If you’re a new homeowner looking for advice on buying windows for the first time, you’ve come to the right place.
There are a variety of factors that go into what to consider when purchasing windows. From the design versatility and durability to weighing the pros and cons of materials (vinyl windows benefits versus wood windows benefits and so on) to energy efficiency and, of course, price — the decisions are endless.
There’s a sea of choices and differences between the options available, so we’d like to guide you on your journey while purchasing windows for your home.
Selecting Residential Windows: What To Have In Mind & What To Ask
First things first. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
Windows can be an expensive investment, and you deserve support at every stage of the process from selection and installation to warranty and service after installation. The window-buying process can feel overwhelming, but you can reduce the stress of purchasing windows through research and preparation.
Before purchasing windows, there are some factors to consider. These details can seem overwhelming at first, but we’re here to go over the different aspects with you to help ease your mind during the pre-purchase process. Let’s go over some factors to think about before making a purchasing decision.
There is no simple rating scale or absolute guarantee when it comes to the durability of a new window. That’s primarily due to the fact that durability depends upon environmental factors as well as the types of materials used within the window product.
Warranties are a great indicator of the reliability of the window and its manufacturer. Examine if the warranty is short-term or long-term, as that will give you an idea of how long the company expects the window to last.
Whether you live in an area with harsh weather conditions or have kids that love to play baseball in the backyard, you want to be sure that your windows can withstand whatever elements are thrown (or hit) their way — within reason, of course.
Although there isn’t a scale for us to give you to determine the strength of a new window, we do have this advice: The biggest and best indicator of durability is the window material.
Finding a window to complement your siding/facade materials already in place might be a priority for your project. However, it’s also important that they meet the performance needs based on the local weather conditions (e.g., aluminum window frames are not great near oceans because sea salt can cause corrosion). Make sure you decide which is top priority for you: matching existing materials OR increasing durability.
No matter what your top priority is, there are plenty of materials to choose from. The four most popular are wood, aluminum, fiberglass and vinyl.
Wood is highly regarded as an aesthetically pleasing window material. The look of natural wood is sought after often, and it can also be painted or stained to match the style of your home. There’s no lack of styles as you can choose from double-hung, bay, awnings and more.
Wood frames are also great insulators, retaining warmth during the winter months and keeping it cool in hot, humid summers. But, wood does have its drawbacks.
Wood windows are high maintenance compared to vinyl and aluminum, one of the most expensive materials to work with, and susceptible to pest issues due to their vulnerability from rot, moisture intrusion, termites and other pests.
While fiberglass windows are some of the strongest and durable window materials, they come with a hefty price tag. They are energy efficient and low maintenance compared to wood, but the color and style options are extremely limited.
Aluminum windows are low maintenance when compared to wood and cheaper than fiberglass. They are lightweight, strong and flexible when it comes to customized window shapes. They also offer narrow sightlines with their frames and are more affordable than wood or fiberglass.
However, aluminum windows are expensive, are poor insulators, suffer from condensation issues and are not beach-friendly as they can corrode from saltwater and sea air.
So, what is the solution to get great quality for a great price? The answer is vinyl windows.
Vinyl windows cost significantly less than aluminum windows (as well as fiberglass!). On average, they cost between 33-58% less than aluminum, making them the most affordable and giving you the biggest bang for your buck.
Plus, vinyl windows are a great, durable option; they perform well in many different climates and are dependable for all types of locations.
Vinyl windows usually mimic traditional window frame features, with none of the maintenance, moisture or pest issues. They also come in a wide variety of colors and finishes so you can achieve a traditional style with modern color options.
Vinyl windows are also a low maintenance option, as they are virtually maintenance-free when installed properly. In addition, vinyl windows lead the way when it comes to energy efficiency and insulation, as they steadily outperform other window options in these categories.
Energy efficiency is one of the primary advantages of vinyl frames and sashes. They’re incredibly effective at reducing heat transfer and light penetration, along with regulating a room’s internal temperature.
Some home layouts may require different styles of windows depending on the house’s build. If this is the case, you should take into consideration a manufacturer that can fulfill all the design requirements. Many manufacturers do not offer custom solutions, so make sure you find a supplier that can give you the design versatility you need.
