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Replacing your windows? Consider the style and the cost

Posted on Jul 10, 2017 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Homeowners
  • Build

 By Mike Dunn and Keith Church, Dunn Lumber

Q: What should I consider before replacing the windows in my home?

A: The Great Northwest is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and there is no better way to enjoy it 365 days a year than through a beautiful set of windows.

The question with windows is how to bring the outdoors in without losing the indoor energy to the outside. Thankfully, modern windows make this easier with high insulation factors to block the cold and Low-E glass to block UV radiation on those rare but welcome days of Seattle heat.

With the energy issue largely solved, the options open onto a wide vista and the questions become more about aesthetics and budget.

My (Mike’s) home was built around 1904 and featured large, single-hung windows with leaded panes in the top. The combination of the large single panes of glass and loose-fitting lead was an energy disaster. Thirty years ago, my only option budget-wise was to cover them with storm windows.

In the last few years, I’ve begun replacing them with period-matching retrofit windows. I love being able to open my windows again, and they are more energy-efficient than my old window/storm window combination — much more beautiful, too!

One question really helps narrow your options: Do you want wood, vinyl or composite on the interior of your windows?

It’s important to know that wood windows do cost more than vinyl or fiberglass windows and are less thermally efficient. On the other hand, they offer the incomparable beauty of wood.

The companies that make vinyl windows usually offer different frame options, often with a good/better/best approach to pricing and quality. But remember, even the least expensive vinyl window is likely to be close in performance to their top-of-the-line option. The difference will be in how nice the window looks and how well it functions. Cheap windows generally work poorly and you usually get what you pay for.

Today’s codes have pushed window manufacturers to produce very efficient products, and they all offer a few different glass options of the typical low-E products, with one or two typically being best for your climate.

Consider also the style of your home. Does your home have a traditional look? Are you trying to update an older home to have a more modern look? If your home was built with original wood double-hung windows with divided lights, you could replace them with something that looks virtually the same. They will be much more energy efficient and have a clad exterior for little or no maintenance, and a wood interior that helps the home keep its original charm. Or, you could choose to replace them with casement and awning windows that crank or push open and leave off the divided light and your home will look more modern.

The exterior color is very important, as well. White is the traditional color for most windows on older homes and newer homes built with vinyl windows. If you have a classic Tudor or rambler and you use a white window and trim, it will look correct and proper for its style, but if you use a color like ebony or bronze, you can create an exciting fresh look.

The combination of styles, colors, materials and functionality makes window selection an exciting but understandably daunting task. As you prepare for this journey, look around at the homes you appreciate, take pictures and ask your friends how they like their windows. In no time, you can build a portfolio of options that meet your aesthetic and budgetary considerations while taking into account the features you want to implement in your remodel.

Mike Dunn is president and CEO and Keith Church is a window sales manager for Dunn Lumber. The company is a member of the Master Builders Association (MBA) of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.

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