanses of glass or when temperature extremes dictate maximum insulation in glass areas.
With insulated glass units (double- or triple-pane) I recommend the use of Insulating Gasses. In regular double and triple pane glass, air fills the dead space between the panes of glass. Insulation can be further increased when this dead space is filled with an insulating gas, usually argon gas. Argon gas is an inert gas like helium, but rather than being lighter than air, it is much heavier giving it its insulating properties. It is safe, odorless and colorless.
Some manufacturers also use Krypton gas, which is much heavier and insulates even better than argon gas. Krypton gas requires a narrower space between panes to be effective, so it is usually only used in conjunction with triple pane glass. Triple pane glass with krypton gas and two low-e coatings has proven to be one of the most effective methods of insulating glass.
I highly recommend Low-e Glass (short for low emissivity) in insulated glass units. Low-e refers to glass that has a coating of tin or silver oxide one or more surfaces of the glass that insulates the window from radiant light from the sun. Low-e glass is effective when the sun is shining on the windows.
Low-e glass will filter out harmful ultra-violet light (which we can’t see) that can fade fabrics, carpets and window coverings. According to my friend Bill at Greenhouse in Toledo you do not have to be concerned about houseplants being affected.
The low-e coating does however allow about 98% of visible light (which of course we can see) into your home. It also, filters out selective wavelengths of infrared light (which we feel as heat).
In the summer months when the sun is high in the sky and shining or reflecting on the glass area, the low-e coating re-radiates the heat back away as it lets the light pass through. This reduction of heat entering the house will significantly reduce air conditioning costs.
In the winter when the sun is low in the sky the low-e coating admits more of the sun’s adding heat to the house. At the same the heat inside the house is re-radiated back into the house by the low-e coating. This reduction of heat loss, as well as the addition of heat from windows with exposure to the sun, will dramatically reduce heating costs to the homeowner.
Low-e coatings used in combination with insulating gasses will significantly improve the comfort of your home, reduce condensation and decrease fuel bills. Because of the relatively low cost of low-e glass and its inherent ability to save on fuel costs, it should be a major consideration when replacing the windows in your home.
With insulated glass units, it is very important to consider Spacer Bars. Around the edges of an insulated glass unit is a “spacer” that separates the panes of glass and gives the unit structural stability. This spacer is critical to the design of an insulated glass unit as it not only separates the glass, but also works to seal in argon or krypton gas and keep moisture out.
Spacers are also important to the overall insulation of the glass unit as they can conduct heat making the edges of the glass far less insulated than the center of the glass. When the outside temperature is cooler, these “cold edges” can attract moisture, forming condensation around the edges of the glass. Certain spacer designs are less conductive and provide what is called “warm edge” technology. These warmer edges can prevent the formation of condensation that often causes expensive water damage to windowsills and frames, curtains and carpets and even paint and walls.
As we talked about earlier, aluminum is a terrible insulator. Stay away from aluminum spacer bars that conduct heat (1416 BTU/Hr) and are prone to seal failure. Look for a less metal galvanized steel (450 BTU/Hr) like the Interceptä that provides “warm edge technology”, or even better a non-metal spacer like Swiggle Spacerä or Edgetech’sä structural foam Super Spacerä (1.3 BTU/Hr.).
Have you ever taken on the impossible task of trying to clean windows that had a milky white film in between the double pane glass? It’s pretty frustrating, huh? That window has had a seal failure. If double pane glass loses its airtight seal, moisture can condense in between the panes of glass. When it dries, it leaves a dirty film that can never be cleaned.
Probably the most important consideration with insulated glass units is Seal Failure. When the seal around the perimeter of double- or triple-pane glass fails, the result is loss of any insulating gasses and unsightly fogging of the inside of the glass unit. A typical insulating glass edge seal consists of a spacer, desiccant, and one or two sealants depending on the system type. This edge seal system performs two basic functions: keeping as much moisture as possible for as long as possible out of the air space inside the insulated glass unit and absorbing whatever moisture does infiltrate the unit. When either of these functions ceases the unit “dies” or begins to fog.
Once a window has experienced a seal failure, it can not be fixed. The entire insulated glass unit has to be replaced. Because seal failure is the most common service problem with replacement windows, careful consideration should be taken when selecting the type of insulated glass unit for the windows in your home. Make sure you get a written warranty that provides you with replacement glass units, at no charge, should yours fail.
So, how can you be sure your windows and
Patio doors are truly energy efficient?
Good question. Fortunately there’s a simple answer.
Window performance is tested and rated in accordance with the specifications and standards established by several different organizations, including: the American Architectural Manufacturers Association/National Wood Window and Door Association (AAMA/NWWDA), the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), Associated Labs, Inc./Insulating Glass Certification Council (ALI/IGCC), and the Energy Star Window Program.
If you are like most homeowners weigh the features and benefits of aluminum, wood and vinyl windows, how well windows keep heat out of your home during the warm months, and in during the colder months, is a major concern. The Fenestration Rating Council is a joint government group that created a fair and accurate method for comparing the thermal efficiency of windows and doors.
The NFRC sets objective standards for testing and rating windows, and its label shows the type of window, it’s glazing specifications, and the windows tested U-Value. Solar heat gain coefficient and visible light transmittance data may also be shown.