Style designs to think about include single hung, double hung, hybrid, casement, awning, geometric, hopper, slider, picture, bow & bay and any other customized/specialty shape you can dream up.
A manufacturer’s design versatility should never interfere with the product quality. Quality can be determined by the frame, glass panes, energy-saving fills or spacers that the window utilizes.
When it comes to the window frames, they are the structural support of the window itself. You want to make sure you are using quality frames, as this is important when it comes to thermal insulation, moisture control and stability. You also want to see what type of material you want for your frame, as some materials are better than others.
For window panes, you want to make sure that you’re buying quality panes for maximum benefits. You should examine the window thickness, glazing and gas fills before purchasing, and see which options work best for your location’s climate.
Don’t forget to pay special attention to the quality of the glass. The three main options you’ll be given are single, double or triple windows. Single pane windows are rarely recommended as they do little to keep out cold and noise, so it’s best to opt for double or triple pane. If budget is a concern, double-pane is going to be your best bet.
There’s glazing to consider as well. Look for a Low-E coating to make the window more thermally efficient. (This is a great option if you are choosing double pane windows, but want to increase the energy efficiency.)
Some manufacturers offer coating technology that is applied on the surface of windows to help lower dust and dirt on the window’s surface, keeping windows naturally cleaner.
A manufacturer’s warranty is a surefire way to tell whether a manufacturer stands behind its product.
Some manufacturer warranties are limited to new construction only while other warranties are for replacement parts only. There are warranties that cover both, so be sure you read the fine print and fully understand the coverage you’ll receive post-installation.
If you choose a material that needs to be painted, there is sometimes a separate paint warranty for factory-applied paint. If you need to go through a separate dealer and/or installer, make sure to ask about any installation warranties that cover paint or labor.
If sustainability and money savings are top of mind, knowing whether or not your window choice is energy efficient is important. For instance, did you know that 25-30% of the energy you use to cool or heat your home is lost through the windows? While
energy-efficient windows are more expensive initially, they can provide big energy savings over time.
Look for the ENERGY STAR® label and review ratings on the energy performance label from the National Fenestration Rating Council to help you find the most efficient windows.
If you’re upgrading existing windows, know that it is important that all of your windows become energy-efficient. If you keep a few old, single pane, non-energy-efficient windows around, they will diminish the effects of the energy-efficient ones, so your overall savings won’t be as large.
Is your home situated on a street that is buzzing with high traffic and loud noises? You may want to consider if your new windows have noise-reducing capabilities. Some manufacturers utilize special glass or soundproofing accessory add-ons to reduce outside noise transfer.
Some people choose windows just for the light, but if you are looking to circulate fresh air, you should test your window choices’ opening systems. Nobody wants to extra spend time opening or closing their windows, so make sure you pick an option that has quick opening and closing capabilities.
This can be an overlooked detail to take into consideration, but you want to also make sure your window is easy to clean. Hanging out of your second-story home to clean the outside of a window isn’t ideal (or safe!), so spend some time learning about cleaning features before placing an order.
Whether you reside in a busy city or live alone, safety is another huge factor that people want to invest in. Searching for easy lock features or other safety characteristics in windows is another great thing to add to your pre-purchase research — if those features are important to you and your home.
HOA & Building Code Requirements and Regulations
Can you imagine purchasing the windows of your dreams only to find out during or after installation that they are not up to code for your geographical region or HOA?
If you’re part of an HOA, check and see if there are rules and regulations for the windows in your neighborhood, and check the building codes in the area to ensure your final selection will be up to local standards.
How Paradigm Can Help
Paradigm Windows has a variety of vinyl solutions that can meet your project’s specifications. We can create custom solutions for any project, have a wide range of window configurations and styles that will fit every need, never compromise on quality and offer an outstanding, industry-leading warranty on our products.
All of our windows, from double hung to bay & bow, are designed to lower your heating and cooling costs while brightening your view and reducing weekend maintenance.
Purchasing windows for the first time is hard, but our team can support you as you balance budget, performance and aesthetics. Interested in getting started with Paradigm and our wide array of window solutions? Use our dealer locator to find a Paradigm distributor near you.