A lot depends on the type of house or business building you own, where it is situated, what your preferences are, the local ‘style’ in your neighborhood, and how much money you wish to or are will to spend. Let’s look at each factor individually, and perhaps the answer will appear obvious:
What type of building is it, and what type of windows does it currently have?
In the Seattle area, most houses are unique in some way. Over the last century, styles have come and gone, and each era left with it a distinct style. Take for example the post World War II era. At the beginning of the Cold War, people were planning – hard as it is to imagine – that some day their city might be bombed with actual nuclear bombs. Today, there is still a risk of that, but at least we consider a full nuclear exchange to be largely unsurvivable, so why bother trying! Well, in the early years of the cold war, many houses were built with basements, with the express thought that a family could pile into it in a time of war, hunker down for a few months, then emerge and continue with their lives in some way. So, a lot of houses in Seattle have a mostly underground, unfinished basement. It’s another place for us to store a lot of junk, but the design intentions are clear. Small windows towards the top of the basement, with perhaps 80% of the air space below ground level. The small windows could be covered easily, perhaps with bags of sand or something similar. The whole design was ubiquitous in the region and now, a basement can be converted to take advantage of this extra space, without having to extend the outward size of the home. People try to maximize the size of the window in an attempt to let in as much light as possible. Those new windows should be chosen to match the rest of the house, where possible, and the end effect will have a uniforming influence on the whole house.
Where is your home or business situated?
Depending on where your house actually stands, the choice of window and window frame is influenced. For example, if you are surrounded by trees, and your house is mostly in the shade, then you might go for a window style that maximizes the amount of light that enters a room. If it south-facing and takes a lot of sun, you might consider increasing the level of UV protection in the glass. You might even opt for a slight tint to block as much of the light entering as possible. If it’s on a busy street, an extra tint to block people from peering straight into your living room might be an option.
What are your tastes and preferences with respect to window types, design, etc.?
Some people like wood frames. They take a little more maintenance, but there’s not doubt that they can enhance the look of certain types of houses. I’m happy to report that you can ‘have your cake and eat it’ here because there are what are called hybrid window frames now available on the market. These can have wood on the outside, and vinyl on the inside. This retains the beautiful look of wood while remaining strong due to the vinyl inner frame. It’s a little more expensive but if you are planning to stay in your home, this might be a worthwhile investment.
Are there are local covenants regarding materials or window design in your neighborhood?
Some neighborhoods have strong covenants, while others don’t seem to mind what you do. Neighbors often like to keep a consistent view of all homes in the neighborhood – ostensibly to maintain the quality and market value of all of their homes in it – and this obligation then falls on each neighbor to maintain that standard. Check with your covenants as to what you are committed to go with. There have been cases where people veered away from those rules only to find the wrath of the neighborhood falling on them after the work was all finished.
What kind of investment do you wish to make in your window replacement project?
Are you about to sell your home? If you are, you might not want to go for the most expensive option. What’s more, what you consider a beautiful addition to your home might not be a potential buyer’s taste. “Go safe” and choose neutral designs and colors so as not to offend the sensibilities of potential future buyers.
What weather conditions are your windows exposed to?
A house that faces north – especially here in the Pacific Northwest – will be subject to damp for most of the year. If the sun never gets a chance to completely dry out the surfaces, it can be a problem. Moisture is always an issue in any house here, but a north-facing house needs extra attention. Talk to your windows installation expert about what is effective and what will require the minimum amount of maintenance. Off the top, I would say that north-facing homes will thank you for a complete vinyl window frame.
Do you have any sound insulation you wish to benefit from?
One of the most impressive experiences I have had with window installations was on the evening my windows installer contractor had completed the job of replacing all the windows on the front of my house. When the window was closed, I was surprised by the quietness! I had gotten so used to the leaky window frames letting in so much sound over the years, I grew accustomed to it. We didn’t even live on a busy street, but the ambient suburban noise levels were obvious the moment I had them shut out.
Most modern windows are far better sound insulators than windows of old. Manufacturing techniques have come a long way indeed, and the resulting precision in engineering products has made its way all the way to the home owner’s window frame.
Sound insulation is one of my top criteria for window frame replacement.
See you next week!