Windows are among a home’s most visible features, and they play a big role in its energy efficiency, comfort level and outward appearance. That’s why when old, drafty windows begin to fail—or even look a little worse for wear—it may be time to consider replacement. Window replacement isn’t a small project, and homeowners have many options, so it pays to do some homework.
The first thing to understand is that not all replacement windows are created equal. In fact, the frame material you select is one of the most important considerations. Not all frames offer the same insulating value, energy-efficiency and ease of maintenance.
Choosing the best frame materials will make all the difference in your new windows. For example, wood frames offer the beauty of natural wood without the rot and moisture issues that plague older homes with single-pane windows. The right window replacement solution for your home will also depend on the climate where you live. Energy-efficient, double-pane windows will perform better in colder temperatures than their single-pane counterparts.
Another key consideration is whether you want to install sash-replacement kits or insert replacement windows in your existing frame. Sash-replacement kits—like the ones Tom installed in the Newton house—give an old window frame new movable parts, including jamb liners and sashes that slip into place in the existing frame. They’re available in both wood and vinyl, but most experts recommend sticking with wood for historic houses or other buildings with significant architectural value.
A third option is to choose full-frame replacement windows, which involve removing the entire existing window down to the studs and installing an entirely new window in its opening. This is a major job and is only recommended when your existing window is beyond repair, or when you’re remodeling your entire home and can afford the disruption. A full-frame window is also the best option for older homes with original wood frames that are prone to warping or rotting.
When selecting replacement windows, be sure to read the labels and look for the ENERGY STAR® label. This designation means that the window has been tested and approved to save energy in your climate. A reputable supplier will be able to help you find windows with ENERGY STAR glass packages that are appropriate for your home.
Once you’ve chosen the type of replacement window that works best for your home, it’s essential to hire a professional contractor to handle the installation. It’s a big investment, and you don’t want to trust it to an amateur or crook. To avoid problems, check references and licenses before hiring anyone to do the work, and be sure to hire only a company that offers a warranty on their services. A warranty will give you peace of mind in case something goes wrong during the installation process. And don’t forget to have the new windows properly inspected and sealed by a licensed building inspector before use. This will ensure that they’re watertight and ready to withstand the elements for years to come.