How to Choose the Best New Windows for Your Home

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When it comes to home renovations, a lot of homeowners focus on the quality of life or aesthetic improvements. Some of the more popular renovations include things like outdoor living spaces, upgraded kitchens, and painting.

Of course, not all home renovation ideas focus purely on your experience living in the home. In many cases, the renovation is as much practical as it is aesthetic.

Window replacements, for example, are often a necessary renovation that can also improve your home value in terms of curb appeal. That leaves the problem of how to choose those replacement windows. Keep reading for some key tips and considerations.

 

Efficiency

Many homeowners discover after they move in, particularly in older homes, that they have single-pane windows. Single-pane windows are a major source of energy inefficiency in a home. Heat leaves the home through them in winter and enters through them in the summer.

That forces your HVAC system to work harder and run for longer to keep temperatures comfortable and stable in your home. When you get a replacement, you’ll minimally want double-pane windows. Those are windows with two panes of glass sandwiched around a layer of inert gas.

Double pane windows cut way down heat loss and heat entry, respectively, in the cold and warm months.

You may also want Low-E coatings on your new windows that help block UV light. There are two main types of Low-E coatings: low solar gain and high solar gain.

Low solar gain coatings help keep the heat out, which makes them popular in warmer areas. High solar gain windows allow for heat entry, which makes them popular in colder parts of the country.

Window Types

There are several popular types of windows that you see in homes. the most common types of windows are generally single-hung windows and double-hung windows. Those are the types that simply slide up and down.

Other types of windows that you may see in homes or want for your home include:

  • Sliding
  • Picture
  • Bay
  • Casement
  • Folding

Replacing a traditional single or double-hung window with something like a picture or bay window is often a major renovation. In most cases, it involves removing part of the wall to make room for the window.

Replacing traditional windows with some like sliding or casement windows is often easier because it means you get a window with the same dimensions.

Materials

For a long time, wood frames were the only kind of frames available for windows. Wood is a classic material, but it’s also prone to decay over time unless meticulously maintained.

Now, it’s much more common to see frame materials like:

  • Composites
  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum
  • Fiberglass

These materials tend to hold up better to the weather and are less prone to insect damage from things like ants, termites, and carpenter bees.

Aluminum and vinyl are the cost-conscious choices for new window frames. They’re also readily available.

Composite materials and fiberglass typically cost as much or more than replacement wood frames.

Full Vs. Pocket Replacement

For the budget-conscious, you must also consider whether you want full or pocket replacements.

With a full replacement, everything goes. The glass, the frames, and the hardware all come out of the wall and an entirely new window goes into the hole.

This approach works best if your current frames are in rough shape or you want an entirely new type of window. For example, if you want casement windows that swing out to replace your single-hung windows, you’ll likely need a full replacement.

With a pocket replacement, you just replace the glass. This approach works well when your existing frames remain in good working order. It’s a practical way to upgrade from single to double-pane windows.

Pocket replacement is often the cheaper option, as well.

Neighbourhood Style

Let’s say that you just bought a house and you’ve always loved fitted timber sash windows. Before you jump into a renovation project, consider the look of the rest of the neighborhood.

Do all of the houses on your street have the same kind of windows? Is it a random mix?

If there is a random mix of windows or architectural styles on the street, then upgrading your windows likely won’t prove problematic. If every house shares a particular architectural style and identical windows, you may get pushback from your neighbors about the change.

Potential Problems

While homeowners exert a lot of control over the look of their homes, it’s not an unlimited right. In urban and suburban areas, in particular, there are two key problems you may encounter.

  • HOA

The local HOA may prove an additional stumbling block in terms of installing a different style of window in your home. Many HOAs exert substantial control over what kind of changes you can make to your home and even have approval rights for some types of renovation projects.

Make sure you double-check the rules for your HOA. When in doubt, talk with your HOA about the changes you want to make with your windows.

  • Protected Homes

Some historic homes in urban areas are for sale, but they have strict local protections. For example, you cannot make substantial structural changes to many historic homes.

If you want to replace the windows, you must often replace them with windows that replicate the exact style of the existing windows. Depending on the style and construction, it can become a custom and expensive project.

Picking Windows for Your Home Renovation?

Picking windows for your home renovation isn’t simply a matter of calling up a local contractor. You must make several decisions that will affect the timing and cost of your project.

You must decide on glass and coating options, window types, and materials. You must choose between full vs pocket replacements.

Don’t forget that your window replacement project won’t happen in a vacuum. You may face pushback from neighbors, the HOA, or get hamstrung by local regulations on historic homes.

Ready for more home improvement tips? Check out some of the other posts over in our Design + Decor section.

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