Buyer’s Guide

Window World Buyer's Guide

Your home is your most important and valuable asset. We know that when considering upgrading and remodeling, you will have many questions about the process, the products, and the company performing the work. That is why we have provided advice and information we have found helpful to our customers in making smart, informed decisions with confidence.

What are various windows made of and what will work best for me?

Basically there are three types of materials used. Aluminum windows, with their easily scratched painted surfaces, conduct both heat and cold, so they’re very poor insulators. Wood windows, which require constant painting and caulking, can absorb moisture, making them difficult to open and close. They can even rot. Solid vinyl windows, however, never need painting and won’t show scratches, because the color goes throughout the material. This is why vinyl windows are quickly becoming the most popular choice for both new construction and replacement applications.

In addition, you should certainly consider custom-sized windows for the very simple reason that they’ll fit better. Stock-sized windows require extensive carpentry work both inside and outside your house. That can be very costly and inconvenient. Custom-sized windows, on the other hand, are manufactured to fit your existing window opening. You get the style and options you want while maintaining your glass area.

Is there any difference in how windows are made?

There are two basic types of construction: Mechanically fastened windows are screwed together at the corners. And welded windows, becoming more and more popular, that use a chemical or heat process for joining. Window manufacturers produce mechanically fastened and welded windows. Mechanically fastened windows feature a unique overlap corner design for extra strength, while our welded versions utilize state-of-the-art heat welding equipment. Beware of windows with mitered corners screwed together or chemically welded corners, as they probably won’t perform as well for you.

Can I replace my old windows with different styles and types?

Certainly. You may want to consult an independent design specialist to find the type of window that best complements your home’s natural design. No matter what style or combination of styles you choose, there is a window product that can be custom-manufactured for you.

Aren’t all window manufacturers essentially the same?

Not at all. Many companies buy their parts and glass from various outside sources. Superior companies extrude most of their own parts from the raw vinyl (PVC) resin ourselves.

You should also know that although a lot of manufacturers claim their windows are American-made, many in fact may be imported from Canada and other foreign countries. Look for a window that is manufactured right here in the U.S.A.

What about strength, protection and noise reduction?

You should look for a window that offers both superior strength and energy efficiency. Computer-controlled manufacturing processes ensure a perfectly square window sash and main-frame with superior strength. And for exceptional energy efficiency, a full interlock at the meeting rail helps protect your home against the elements, or unwanted intrusions. In addition, insulating glass unit traps dry air, creating an exceptional comfort barrier.

Moreover, homeowners with better grade vinyl windows say there’s a noticeable reduction in the amount of noise that enters their homes. A full interlock system at the point where upper and lower sashes meet helps stop air infiltration while providing an additional barrier against unwanted intrusions.

Do vinyl windows require a lot of maintenance?

With frames and sashes made of vinyl, you can say goodbye to painting and caulking. Vinyl windows won’t stick, and you don’t have to remove storm windows in order to clean them. In fact, you can do it all from inside your home. An occasional wipe with a damp cloth will keep your windows looking like new for years to come.

I have read about different test results on windows. How should this impact my buying decision?

Be careful when looking at extremely specific results since many of them do not really indicate how well the window will work for you. Some apply to just certain parts of the window, like the frame and its R-value, and do not give an overall picture. Pick a vinyl window that is tested in nationally-certified labs as well as the manufacturer’s own modern test facility. Pick vinyl windows that are engineered to provide the optimum in energy savings and are rated by the National Fenestration Rating Council.

What is more important in saving energy, the frame or the glass?

Since 70% of a window is glass, real heating and cooling savings come from what is known as “improved glass performance,” not a high R-value on the frame. Better vinyl window companies use the latest technology, known as a high performance warm edge spacer system. This spacer system helps to improve the performance and the longevity of the insulated glass unit. This should be consider a standard feature when selecting a window.

What energy-saving options should I know about?

You should give careful consideration a window manufacturer’s insulated glass options. Generally they feature LoE2 glass and argon gas. LoE2 glass is an excellent barrier against ultraviolet rays which fade carpet, furniture, draperies, and even woodwork. Argon gas is colorless, odorless, nonflammable, nontoxic, and above all, a safe, inert gas that is heavier than air.

Not only does argon gas help to increase the energy efficiency of a window, but helps to make your home quieter as well. When vinyl windows are equipped with the an insulated glass package, they automatically meet or exceed the energy-saving requirements for all three climate zones set forth by the Energy Star Window program. Some vinyl windows include a foam spacer that provides even further energy efficiency as an option.

