Akron’s Top Home Improvement Project – Six Things You Should Know About Window Replacement
Replacing the windows in your home is one the most popular home improvement projects in the Akron area. The reason is simple–homeowners receive multiple benefits from this one project. In addition to significantly lowering your energy bills, replacement windows will help increase your home’s value, improve the exterior and interior appearance, and eliminate maintenance. However, most people are overwhelmed with process of choosing the right windows for their home. Here are the top six things that will make the process easier.
1. Choose a reputable company-There are lots of resources to help you choose a good company and product. The local BBB is a good place to start. Make the sure the company is accredited by the BBB. Also, Angie’s list is another great resource. You’ll need to be a member, but you can sign up for a few dollars. Look for companies with the Super Service award on Angie’s list-they are the top 5% in the category. Finally, protect yourself and make the sure the company is licensed, bonded, insured, and the workers are covered by Workman’s Compensation. Be sure to ask.
2. The spacer material between the glass panes is the key to performance and longevity-Not all spacers, the material between the glass panes, are created equally. There are three basic types of spacers: Intercept spacers, full box metal spacers, and structural foam spacers known as Super Spacers. Choosing the right spacer will lead to higher performance and longevity for your home improvement project.
Intercept spacers are the most commonly used in replacement windows because they are inexpensive (made of tin) and are easy to manufacture. They are a U-shaped channel in between the glass. Full box metal spacers are square pieces of aluminum. They are also inexpensive to manufacture.
Although less expensive upfront, there is a downside to using metal spacers. Both intercept and full box metal spacers expand and contract, as that is the property of metal, with temperature swings. This expansion and contraction of metal spacers allows for three undesirable things to occur: colder and warmer temperatures around the edges of the panes (18.6 degrees colder than structural foam spacers), a higher occurrence of seal failure (in as little as three years as tested by the National Fenestration Rating Council–NFRC) which allows the gas to escape leading to fogged or inefficient windows, and condensation promoting mold growth.
Windows with structural foam spacers-Super Spacers-perform the best. Developed by Edgetech for NASA, this material prevents the problems associated with metal spaces above. Expect to pay more for these spaces. But the extra upfront cost is worth it.
3. Not all warranties are the same: read them-All warranties are “limited” (i.e. excludes vandalism, acts of nature) and most are “lifetime,” but not all are the same. For example, a limited lifetime warranty from a well-known big brand covers 10 years on the parts and frame, 20 years on the glass and two years on labor. Is that lifetime? There are some companies that do cover every part of the window, including labor. Look for them. If someone is willing to cover the labor for life, then it is a good bet that the window is a high quality window. Also, make the sure the warranty is fully transferable to the next owner. This will make your home easier to sell if the new owner has the peace of mind because it is one costly home improvement project they do not have to do again. Again, read, read, read the warranty. The fine print is the most important. Most information can be found online.
4. Know what window ratings mean-Choose windows that are Energy Star rated for your climate zone to get the most out of your home improvement project. Ratings do vary by climate zones. There are two basic measures used to measure for Energy Star windows: U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). In the Akron area, and across Northern Ohio, the U-factor should be.30 or below (the lower the number the better), the SHGC should be .35 or below.
These ratings are derived from independent testing by the NFRC and are used to determine Energy Star qualifications. The ratings are displayed on a sticker on each window.
5. Choose between vinyl, wood, fiberglass or composite frames and sashes-One of the earliest decisions for our home improvement project is to choose the type of look you want for the windows. Remember, this affects both the interior and exterior. Vinyl is by far the most popular choice for replacement windows. Except for cleaning, they are virtually maintenance free. They come in three basic colors on the inside (white, tan and brown) along with faux wood looks. Many companies also paint the exterior of vinyl windows to provide more color choices. Be sure to ask about the paint warranties if you choose this option and expect to pay $100-$150 more per window for painting. Also, be sure to choose vinyl windows that use virgin vinyl. Virgin vinyl will resist fading, cracking and warping.
Today’s wood windows often have an exterior cladding of either vinyl or aluminum for easy maintenance. However, occasionally the cladding on the mitered corners can have a tendency to let water in between the wood and the cladding causing rot. This is due to expansion and contraction over time. Wood windows will require more maintenance (i.e. painting on the inside) and will may rot or attract mold should the windows condensate on the inside. Wood and water are not a good mix.
Composite windows, made of wood fibers and epoxy, are becoming popular because they are also maintenance free with a more wood-like appearance. They can be pointed on the inside. But they do come with a heftier price tag than vinyl windows. Some argue that a high quality vinyl window performs as good, if not better, without the extra cost.
Speaking of price, fiberglass windows are the most expensive. They also can be painted on the interior and will not rot. Other than that, there is no discernable difference to a high quality vinyl window. Some fiberglass windows can cost as much as $1,500 and up. For comparison, expect to pay between $500 and $800-installed– for a high quality vinyl window. Cost does vary by city and region.
6. Know your budget but don’t skimp on quality- Be realistic. Replacement windows are a significant home improvement project that should last the life of your home. Unless you have a rental home, choose the best windows you can afford. It is wise to pay a little extra upfront for quality instead of having to replace the windows again in a few years, especially if they are out of warranty (see #3 above). Vinyl windows give you the most bang for the buck. Lesser grade (lumber yard, big box) vinyl windows can range from $275-$375 installed. Higher grade vinyl windows range from $400 to $800 depending on style, size, color and options. Composite and fiberglass windows can be cost of upwards of $1,500 per window installed.
Ask about financing. Most reputable companies have programs available. Recently, there was one advertised that offered 84 month, 0% financing (the monthly payments would be less than the cost of the energy saved-so the windows are actually free in real terms!).