Replacing Windows

When it comes to swapping an old window for a new one there's a lot to know about style, materials and what's involved. Here's an overview of choosing replacement windows.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Replacing Windows

New windows add comfort and livability to a house, not to mention look good inside and out. Windows that operate easily and efficiently are a major improvement you'll enjoy year after year in several ways. New units eliminate the need for exterior painting because they're maintenance-free. No more peeling paint from sweating windows because these new units are designed and built to be weather-tight with double-pane glazing.

The drudgery of washing windows is no longer a difficult chore because many new ones are designed with tip-in or tilt sashes that make cleaning them easy. There's an energy payback for replacing an old window with a new one when it comes to heating and cooling costs. Air infiltration through old windows and doors is the main source of high-energy bills. An insulated and sealed window creates a more efficient and draft-free house that will payback every month in energy saving.

When choosing windows, consider the style of your house. Replacement windows should be appropriate for the style of house and blend in with existing windows. You'll find there are standard size windows, but some older houses have non-standard size windows so replacements have to be custom-built.

You'll find there are a variety of materials that make up new windows and vinyl is one of the most popular because it's maintenance-free and energy efficient. When looking at vinyl windows choose one with welded frame and sashes. This makes it stronger and more durable than one with mechanically joined frames and sashes. Your window contractor will recommend the best type for the area where you live and help you choose from the various styles of windows to best complement the style of the house.

The most energy efficient windows will have glass with a low-e coating, which lets in visible light but blocks radiant heat losses to cut heating and cooling bills. High-end windows may have insulated frames, and Argon or krypton gas, injected between the double-panes and low "E" glass to provide superior energy efficiency.

When considering new windows, look for substantial gaskets and weather stripping; the less air the window allows to enter, the better. Look for its "U" factor, which is a measurement of the rate which heat passes through a window. The lower, the better.

Here are a few more features you'll see noted on windows and what they mean:

  • Insulated glass: two pieces of glass sealed to an air space that creates an insulating air pocket. The thermal performance is about double that of typical single glaze glass.
  • Low "E" glass: thin, virtually transparent metallic coating applied to the second surface of the insulated glass unit which selectively filters solar radiation. It reduces heat gain in the summer and slows heat loss in the winter.
  • Tinted glazed: tinted glass filters certain longwave light radiation reducing solar heat gain while helping to prevent the fading of furniture and draperies, etc.
  • Coatings: UV coatings can block up to 98 percent of ultraviolet light; other coatings reduce heat loss or heat gain through the glass.
What's Involved

The actual job of replacing an old window with a new one doesn't take as much time as you'd imagine. The window contractor measures the opening and chooses the correct size of new unit. When it's ready to be installed the old interior and exterior trim around the window is removed. Then the old window is removed and replaced by the new unit, which is secured into the framing and siding. The old trim is either reinstalled or replaced. The job is easiest and requires few structural changes if you're replacing a window that's the same size or slightly smaller then the existing window. The opening can be adjusted and shimmed to fit the new unit easily, but it's more costly and complicated to expand a small opening for a large window because structural changes are needed.

Don't want to do the job? Click Home Advisor, a free referral service that connects homeowners with prescreened local contractors.

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