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The Vermont Homeowner’s Guide to Replacement Windows

We created this guide to give you the information you need to make confident, informed decisions about replacement windows for your home.

1. When to Replace Your Windows

Unless you’re a window expert, it’s not always easy to tell whether a window should be repaired or replaced. Before making any decisions, have a professional assess your windows for signs of irreparable damage. Here are some signs your windows may need replacing:

  • They’re old, drafty, single-pane windows
  • You have non-insulated glass
  • You find a significant amount of rot (wooden windows)
  • They’re damaged, warped or broken
  • You have persistently foggy glass between panes
  • They’re extremely difficult to open or close
  • They’re over 20 years old
When to replace your windows

2.how to Select Replacement Windows

You’ve decided that it’s time for replacement windows—so where do you start your search? There is a wide variety of options so that you can get the right windows for your needs. Here are the most important considerations you’ll need to take into account when selecting replacement windows.

Energy Efficiency

Today’s window technology has come a long way from how homes used to be built, and newer windows’ energy efficiency is better than ever. When done right, replacement windows can save you money on your energy bills.

The best way to compare window efficiency is to look at the whole-unit U-value and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC).

  • U-value: Rating for door and window units that describes how much heat energy is gained or lost. The lower the U-value, the more energy efficient the system in question will be.
  • SHGC: The fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window. The lower a window’s Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits.

Why do these numbers matter? The less heat that you gain or lose through your windows, the less you will need to run your heating system or air conditioner. If you’re replacing outdated single pane windows with little to no energy efficiency, you’ll see a larger difference in your energy bill.

Price

Budget is one of the biggest factors people consider  when buying replacement windows. Depending on the brand, material, and style you choose, your costs could differ. For a standard-size, double-hung, double-pane (energy efficient), vinyl window, expect to pay between $450 and $600, including installation. Wood windows are more expensive. The cost of a wood replacement window can range between $800 and $1,000 per installation.

Setting a budget for window replacement is important but remember—you get what you pay for. This is a purchase you will most likely only need to make once or twice in your life, so be sure to choose windows that are high quality enough to be durable, high-performing, and long-lasting.

The drawbacks of cheap windows can add up fast. From more maintenance to less energy efficiency to being drafty or not opening properly, buying cheap window products just to save a bit of cash isn’t going to benefit you in the long run. Certain glass types and frame materials cost more than others, and for good reason—they’re better at their jobs. Work with a professional window company to understand what a realistic budget might be and ask them to recommend high quality products in your price range. Remember to find out the installation cost, too!

Appearance

Windows are a prominent feature of any home, both inside and out. Select replacement windows that complement and enhance the look of your home. Choosing the wrong style can detract from the overall look of your home—and could even lower resale value.

Selecting Replacement Windows

The style of your home affects which windows will look great once installed. For instance, traditional or colonial-style homes look best with small double-hung windows with divided lights, while ranch-style houses often look best with swing-out casement windows.

Durability and Maintenance

Once your windows are installed, they’ll need to be able to withstand the elements as well as be easy to clean and maintain. Ask your window dealer about the different materials available and the level of maintenance required to keep them durable and maintain their appearance. Here are some of the maintenance tasks you may need to perform occasionally:

  • Cleaning the panes and frames
  • Replacing worn-out seals
  • Repainting frames every several years
  • Attending to cracks, holes or splinters
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3. Which Window Type is Right for You?

Once you have an idea of the factors that matter most to you, it’s time to choose the type of replacement windows you’ll be installing in your home. We strongly recommend having a professional window installation company assess your home as part of your process. Some windows may be easier to install in your home than others, which could help cut down on installation costs and overall project time.

