Welcome to the world of windows, an integral component of the modern home. Today, windows not only provide us with our view of the outside world but command architectural credos, reduced energy costs and style.
Doug Williams, window consult for Newmar Windows says, “in the Toronto area 98% of new home builders use vinyl windows. Builders are offering their customers more glass area than ever before and vinyl windows are low maintenance, no shrinkage and no warping.”
First, consider the type of windows you wish to have in your home. The criteria for this decision will be based upon budget, demanded performance of your panes, security and, of course, the style of the home. Window terminology-all windows have two basic components-the glaze or glass and the frame (here’s where we decide wood, PVC or aluminum). Most windows also have a sash (the part between the frame and the glaze).
Wood is perhaps the most popular (and most expensive) window for higher end custom homes. (To reduce costs you can have a combination window, such as wood on the inside frame and aluminum on the exterior-this is the combination that I generally opt for when building our homes). I’m not crazy about wood windows on the exterior of a home, as they will require regular maintenance since wood is prone to warping and shrinkage. Wood windows often come cladded (the exterior frame is cladded in an aluminum or vinyl jacket) keeping exteriors maintenance free for several years.
Wood windows typically arrive unfinished and can then be stained to match interior millwork, a handsome look that many home owners prefer.
Vinyl windows are manufactured from an impact resistance polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Inside they are hollow making them light and easy for your framer to install. Vinyl windows can not be painted and are only available in a limited selection of colours. Personally, I seldom order a white window-I prefer a darker frame (such as black) as it generally gives the exterior of a home a richer look. Take a drive through some newer subdivisions looking specifically at the new homes’ windows. Designer tip: Match your window colour to the soffit fascia colour.
Aluminum windows are more durable, lighter and cheaper than standard wood windows. Aluminum windows are available in a dozen colours but careful attention is required to avoid scratches. There are also fiberglass and composite frames to consider. Williams suggests that you “speak with your builder about all the extra options available for your windows, such as Low-e to reduce UV rays, argon filled insulated glass and grills. Ask to see samples.”
All operable windows come with hardware for opening and closing: usually a crank or a latch. Your window supplier may have more than one option available. If you are planning to hang blinds inside the window frames, ask about fold down openers as these will not interfere with the blind. Also confirm finish options. (Yes, home building does require foresight-a successful home is achieved by those who can clearly visualize the final outcome.) Speaking of operable windows-prior to confirming your window order, review your plans for fixed (windows that do not open) and operable windows (windows that open for emergency escape and ventilation). Operable windows generally cost more than fixed windows; you may be able to save a few dollars by changing operable windows to fixed windows.
For example, our last set of house plans called for a series of eight operable windows in the living room. I reevaluated this plan and opted for four fixed windows and four operable windows. Savings were approximately $200 per window. When reviewing your plan be sure to double check the height of your windows. On numerous occasions I found 50-inch high windows specified when aesthetically 64- or 80-inch high windows would have been better.
Speaking of savings, you’ll want to ensure that your windows are energy efficient. Williams says, “Windows have certainly improved since I started in the industry in the late sixties.” All windows and doors should have an ‘ER’ or energy rating. An ER is a term given to the amount of heat that enters and escapes through a window. A negative ER number implies that more heat leaves than comes in. (Yes, a window can bring heat into your home by taking advantage of solar energies and superior construction.) Conversely, a positive ER number means that the structure will contribute to heating the home. Look for the CWDMA certification from your window supplier and note the energy rating.
Low-e (low emissive coating) and/or Argon gas (colourless, odourless, non-flammable, non-reactive, inert gas that acts as an insulator between the panes of glass in a sealed unit) filled windows are generally the most energy efficient. Although the initial cost outlay will be greater, you will make up cost with substantial savings on your heating and air conditioning bills. The Low-e will also help protect your furniture, accessories and draperies from fading by reducing UV rays.
Another consideration may be for tinted or glazed glass. Tints are available in a range of colours, from bronze to blue, and work to reduce sun glare and heat from entering the home. This is a considerable upgrade if the window reveals a spectacular view or if you plan not to install blinds or sheers. On the CWDMA certification you will also note the Canadian Standards Association, Canada’s leading authority for compliance testing to national and international standards. Windows are tested for air tightness and resistance to water leakage and wind.
Windows come in many different shapes, sizes, styles, colours, efficiency levels and price ranges. There’s a lot more to windows than simply a great view. Look beyond the frames while window shopping!
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