Tom Shafer

Choosing windows: 5 essential decisions

September 28, 2012

If you're planning a remodeling project, you might also be considering new windows. Choosing windows is no small undertaking: questions concerning design, aesthetics, energy efficiency, safety and light must all be answered before you even browse through the products. The following five basic decisions are sure to be part of your window purchase process.

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Decision 1: Window type

  • New construction windows. Does your remodel involve new construction such as expanding your present structure, adding a new room or even a garage? Because these projects require new framing, you need new construction windows.
  • Replacement windows. On the other hand, you might only need to do a pocket window replacement -- replacing your old, inefficient wood window sash with modern, energy-efficient replacement windows.

Decision 2: Frame material

If your windows are old and have never been replaced, you might be familiar with only wood or aluminum frames. Today's window frame materials have plenty of other advantages besides their superior energy efficiency.

  • Vinyl windows are low-maintenance, do not rot or require painting.
  • Composite wood is rot-resistant and requires less frequent painting than wood.
  • Vinyl-clad wood offers the best of both worlds -- vinyl on the exterior frame and wood indoors that you can stain or paint.
  • Fiberglass frames, too, are gaining in popularity for their color options as well as frame strength and stability.

Decision 3: Glass

Your choice of glass not only determines the amount of light entering your home, but even more important, the energy-saving properties of your windows. Glass with heat-reflective properties can potentially lower heating and cooling costs, depending on your geographical region. Before deciding among the various types of energy-efficient glass products, consider these factors:

  • climate
  • summer/winter sun's location in relation to your windows
  • outside noise
  • sizes of your windows

Decision 4: Window style

Selecting window styles that are compatible with the architectural style of your house is essential if you want your home to look right.

  • Does the house style favor casements, awning windows and picture windows; sliders, double- and single-hung windows or some other combination?
  • Could windows in one or several architectural shapes enhance the final effect?

Windows of various shapes can add the extra design feature that distinguishes your home from similar ones in your neighborhood. Shapes need not be limited to half-circles, or trapezoids; above windows and doors consider transoms, octagons, triangles, and even pentagons.

Decision 5: Grilles

If you are planning to add grilles to your glass, there are more options than ever, including these:

  • flat or sculptured grilles-between-glass (GBG)
  • true divided lites (TDL)
  • simulated divided lites (SDL)
  • grilles on only one sash of a hung window
  • colonial grilles
  • prairie grilles
  • valance grids
  • etched glass shapes, ground directly into the glass

As you can see, window selection goes way beyond a question of color or style. Take your time, research options, and choose wisely to match the requirements of your taste, needs and the look of your home.

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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