Windows take considerable abuse throughout the year, and must withstand heavy rains, strong winds, high temperatures, and freezing snow and ice depending on the season. But more importantly, they must be capable of shielding you and your family from extreme outdoor conditions, while providing sufficient day lighting and ventilation. So, how do you choose the best windows for your home?
A blank canvas
Windows made for new installations in a remodel or new home are known as “new construction” windows. Unlike replacement windows, they come in complete sets comprising the frame and sashes for installation in the rough wall openings.
You have complete freedom to design new windows that suit your preferences, complement your room’s appearance, and positively impact the space. There are many things to take into account, like:
The quantity of windows needed and their placement
The desired size of windows
The window style – casement, sliding, double-hung, bay windows
Radiation control and insulation
The primary role of the windows – more light, airflow, ventilation, view, etc.
Their visual style – wood, vinyl, aluminum, or fibreglass frames
You need to think about your current configuration, and what you would do differently to achieve the ideal space. You can dream a little as you ask yourself these important questions:
- What do you like/dislike about your current windows in regard to their appearance, trim, and operation?
- What problems have you had to endure, such as poor operation, overheating, condensation, cold drafts or water leaks?
- Do the existing windows function well? Are they positioned where you would want them to be? Do they offer adequate natural ventilation?
- Are there sections of your wall or fixed windows that you believe would make the space better if they had operable windows?
- Do the windows reduce outdoor noise from traffic and other sources adequately?
- Is energy efficiency a key consideration for you, especially if you’re looking to capitalise on existing energy efficiency incentive programs?
You should answer these questions thoughtfully and truthfully, since windows are ideally installed as permanent elements within walls with no provision for future replacement – replacing them is a lot of work.
Once you have a good idea of what you want, you can move on to the next step:
Choosing appropriate window features and options
Modern windows offer numerous options, features, and technologies that enhance comfort, energy efficiency, and function. You need to identify the features that are most important to you. The main ones include:
Energy efficient technologies — This is one of those features that must be included in your new windows. There are a number of technologies that offer energy savings, including low emissivity (Low-E) glass and double/triple glazing.
Self-cleaning glass — There are some glass coating innovations (like titanium dioxide coating) that make it easier to keep your glass panes clean. This technology is particularly important when considering a large wall of windows.
Ability to clean the exterior from the inside — This feature is particularly important if you have windows above the ground level, like on a second or third floor. On single/double-hung windows, this feature manifests in the form of tilt-in sashes, while on casement windows, the sash typically pivots so you can reach the outside surface.
Impact resistant glass – This is only a major consideration if you reside in areas prone to tornadoes, hurricanes or other extreme weather conditions. Also known as “coastal windows”, they typically feature a type of laminated glass that gives them the ability to withstand impact from flying debris.
Fall prevention devices or window opening control — These devices and controls are offered by some manufacturers, and allow the window to open narrowly for ventilation. They come with a mechanical provision that inhibits further opening so your children or pets can’t fall out of open windows.
Blinds/shades between the glass — Window blinds tend to attract dust, so this feature ensures that they remain clean. This is a useful feature for allergy sufferers because it eliminates a major dust collection point. One big drawback, however, is that the only way to change the colour of your shade/blinds is by changing the whole window. So, it is best to use a neutral shade/blind colour.
High visibility screens — Window screens can be either high-visibility or conventional. The former offer more transparency, which translates to more light and a better view of the outside, without compromising on insect protection. You may also opt for retractable screens that can be easily concealed when you don’t need them.
Art or specialty glass — There are many window options to consider beyond clear glass. You can, for instance, consider art glass that incorporates colour and caming in a range of styles or textured/frosted glass for translucency and privacy.
There are many features to choose from when installing new windows. Research the options thoroughly and look at window samples where possible so you are certain about what you want. You can also get estimates from different manufacturers that carry them to see if they fit your budget.
Finally, if you are not working with a contractor already, you can ask your friends, family or colleagues to recommend you one, or simply find a reputable one based on testimonials and reviews.