Types of Windows

double hung

Double Hung
  • Both the sash and the frame move up and down
  • Sashes tilt for easy cleaning

single hung

single hung
  • Top sash is fixed in place
  • Usually conservative styling

casement

casement
  • Attached to the frame by hinges
  • Typically opens outward like a door
  • Recommended for egress compliance

sliding

sliding
  • Open sideways, with one plane sliding over the other
  • Used in openings that are wider than they are tall

awning

awning
  • Opens outward for ventilation
  • Hinged at the top
  • Often used in combination with another window style

bay

bay
  • Creates a dramatic focal point
  • Projects outward from an outside wall
  • Features 3 or more individual, angled window units

Bow

Bow
  • Offers a panoramic view
  • Angled combination of windows in 3,4, or 5 lite configurations
  • Creates a circular, arced appearance

Garden

Garden
  • Acts like a greenhouse in your home
  • Fitted with an exterior shelf for plants and herbs

picture

picture
  • Simple design adds openness and natural light
  • Typically does not open

geometric shapes

geometric shapes
  • Specially designed, creates an original configuration
  • Often found on historic homes
  • Common shapes include trapezoids, octagons,half-rounds, quarter-rounds, etc.

Types of Window Panes

Single Pane

Uses only one pane of glass. Although it’s true that single pane windows are still available today, we would not recommend replacing windows in your home with single pane windows! If you currently have this type of window, that is probably one of the reasons you are seeking to replace them. With the advances in window technology, few homeowners continue to use single pane windows. Though inexpensive, these types of window panes are poor insulators and would be better used for outdoor sheds or garages that require little insulation.

Double Pane

Two panes of glass are separated by an insulating layer of air or clear, odorless gas. This is the most popular replacement choice for today’s homeowners. These durable windows protect your home from the cold during the winter, keep A/C inside during the summer, and provide an effective sound barrier. Additional Low-E coatings can block harmful UV rays.

Triple Pane

Made up of three panes of insulated glass. The middle pane is surrounded by air on both sides. Triple pane windows are ideal for insulation homes that are exposed to extremely cold or hot temperatures, although they are a more expensive alternative to double pane windows. Additionally, the energy-saving factor between double and triple pane windows is quite small, so, if you choose triple pane windows, be careful that this upgrade doesn’t raise the price of your project beyond its value.

Types of Window Materials

Aluminum

We would not recommend aluminum windows to many homeowners. While aluminum is extremely durable and can withstand demanding conditions, these types of windows not commonly used in residential construction.

Vinyl

This is one of the most popular window replacement materials available. Vinyl windows are made from PVC with hollow chambers inside to help them resist heat transfer and condensation. Vinyl windows don't require painting or finishing, and the material doesn't fade or rot.

Types of Window Materials

Wood

With a classic style that is readily customizable, wood windows are particularly attractive, especially in interiors. Wood is durable, strong, and energy efficient. However, wood windows often require increased maintenance because of wear from the elements. Unless diligently maintained, wood windows are prone to rot and warping.

Wood-clad

This material offers the benefits of wood on the inside, but are covered on the exterior with a tough, low-maintenance aluminum jacket, which helps prevent rot.

Fiberglass

This newer window material is stronger than vinyl, however it does typically cost more and its color choices are limited. Fiberglass windows are extremely durable and won’t rot or decay. They’re ideal for larger windows because their superior strength allows them to support the weight of the glass panes.

Get a Free Estimate on your home windows project

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4. Frequently Asked Questions

Are replacement windows worth the cost?

Home improvement projects are a great way to increase your home’s market value, but very few improvements actually recoup 100 percent of their costs. Replacement windows, however, are a sound investment; you’ll recoup around 70 to 80 percent of your costs on your home’s real estate market value. To give some perspective, bathroom remodels all have cost-value ratios of only around 56 percent.

Learn more

In addition to resale value, replacement windows also increase energy efficiency and improve the comfort of your home.

With the increased market value, energy efficiency and comfort that replacement windows can bring to a home, they are certainly a home improvement project that is worth your time and resources.

What is Low-E Glass?

Low emissivity, or low-E coatings, minimize the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light that can pass through glass without compromising the amount of visible light that gets through. When the sun shines through your window, low-E glass will reflect a lot of that unwanted energy back toward the outside instead of letting the heat in. That means it’s much easier to keep your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

What is Low-E Glass?

How long does it take?