What is the Energy Star Program?

The Energy Star Program was created by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help consumers in the recognition of energy-efficient products. This program also promotes the environmental and economic benefits of these products through the Energy Star label and other program activities.

Will vinyl windows be a good investment?

Yes, for a variety of reasons. First, you may realize savings on your heating and cooling bills. Second, they’re virtually maintenance-free, which eliminates painting costs. And finally, the some manufacturers offer a transferable warranty. A strong warranty may easily add to the resale value of your home.

Aren’t all window warranties practically the same?

Not really. There are as many warranties as there are window manufacturers. Some brand name factory warranties cover just the sash and frame. The rest is left up to the local fabricator who may or may not cover it. Your warranty is only as good as the company behind it. Pick a company, where your unit is warranted from the extrusion and parts to the glass and construction by a lifetime limited warranty and with transferability provisions, if available.

Is the Contractor Licensed, Bonded and Insured?

Not all contractors need to be licensed, bonded or insured. Make sure your contractor is. Licensing means they have passed state testing standards to be a contractor. Insured means they have liability insurance to cover unforeseen accidents that may happen while working on your home (ie. fire etc.) $1 million is usually recommended. Bonded means that in case the contractor is unable to finish a job or they go out of business, there is a recovery fund that a homeowner may pursue reimbursement from the state.

Is the Contractor in Good Business Standing?

It’s sad but true, some contractors are just not very good and have complaints filed against them. Call the Minnesota Better Business Bureau at 651-669-1111 or visit their web site at http://www.mnd.bbb.org and search by company name to see if any claims have been filed. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office in St. Paul is another excellent source of information at (651) 296-2803 or visit their website at http://www.sos.state.mn.us

Can they really do the construction project for the cost that they say they can?

Yes, but get that in writing from your contractor before you start work. Additional charges can occur if there is damage found after the job has started such as rotten wood or water damage. Construction companies usually will not pay for this type of damage, these costs are the responsibility of the homeowner. Your contractor and you should review those items and come to agreement on additional charges before the additional work is started. That way there are no unpleasant costs tacked on at the end of the project.

Does the Contractor actually know the construction crew working your job?

It’s common in the construction industry to use subcontractors and there is nothing wrong with that if they’re good. Make sure the contractor has personally interviewed, supervised and approved the caliber of the workforce that will be working on your home. Have they demonstrated quality workmanship on other homes? Find a company that uses fewer, but more experienced and qualified subcontractors so you can be assured to get the same high quality finished product on your home as they claim on others. Usually two guys and a pickup isn’t the type of company that you want to work on your home. Will they be available to do service calls?

Does the construction crew do timely work so the job is completed quickly?

Everyone wants a quality job, but it should also be done quickly to minimize the disruption in your life. Siding crews need to have at least a 3-4 person crew. If not, they will have a hard time completing any job in about one week. Roofing crews should have 4-6 people. To remove shingles and replace them in 1-2 days is a must to keep the time short and your home dry from the unpredictable weather. Replacement windows usually take 1 person about a day for an 8 window job.

How about the quality of the building materials the contractor is using?

There are over 4,000 manufacturers that supply building materials to the construction industry. For your home, demand only name brand products. Select shingles that have a minimum 25 year warranty, vinyl siding should be at least .044 mm thick and made from fade resistant material. Vinyl windows should be manufactured by a top quality manufacturer with decades of window experience.

How about the customer service during and after the sale?

Sometimes there are small items that may go un-noticed during the final inspection. Make sure the contractor will return calls in a timely manner and makes in-progress inspection visits during the work on your home and resolves issues during the warranty period.

Does the company understand the importance of Customer Satisfaction?

Everyone talks about customer satisfaction, but few have a clue what that really means. Ask your contractor if they cover your landscaping and shrubs during the construction project. Demand that they pick up nails and other debris at the end of the project. Lastly, does the contractor include an inspection check list. An agreed-to list provided by the contractor at the start of the project to be reviewed and signed by you at the end of the job.

Does the salesperson in front of you understand the construction process and getting the work done?

Question the sales persons knowledge about the company offerings, how he plans to optimize your construction process and get the work done quickly and satisfactorily. Does the person have experience at evaluating homes for remodeling. Have they followed a project from start to completion. Generally it’s not a good idea to settle for someone doing this as a summer job. They have little stake in your long-term satisfaction and have no authority with the company they are representing. Pick a company with successful restorations in the area or even your neighborhood.



Download the Renovate Right Pamphlet (PDF) – This document explains the new 2010 EPA requirements for homes built before 1978.

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