Q&A / 

New Windows

New windows are one of the most expensive items you can purchase in an average home. This is true whether the house is new or if replacement windows are being installed. The only other items that quickly come to mind that compare in expense are kitchen cabinets and the sum total of all kitchen appliances. New construction windows can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, especially if you decide to purchase high-quality ones. Believe me, if you plan to stay in the house any length of time, you want the best new-house windows you can afford.

New-home windows are the weakest link in the energy-savings chain with regards to the heat loss and heat gain your home experiences. This is true even if you purchase the most energy-efficient windows that are made. The insulating properties of the walls and ceilings in your home will be many times greater than the windows. This is true even if they have Low-E Glass and multiple panes of insulated glass. For this reason, you must consider windows that have the highest energy ratings possible.

You can purchase new vinyl windows for a new home or an existing home that have superb energy ratings. These windows can be certified by two outstanding organizations:

  • American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA)
  • National Fenestration Rating Council  (NFRC)

Both of these organizations have rigid certification programs that allow you to buy with confidence so long as the windows you purchase have the labels from each of the organizations on the windows.

New window installation is critical. You can buy the best, but your builder or his carpenters can ruin the windows or compromise their function or energy efficiency if the windows are installed incorrectly. Virtually every window manufacturer has excellent written installation instructions that show you step-by-step how to install new windows. This doesn't mean you have to do it, but you should read the instructions and then observe to make sure your new windows are installed correctly.

Take many photographs from both sides during each step of the process. Pay attention to the location of shims, the location and spacing of fasteners, the exterior flashings so that water will not enter your home, and the proper insulation around the windows.

Most manufacturers call for a one-half-inch gap on the sides and along the top of the window. You don't want the windows to fit tight into the rough opening. This gap can be easily filled with an expanding foam meant to be used around windows and doors. This foam eliminates air infiltration around the windows.

Installing new windows is not really hard, nor is it technically challenging. There are several critical steps, all of which are covered in the written instructions. Don't skip this important step - get the instructions and read them. The instructions are almost always available at the manufacturers' websites.

Over the years, I installed many different types of windows. New Anderson windows were always wonderful to work with. They were always square, and when you attached the windows to the wall nailing through the vinyl fin, the job went smoothly.

New sash windows as well as new wood windows are also easy to install if you make sure the rough opening is plumb and square. To ensure all exterior and interior finishes line up, be sure the rough openings in the wall are all level and in the same plane. This is really important if the exterior is brick. It's also important if the inside has decorative wood trim or wainscoting that wraps around the windows. If the windows are not level, it will show up in the finishes.

Be sure you shop around as you look for your new windows. The certification labels from AAMA and the NFRC are very important. Take the time to understand the numbers and ratings on the labels. Get it in writing that the windows you'll order will come with the labels. Don't trust the words that flow out of the lips of the salesman. Have them prove to you the windows have the gold label from AAMA.

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