When my husband and I first looked at our new home when it was still just a potential, the house was pretty much hoarders central which made it difficult to focus on the bones and even more difficult to discover many of its areas in need of repair – major, minor or otherwise. In fact, it was not until the inspector pointed out that we had several windows in need of repair that we even had a clue what we were getting into. But we were getting a great deal on a floor plan we could agree on…actually on one of the very few houses we could both agree on in general…and it was only a few windows…right…that needed repair. So in the end we pressed forward.
Once we took possession and began our clean up we got the first true indication of what we were in for. Downstairs had a slider that was a single pane that was supposed to be a double, a garden window that looked like a baseball decided to leave a lasting impression, a front living room monster window with a full pane crack that ran across the entire window and on both panes of the double pane window and lastly, a dining room window with a wonderful crack in a spider web design. We had 8 operable windows downstairs and only 3 had screens and those had holes. Upstairs we had three windows that were actually two stacked back to back so every time you opened “the window”, you had to open both. At least they all had screens, even if they were hole-y.
After one So Cal summer and choosing for energy savings and cost savings to not run the air condition, it be came bitterly clear, or should I say rather sweat-ily clear, the impact of having low quality and broken windows had on keeping adverse temperatures outside. (I have allergies that effect my breathing and heat, especially extreme heat, really effects them adversely.) So we knew that ideally we really needed to replace ALL the windows and sliders.
However, with 23 windows/sliders (and not exaggerating), many about 6 plus feet wide, we knew that they would be expensive to replace, just not how expensive. As fate would have it, a little bit of luck and timing stepped into our world that allowed us to replace all our windows. And OMG has it been worth it! Here is what I learned along the way:
1. It’s Not the Number of Windows, It’s the Amount of Glass.
I was shocked to learn that its not so much the number of windows that you are replacing that effect cost but rather the amount of glass you have that truly effects what’s coming out of your pocket. For example, a home that has 10 standard 2×3 windows is going to cost far less to replace windows than a house with like for like windows but has 10 non-standard 6×3 windows.
I originally priced getting the odd single pane slider, the front living room window and the garden window repaired – not replaced, just the dual pane panels. For 3 BASIC panels of glass (two over 6 feet tall), I was getting prices ranging between $1,500 to $2,000. A single replacement window for just the window, no labor, was about $2,200. Major reason – amount of glass!
In doing research for our own windows, I found that a house of 10 standard windows averaging 2×3 in size ranges at about $10,000 on average. This is for basic dual pane windows. Prices increase as you add Low-E, night lock, etc.
2. Do Your Research. Know What You are Getting.
I learned a long time ago, in general, you get what you pay for. Sometimes getting a better quality means paying more but it doesn’t mean paying more than you should.
When I first started looking into windows and replacement, I entered a world of a semi foreign language. I think the only words I understood were window, single hung and double hung. Outside of that I was lost! I’d heard that Anderson and Pella the crème de le crème of windows…and you paid for it. I started looking in to what constituted a low, medium and high grade window. Anderson and Pella are considered high end windows but you can get the same quality and features from other windows at a smaller price tag. I found that Amerimax windows were of similar quality but cost a fraction of Anderson or Pella and gave me all the features I wanted. Here is what I found was important to me to include in my windows:
Low-E: This is stands for low emissivity and is important because it relates to heat transfer. With our old windows, you could stand in front of them on a 90 plus degree day and you felt every sweltering degree and probably could have fried an egg on them. Low-E reduces just how much of that transfers into the window.
Glass Thickness: The thickness of glass panels helps determine how much sound transfers. For us living near a interstate highway, sound control was massively important. One thing to check into is different thickness of glass in the panels – one pane on a dual being say 3/8″ and another 1/4″. This distorts the sound way, making it harder for sound to transfer.
Quality of Vinyl Window: Vinyl windows tend to sag. Windows now contain metal additives to the vinyl mix to increase structural integrity.
Energy Saver: I know this may seem like a buzz phrase but this is and was very important to me from a budget standpoint AND a environment conscious standpoint. There are three basic levels of energy star ratings for windows and they indicate just how energy efficient a product is. For the purposes of what we were working with, the HEROES program, we needed a minimum of Energy Star Rating of 2. We ended up getting a level 3.
So glad we did too! This summer has been one of So Cal’s hottest and most humid. There have been days where outside was in the 100s and inside without running the AC was approximately 25-30 degrees cooler.
Warranty: Most windows are going to have some sort of warranty. Make sure you understand EXACTLY what your warranty covers for the windows AND the labor.
Style: Windows can be done in so many different ways and different looks. For us, we wanted a more updated and modern look. If you live in a historic home, perhaps keeping it feeling classic is important. Making sure they have the style you want in the windows you want is equally important as all the other features.
Installation: Many windows these days are installed by removing the old window BUT leaving the metal frame. This allows for less repair work to exteriors or interiors and doesn’t require messing with flashing and moisture barriers as was once almost guarantee with older windows and installation. Make sure you fully understand how they are getting installed so that you feel comfortable but also knowledgeable to request specifics for your contract. (See next item)
There are many other elements that you may want to familiar yourself with so you are not left with something you may not want. Things to think about would be operability, color, aesthetic placement, how custom shapes are handled, etc.
3. Not a Time to Forget About the Details.
When you right up an installation contract with whoever will be doing the install, BE SPECIFIC!!! If you want to have them remove shutters and put them back, don’t rely on a verbal agreement. Get it in writing! This became so true for us. We had a lot of problem windows. While these challenges forced a longer time line, we were also very glad we had written them into the contract. It was clear both parties agreed and they were OBLIGATED to then do exactly what was in the contract.
4. Don’t Scrimp.
I’m so not a retail spender. I love a good deal. They are like an amazing high for me. That said, I never sacrifice quality over cost for something that is extremely important. I look for the best value. The same was true with the windows. Make sure you are purchasing the best value you can afford…that doesn’t mean the most expensive. Just go with the best quality of window that meets most or all of your must haves at the price you can afford and don’t pass them up just because these other lower quality windows cost less. Trust me on this one. Getting windows for your whole house replaced is a BIG invasion and expensive. You really don’t want to be replacing them again 5 to 10 years from now.
I love our new windows. Even though they took a month to completely finish due to some unexpected installation challenges and scheduling conflicts, there have been very few days that I have not thought or said how much I love them or am grateful for them. Plus, the added value to them doesn’t hurt anything either.