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Home Window Replacements Guide | Replacement Window Buying Guide Print Bookmark and Share

Okay, your windows are out-dated and worn out. You're considering taking out a second mortgage just to heat or cool your home. Or you just want to improve the value and the appearance of your home. You've decided that replacing your windows is the way to go. Now what? First, Find a window replacement contractor.

Since a knowledgeable contractor will be able to guide you through all the planning stages of the project, finding a capable contractor should be your first order of business. It will save you both time and money. There are many web sites that list reputable contractors. Word of mouth is also a good way to unearth an outstanding company. Ask friends and any contractors you may know whom they would recommend for window replacement.

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A Simple Guide to Buying Replacement Windows

Once you've narrowed down your search, make sure that the company carries both liability and workers compensation insurance. You don't want to end up with a lawsuit because the company you're dealing with does not have proper insurance. Since there are as many different types of installation as there are types of homes, the important thing is to make sure the company you choose to install your windows gives you detailed information on how your windows will be installed.

Here are some questions that will help you evaluate your contractor: Does the company specialize in window replacement and installation? How long have they been in the window replacement business? What is their specific experience with window installations? How long would a ten-window installation project take? What type of window warranty do they offer on installation? Do they have any recent projects you can look at? Finally, ask them for customer referrals.

Tips on Buying Replacement Windows

Buying replacement windows can be a tricky process if you aren't sure what to look for. After all, there are many different window types and companies to help with installation, that it can an overwhelming undertaking for even the most savvy homeowner. Here are some tips to help get you started:

1. Consider the reputation of the window replacement company: Many homeowners would consider this to be at the bottom of the totem pole, however, this is one of the most important things to consider when buying replacement windows. The home improvement industry has many unlicensed contractors doing shoddy work for homeowners. Always check out a company or individual contracting to do a window replacement in your home. Ask for references and follow up with calling those listed. You could also do a query with the Better Business Bureau to be sure there are no complaints listed against the company you are considering hiring to do your window replacement project. A reputable company should have insurance in place and have qualified employees with some experience in installing replacement windows.

2. Choose the right glass for your replacement window: Homeowners often tend to associate expensive with quality and in some instances this is the case, but in others, this theory couldn't be farther from the truth. Getting the right glass for your window is as important as getting the proper doors or walls for your home. The glass you get for your window will help to protect your home from the outside elements, in addition to adding a sense of beauty and sophistication to your space. Therefore, homeowners should educate themselves on the types of glass available and work with the window company to choose the right fit.

Insulated Glass: This is made of two pieces of glass that are melded together in an effort to keep out moisture and other irritants, like dust. Insulated glass comes with spaces that separate the two pieces from one another. One of the most preferred is the "super spacer," which is non-conductive and works best for energy efficiency. It also provides a double seal for the glass itself. Another effective, but decidedly less common option is argon gas, which does improve the energy efficiency of glass by at least 10%. However, insulated glass with argon gas should be sure to have a sold Mylar backing that will ensure the gas doesn't seep out.

When shopping for insulated glass, it's important to understand terms like "U-Value" and "Solar Heat Gain Coefficient." The U-Value of glass is the measure of its efficiency, meaning that the lower the U-Value, the more efficiently the glass performs. The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient is the measure of heat that gets into your home via sunlight. The lower the number of Solar Heat Gain Coefficient is of your glass, the less heat you will get into your home. UV Transmittance is another crucial term to understand as this is the sunlight that harms your décor, fading carpeting and drapes. The lower the percentage of UV rays you have streaming into your home, the more your décor and furnishings will be preserved. Read more about window replacement ratings.

Obscure glass: This is known as frosted glass and usually is either frosted or patterned to the point where you cannot see through it. Most obscure glass windows have a rough area on the outside page and the inside is made of Low E glass. Some manufacturers often customers fun design options, such as utilizing a rain pattern or fern leaf for an interesting decorative touch.

Tempered glass: This is glass that is heated up and then cooled, with a small window of turnaround time. This process makes the glass that much stronger and creates a certain amount of surface tension that keeps the glass from shattering into large pieces when broken. This is also known as safety glass, as the pieces are smaller when it's broken and therefore less dangerous. Whenever safety glass is used, it must be at least 18 inches from the floor.

Window Frames

This is also a very important part of the replacement process when it comes to windows. Choosing a window frame is as important as the glass itself. The three main types of frames used when buying replacement windows are: vinyl, wood and thermally broken aluminum. Here is a rundown of each:

Vinyl Window Frames: These frames have seen soaring improvements in quality as of late. They have a somewhat negative reputation because of their past performance. But today, vinyl is made with an increased level of durability and is virtually maintenance free. It is the same color throughout the frame, which means blemishes go unnoticed. Quality vinyl windows are help in place through welding, instead of screws, which means great reinforcement. They are available in white or beige, which means that they won't overheat. Vinyl window frames should be certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council and the air space between the two panes of glass should always be at least half of an inch.

Thermal Break Aluminum Frames: These frames contain a specific thermal barrier that keeps the frame from conducting heat or cold. However, it should be noted that this window frame type is not as energy efficient as vinyl or wood. Thermal frames should also be certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council and have an air space of half an inch between panes. There should also be interlocking sashes and double locks on all windows exceeding 30 inches.

Wood Window Frames: Wood window frames are a great choice and should have some of the same specifications at the former two frames, with certification through the National Fenestration Rating Council and a half inch of air space. It is also important to use wood types that won't warp once installed. Wood window frames will always be more expensive but they are always rated the highest frames from consumer reports.

Window Replacement Types

There are many different types of actual windows you can choose for your home. It's important to discuss the type of window you are looking for in the beginning of your consultant with your installment contractors to be sure you are getting exactly what you want. Here are some of the most common choices:

Casement windows -- Single hung windows -- Fixed, non-operable picture windows -- Double hung windows -- Single hung windows -- Sliding or gliding windows -- Picture sliders (where there are three sections, with the fixed part in the center of the window and the two sides acting as sliders) -- Awning windows -- Arched Windows -- Bay Windows -- Bow Windows -- Hood Mold Windows -- Hopper Windows -- Palladian Windows -- Patio Windows -- Round Top Windows -- Skylight Windows -- Storm Windows -- Thermal Windows.

Window Replacement Installation

The installation process can be a cumbersome one, which is why it's so important to hire the right person for the job. After all, a bad installation could mean the difference between a solid window and one that doesn't perform well. When facilitating the process of installing replacement windows, be sure to question your window contractor about various aspects, such as whether or not subcontractors will be used to complete the job and what their qualifications are, will the stucco on your home get damaged during installation, what type of trim will be used, will the company clean up any broken glass, will the old windows be taken away, the type of caulking to be used, and anything else you can think of.

Window Warranties

Every company should offer a window replacement warranty of some sort in the event that the windows you've purchased don't perform as they should. The more clear the warranty is, the better. It's okay to let this be a determining factor as to whether you will hire a company or not. After all, this is your investment. If possible, try to hire the same company to both manufacture and install the windows. Be sure to get the warranty in writing and ask questions about it before making your purchase.

Window Replacement Prices

Price: This is also a very important consideration and remember that while you want a bargain, you also want quality. Get your window replacement prices or quotes in writing and be sure that it is your budget. If you have to replace a few windows at a time to get quality products, do so. Purchasing cheap windows will only leave you with a large expense later to replace them.

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