Homeowners are receiving heavy junk mail for window replacements; I get at least three a week from the same companies at my house.
So, with all of the junk mail flooding our mailboxes, it begs the question: Should you replace your windows?
The answer? It depends.
If you are considering replacing windows to improve energy efficiency, the answer is no. Every new window has efficiency numbers that far exceed an old window, but the payback is small. On average, a $16,000 project takes 40 years to break even based on energy efficiency.
If you are considering replacing windows because your old windows don’t work or look bad, window replacement makes sense. Windows are one of the first impressions people have when looking at a house, and shabby windows make your home look run down. There is no doubt new windows will add curb appeal and help sell a house.
Old windows are also drafty, but this is both good and bad. As we make houses tighter with insulation, we still need air movement and ventilation. Old homes are so leaky this hasn’t been an issue, but too tight is a serious condition that leads to mold and stale air.
Windows should be part of a comprehensive plan for your home that includes energy efficiency but, more importantly, comfort and beauty. When you get those flyers, be aware they are more interested in selling windows than they are your best interests. They offer their windows as the best solution for every situation and house. Most of these windows are good products, and if you are happy, don’t let me burst your bubble.
Windows come in many forms: wood, vinyl, composite, fiberglass-based, and aluminum-clad. There are pros and cons for each, and the budget is often a key player. How do you know which is right for you and your house?
- They look good. That’s why so many composite windows try to mimic the look of real wood
- Wood offers 400x more insulation than steel and 1,800x more than aluminum-clad windows
- With proper care, wood windows outlast other types of wood.
- Wood windows retain their shape better than other window materials.
- They need to be painted to prevent rotting and swelling
- Beyond the obvious threat of termites, wood can fall victim to pests. Luckily, painting wood windows helps with insects, too.
- The initial cost of wood is high.
- Of all window materials, vinyl has the best cost point.
- Energy Efficient.
- No maintenance and will still look good years later.
- Vinyl windows are welded at the seams to prevent air and water seeping in, are UV resistant and non-corroding.
- More color selections
- Interior cannot be painted or stained to match your color scheme
- Quality of vinyl products vary by manufacturer
- Can easily be damaged during installation and can warp over time
- Vinyl expands and contracts depending on the season and temperature changes.
- Extremely weather-resistant
- Low maintenance
- A lot of color selections or can be painted
- Energy-efficient options available
- Can be more susceptible to rot
- Often more expensive
- Requires onsite modifications that can lengthen install time
Fiberglass or Aluminum Clad
- Has a traditional wood look that can be painted
- Resists warping, rotting, and swelling
- Very strong and a good choice for picture, bay, or bow windows
- Energy efficient
- The best insulation of all window types
- UV-resistant finishes withstand fading
- Cost approximately 25% more than vinyl windows
- Limited color choices so you may need to paint.
- Finishes can scratch easily.
- Lower in cost
- Easy to maintain and no need to repaint
- Narrower to allow more glass and larger sight area
- Lightweight and customizable
- Warp resistant
- Least energy-efficient choice
- Prone to condensation
- Susceptible to corrosion, especially in areas bordered by saltwater and sea air
Merrick is an independent installer. We work with all of the major (and minor) manufacturers of windows. Our favorites are Anderson and Pella because they have been around a long time and offer a range of products in all categories to suit different needs and budgets. More importantly, they will be there in 15 years when you need a replacement part! There is a right window for your house and your needs. We can help you find the right one.