A lot depends on where exactly your house is. Are you directly on the waterfront? If so, I’ll tell you that many people avoid wood frame windows if their house is subjected to a lot of salty seawater in the winter breezes that blow off the ocean. Over time, salt water eats away at wood window frames – actually, it eats them like it does everything – and this means at the very least, your window frames will take more care and maintenance over time. So, if that’s where your house is, consider alternatives.
What is the style of your home?
Windows and their frames serve many more purposes today than they used to. When the world was a simpler, poorer place, windows had the purpose of simply letting light in and stopping everything else from coming in or going out. The little bit of warmth that a home might have was to be kept in, while the weather, insects and animals would be kept out. Like many new technological developments in history, they are often used first by the wealthy. Later, they become available to the unwashed masses, and become standardized in some way. With windows, and particularly the window frame itself, technological advances of all kinds have found their way into the very construction of the modern window.
Gone are the days when you might simply order a new set of windows and be done with it. Today, there are an almost infinite number of combinations when it comes to window choices. There are ‘hybrid’ windows that have a wood frame exterior and a vinyl interior. The latter is to add strength and purpose, while the former is for aesthetics. If the style of your home is a wood look – and most homes in the Pacific Northwest are – then the hybrid approach might be perfect for you.
What are the purposes of a modern window?
Everyone is talking about – and so they should – renewable energy and green solutions. Since the turn of the century alone, you can see how house designs have changed, paying more attention to light, insulation and the environment. Materials that are better for the ecosystem are being used, and you can see how home builders have taken advantage of subsidies for such new age, green homes. The very look of new houses is radically different. Some of it is pure aesthetics, but most of it is function. A house with the same square footage built one hundred years ago will need perhaps four times the energy to stay warm compared to a home built last year. Materials that were not even invented a generation ago are now being used to keep the warm air in and the cold air out in a modern home. People have become accustomed to ever-lowering heating bills. And window manufacturers are front and center to all of this. Local municipalities and communities know that lower energy bills are better for everyone – not just the home owner – so rebates and other incentives are often there to help a home owner make the decision to replace his or her windows with a modern solution.
Window frames are part of the house structure
If a house didn’t need windows, they sure would be easier to build, but windows present a core challenge to a home builder. That’s because glass, in its sole form, won’t support anything of any real weight. The glass itself in the window cannot be expected to add to the strength of a house – it, in fact, weakens it, you could say – so extra strength must be incorporated into the window frame. Even with moving parts, a window unit must be able to withstand a certain pressure. Wood frame homes do bend a little in storms and in extreme weather conditions, so the window frame must be able to give a little, but not enough to shatter a window pane.
A window unit – the panes, frames, hinges, latches and everything – must be able to provide excellent light, some security (although most windows can be broken with a simple rock or hard object), sound insulation, weather insulation, privacy and moisture protection. That’s a lot to ask of a product, but they have gotten so sophisticated, they have become in a way the wonder product within a house. More than anything, modern windows have dramatically improved the efficiency of a home.
Choose the best product with the help of a trusted windows installation provider
There are simply so many choices now, it is hard for the average home owner to choose a window manufacturer and type, without some help from an expert. The catalogs available from a single manufacturer today look more like the entire Sears catalog of a few generations ago. There are so many options available, you also need time, and an expert in the subject will get you through all the tedium.
Keep in mind a few things as you progress:
The style of your house. You don’t want to make your house become an eyesore. If you don’t have a good aesthetic eye, ask for help from a designer or appropriate artist.
Check with the neighborhood covenants. Sometimes, there are strict rules about what you may do with your home. From paint colors to window frames to roof materials, individual home owners may be restricted to what they are allowed install in or on their home. People have ignored such covenants in the past, only to be sued by their neighbors, and made to replace their new windows with a variety that adhered to the local covenants. Check before you buy!
What must the new windows do? Be very specific about this. Do you live on a busy, noisy street where sound installation is critical? Perhaps triple-glazing is one of your new requirements, if that is the case. Are the windows in question always in the shade? Then vinyl frames might be the answer, as they protect just as well in the permanent shade, whereas wood tends to give trouble or require extra maintenance.
Do you need good opening and closing mechanisms, or extra security? Some houses may be more vulnerable to break-ins than others. If your house backs onto, for example, a lane with easy access by strangers, a little extra security built into your windows might help. So-called unbreakable glass, or lockable window frame elements will help.
Check back next week!