Any homeowner armed with this information can make an honest comparison of various brands of windows and patio doors. You don’t have to worry about being lied to by a salesperson or making a bad decision by purchasing inferior quality windows.
When comparing different window brands, test results that show the thermal performance of the glass in a window are very important. It is these measurements that make up the ratings required by the NFRC and Energy Star programs.
To help you better understand these ratings numbers; I have provided you with descriptions of how the tests are done, and what these ratings mean to you and your home. I realize this might seem a bit technical, however you should at least know whether a higher or lower rating number is better.
Condensation Resistance Factor (CRF)
This test determines a window’s ability to resist condensation. The CRF is calculated from the interior surface temperature of a window when the window is subject to a standardized set of temperature and humidity conditions. The higher the CRF, the better the window’s ability to resist condensation.
The best measure of a window’s thermal efficiency is its U-Value. U-Value is the rate of heat flow through a glass system.
Both U-Value and R-Value are determined by mounting a window into a wall that separates two chambers with different air temperatures. One chamber is filled with warm air; the other is filled with cold air. The amount of energy required to maintain the temperature in the warm air chamber is carefully measured.
The U-Value of a window can them be calculated from the energy consumption. The lower the U-Value, the better the insulating quality. Example: A window with a U-Value of 0.30 has better insulating qualities than a window with a U-Value of 0.46.
Like U-Value, R-Value also measures a window’s thermal efficiency, and is describes as the resistance of a material to heat flow. R-Value is determined by the same testing method as U-Value.
A higher R-Value denotes greater insulating power, so a window with an R-Value of 4 has better insulating qualities than a window with an R-Value of 2.
Daylight Transmittance measures the amount of light that passes through glass. This percentage is calculated with data provided by a photo spectrometer, which measures transmission and reflectivity of various wavelengths of light.
The higher the rating percentage, the greater the passage of visible light. For example, a window with a daylight transmission rating of 72% allows more visible light passage than a window with a daylight transmission rating of 68%.
UV Block measures the amount of damaging ultra-violet light that is blocked from being transmitted through a pane of glass. This percentage is determined by recording the transmission and reflectivity of ultra-violet light through glass.
The greater the rating percentage, the more effective the window is at blocking ultra-violet radiation. For, example, the UV blocking rating for a standard double pane window is 42%, however, superior quality glass can have a rating in excess of 80%.
Shading coefficient measures how much an insulated glass unit transmits heat gain compared to 1/8” clear glass, which is given a value of 1. Shading coefficient is determined by measuring the amount of heat that is transmitted through a pane of glass.
The lower the rating, the greater the reduction of heat that is transmitted through the glass. For example, a shading coefficient rating of 0.51 means that insulated glass unit reduces unwanted heat by 49% versus a single pane of 1/8” clear glass.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient
Solar heat gain coefficient is the amount of direct solar radiation that enters through a pane of glass into the home as heat, over and above the normal heat loss. It is calculated by measuring the glass’s transmission and reflectivity of solar energy at a range of wavelengths. So as opposed to daylight transmittance that measures light, solar heat gain coefficient measures heat.
The lower the rating number, the better the glass’s ability to prevent solar heat gain. For example, the solar heat gain coefficient for a standard double pane window is 0.78, but other insulated glass containing low-e coatings and/or insulating gasses, can have much lower ratings.
Far too often, in the interest of keeping their price as low as possible, window sales people fail to inform their customers about the various options available for the glass in their new windows. These glass options can provide distinctive appearance and beauty to your home and also increase safety and security. The following glass options should be considered when replacing the windows in your home.
Laminated Glass is type of safety glass that has an impact resistant film laminated to tempered or regular glass during the manufacturing process. Laminated glass provides greater protection from storms, burglars and glass related accidents. Unlike other forms of safety glass laminated glass is thin, light in weight, yet very strong. Burglars target glass windows and doors because they provide the easiest entry into your home. A heavy object can shatter a glass pane instantly, giving an intruder immediate access to your home and family. Laminated glass serves as a safety shield, making it harder for burglars to smash through the glass. The glass may break, but because it is laminated, it resists coming out of the frame.
Muntins are the “grids” that separate individual panes of glass within a window sash. In replacement windows, muntins simulate the look of individual panes of glass. With wood windows and patio doors muntins will usually be “snap-in” wood grids that fit over the glass. Vinyl and aluminum windows have internal aluminum muntins that are sealed between the double pane glass, eliminating the need to clean around them.
Muntins can have a “colonial” pattern with vertical and horizontal grids that form rectangles, or a “diamond” pattern with angled grids that form diamond shapes. They can also be flat or contoured to simulate molded wood.
V-Groove Beveled Glass has beveled lines cut into the glass to form muntin patterns or other decorative designs. V-Grooves provide elegant, light catching definition that won’t block available light like traditional muntins.
Designer Glass also known as Art Glass has become increasingly more popular in bay and bow windows and particularly in patio doors. There are many types and styles of designer glass; most have multifaceted, beveled clusters of glass separated by lead, zinc or brass caming. Designer glass can incorporate patterns of frosted, chip-glass, textured, swirling Baroque, as well as soft gray or other colors.
Tinted Glass can come in various shades such as solar gray, solar bronze and sunglass, which has a green tint. Tinted glass can add distinction to the appearance of your home and can also cut down the amount of sunlight that can pass through the glass.