This is one of the most loaded questions in the window industry. When homeowners ask this question, they could be looking for a few different answers:

  • How long will you be in my house?
  • How long is the warranty period?
  • How long will my windows last?

Each of these answers depends on your home, the scope of your project, and the brand and type of windows you purchased. Be sure to talk to your window contractor about each of these “how long” questions to help set your expectations for the project.

What happens if we find window rot?

Rot is a common problem found on window frames and sills. If window rot is found during your assessment, be sure your installation company is able to address it during the installation process. Not all window technicians will deal with rot, and many will call in other professionals to take care of it, which draws out the project timeline. Also, be sure to select low-maintenance, highly durable replacement windows in order to avoid dealing with this problem again.

5. How to Choose a Replacement Window Contractor

Now that you are familiar your replacement window options, it’s time to buy your windows and get them installed. But should you work with glass specialists, or a general contractor?

Here are some tips for choosing the right replacement window installers:

Beware the pickup truck contractor

Many of the renovation horror stories you hear have to do with “pickup truck contractors.” Homeowners hire a jack-of-all-trades to complete their projects, instead of a trusted company with a team of professionals, looking forward to a lower cost and simplified process. But in reality, these types of builders often don’t have the trade or time management skills to complete the job properly and under deadline.

Know your warranty and service contract

When you sign a contract for the company that is to complete your installation, be sure the contract includes your window warranty and service contract information. Understand exactly what the warranty covers. Does it protect you if the installation was done incorrectly, or only if there is a defect with the product itself? Is the warranty just from the window manufacturer, or will the installation company warranty their services as well?

Assess how long the company has been in business

When it comes to replacing windows, experience matters. Window installation techniques are constantly being updated. An experienced company that has been in business for many years is sure to have a highly trained team and be up-to-date on the latest best practices and products.

Other factors to consider

Rot is a common problem found on window frames and sills. If window rot is found during your assessment, be sure your installation company is able to address it during the installation process. Not all window technicians will deal with rot, and many will call in other professionals to take care of it, which draws out the project timeline. Also, be sure to select low-maintenance, highly durable replacement windows in order to avoid dealing with this problem again.

We strongly recommend you work with a professional window company throughout this process—that is, a company that sells, installs, and services residential replacement windows. There are a few reasons why this is the best option. A window company has the knowledge and experience to help you choose the right products for your home based on an assessment. But they will also ensure a correct, professional installation that you can trust to be done right.

How to Choose a Replacement Window Contractor

6. The Window Replacement Process

What happens from the moment you decide to replace your windows to when the installers leave for the last time? Here’s a snapshot of the window replacement process from beginning to end:

Consultation

The very first step in replacing your windows is to define your needs. When you call up a window company, you’ll be asked many questions (Do you need full window replacements, or do you just need to replace the glass? How many windows are you replacing? What kind of shape are your current windows in? What is your budget?) You may not know the exact answers to these questions, but it will make the process go much smoother if you can convey your needs to the professionals.

In-Home Assessment

If you and the window company both agree they can help you, the next step is an in-home assessment. An estimator will come to your home to measure and inspect your current windows to ensure an exact fit for the replacements. They’ll also look for signs of damage that may need to be addressed, such as rot.

Window Selection

With the right information gathered about your project, a window specialist will help you select the best windows based on the characteristics of your home. You’ll have the opportunity to explore style, materials, and energy efficiency ratings with the guidance of professionals.

Proposal

The window company will provide an estimate for your chosen window products and installation costs. Once you sign the proposal and provide a deposit, the work can begin!

Installation

Installation technicians will work on replacing your old windows with the new ones you’ve selected. They’ll remove the old windows and may remove the frames depending on the recommendations from your in-home estimate. Then they’ll fit the new windows into place, making sure they’re level, plumb, and airtight. Experienced installers should be able to complete approximately 6-8 windows per day.

Enjoy your new windows!

Replacement windows offer comfort and beauty to any home. Enjoy living with your new windows and be sure to check your warranty if you experience any problems.

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