Whether you’re renovating one room, your entire home or just looking to make an update that will lower your energy costs, it’s important to choose the right windows. But there are so many kinds of windows — double hung, casement, single pane and wood clad, just to name a few — that it can be hard to choose the right type, the right frames and the right glass.
And if you’re renovating an older home with original windows, you may hesitate to replace them at all. Should you sacrifice the charm of original wood windows for the energy efficiency of sleek, modern panes? What window type is best for your needs? What frame and glass type should you choose? The answers to these questions depend on a range of factors, including the condition of your current windows, your climate and your personal preferences.
When to Replace Your Windows
If you own an older home that still has its original windows, you may wonder whether to replace them at all. For many homeowners, the charm and individuality of older, wood windows outweighs any increase in energy efficiency that may come with the installation of newer models — especially since there’s a lot you can do to save older windows instead of replacing them. And with each passing year, the monetary value of older homes with these original features grows — as long as you’re taking good care of them, that is.
On the other hand, maybe your windows are old, but not quite old enough to qualify for charming antique status. Maybe your single-pane windows are letting in heat in the summer and out during the winter. Maybe your windows or their frames are cracked, non-operational or damaged by water leaks and pests.
Read more: Guide on Home Renovation
Upper-floor rooms with windows that don’t open could even present a fire hazard. Windows that no longer open easily, or open too easily, or are otherwise damaged or non-functional, should be replaced.
Choosing the Right Window Type
There are several types of windows and frames available to today’s homeowner. Double-hung windows are the most popular type in the United States; these consist of a top and bottom frame that slides open and tilts inward for easy cleaning. Other popular choices include casement windows, which open outward with the use of a cranking mechanism, sliding windows and windows that don’t open at all but provide great views and let in a lot of light, such as picture windows or bay windows.
If you’re shopping for replacement windows in a windy or cold climate, like the Northeast, you may want to consider casement windows — these actually seal tighter when buffeted by wind and are the least drafty, as long as the hinges and crank are well-maintained. If you’re shopping for replacement windows in a warm climate, like jersey, standard double-hung windows will probably meet your needs.
It’s not just the design of the window that matters, but also the type of frame and glass used. Wood frames are the most expensive, conduct the least heat and offer a distinctive traditional look, but they require a lot of maintenance. Aluminum, steel, vinyl, composite and fiberglass frames offer varying levels of energy efficiency and durability. Homeowners are also presented with a range of options in energy-efficient, UV-resistant glass.
Consider Energy Efficiency and Upkeep
If you’re taking the trouble to replace windows, chances are you’re at least somewhat concerned about energy efficiency. For most homeowners, a double-pane, low-e window filled with an inert gas, like argon, will offer maximum energy efficiency at the most affordable price.
Triple-pane windows don’t add measurable energy efficiency, and cheap single-pane windows can be drafty and let in too much sunlight, warming (or cooling) the interior of your home and contributing to fading of carpets, furniture and walls.
Wooden and wood-clad frames will require regular maintenance, while other types, such as vinyl or composite, require no maintenance at all. Lower-maintenance window frames also tend to be cheaper than wood frames, which is good news for your free time and your wallet. Of course, you may decide that the look of wood frames is worth the hassle of painting or staining them every few years, especially if you have an older home with original wood window frames in other rooms.
Choosing the right windows is a crucial part of any home renovation. Do it right, and enjoy your beautiful new home.