Tom Shafer

5 window upgrades to request from your builder

August 28, 2012

Designing and building a new home is exciting, but also fraught with some complicated decisions, especially when selecting windows. If your builder recommends vinyl, single-hung windows, keep these five considerations in mind:

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  1. Low-e glass: Your window is 90 percent glass, and glass is a prime source of heat transfer into your house in summer -- out of your house in winter. Energy Star criteria require windows with low-e glass for improved energy efficiency. But you can realize another 10-percent decrease in u-value -- meaning an increase in the effectiveness of your windows to control heat loss and gain -- by paying 3 to 7 percent more for low-e 3.
  2. Interior vs. exterior glazing: Both are structurally sound. Windows glazed from the interior have the slight advantage in that they are easier to repair. If the glass is broken, it's removed from the inside.
  3. Sash balances: Block and tackle balances and constant force (coil springs) are the most commonly used; however, block and tackle is preferable in a new build. Coil springs are heavily lubricated; they attract the dust which is everywhere in a home under construction, and it can gum up the works.
  4. Locks: Examine the hardware used to secure the sash. An incline built into the movable part of the sash lock pushes the sash tighter against the sill and pulls the two sash snugly together, forming a seal against air leakage. Some windows also have locks that automatically engage when closed.
  5. Lift-rails: The bottom rail of the lower sash is the lift-rail, so-called because it contains the mechanism used to lift the sash. Make sure the lifts are not smaller than the tips of your fingers, or lifting the sash could be painful and difficult if your fingers don't have enough leverage. Look for deep lift-rails with smooth edges.

When picking out windows, you have a lot of choices to make, and you will probably have those windows for a very long time. Select a few features that improve your comfort and you can enjoy using your windows for the purpose they were intended -- looking out and letting in the breeze.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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