Diamond Certified Experts: Window Replacement

by James Florence


It’s not always easy to know if you need new windows. Photo: Able Glass Company ©2022 

Having your home’s windows replaced is no simple task, so it’s helpful to gain some knowledge about the process beforehand. To learn more, we’ve asked seven Diamond Certified Expert Contributors in the window industry to provide their insights. 

Why Replace Your Windows?

It’s not always obvious when it’s time to replace your windows, but as Eddy Deniz of American Window and Door Systems, Inc. explains, there are some signs to look out for. “If you notice condensation or rust between the dual panes of your windows, these are both indicators of a failed seal, which is a common sign that replacement is needed.” Mr. Deniz says another reason you might consider window replacement is if your windows have ceased to function the way they’re supposed to—for example, if they aren’t able to slide freely or open properly.

Even if there’s nothing overtly wrong with your windows’ integrity or functionality, there’s still another reason to consider replacement: their age. According to Kevin Gundry of Custom Exteriors, Inc., modern developments in window technology have resulted in products that significantly outperform their predecessors. “Today’s windows incorporate several performance-enhancing innovations, such as Low-E 366 glass, nonconductive spacers and argon gas fills,” he explains. “Each of these elements contributes to improved insulation, as well as weather- and UV-resistance. The average double-pane window from 20 years ago doesn’t have any of this technology—usually, it’s just two panes of single-strength glass separated by a metal spacer.”

David Lopez of Custom Exteriors, Inc. describes one of these innovations, Low-E, in further detail. “Low-E is a coating that’s applied to the inside of the glass on a double-pane window. It’s short for ‘low emissivity,’ and its purpose is to make the glass better at keeping out heat and cold. While in the past, windows might’ve had a single layer of Low-E coating, today’s Title 24 building code calls for three layers, known as Low-E 366. This triple layer of low emissivity coating optimizes the window’s insulating properties, which contributes to an overall improvement in home energy efficiency.”

Choosing Window Glass

When shopping for new windows, one of the most important factors to look at is glass. A lot of windows come with single-strength, 1/16-inch glass panes, which is the minimum thickness available. To get better performance, Mr. Gundry suggests a specific combination of glass for double-pane windows: one double-strength pane and one triple-strength pane. “Upgrading your window glass from standard to triple-strength over double-strength will make your home interior much quieter,” he says. “This can be especially advantageous if you live near a busy road or have noisy neighbors.”

Matt Iribarne of B & L Glass lists a few other factors to consider when choosing window glass:

Climate control
Tinted and Low-E coated glass products reduce heat transfer from the outside, which helps keep the interior of the home or building cooler.

Fading control
Laminated glass products reduce fading by minimizing the amount of damaging UV light that can pass through the glass.

Tempered and safety glass products are up to four times stronger than regular glass products, which reduces the possibility of accidental breakage and injury.

Installation Options

In addition to choosing windows, you’ll need to decide on an installation method. “When installing new windows in your home, you have two basic options: a new construction installation or a retrofit application,” explains Eric Holder of Able Glass Company. “With a new construction installation, the existing window is removed, frame and all, and replaced with a new one. With a retrofit application, the new window is installed within the existing frame.”

Due to the reduced amount of labor involved, Mr. Holder says retrofitting can be a good economical option. However, he gives a warning: “Since retrofit windows are installed into the existing frames, if those frames aren’t perfectly plumb or square, there’s greater potential for issues to arise after the fact. In contrast, a new construction installation enables a contractor to control every aspect of the installation. For this reason, it’s important to find a qualified window contractor and discuss the best option for your situation.” 

Choosing Window Frames

If you’ve decided to go the new construction route for your window installation, you’ll need to choose new frames in addition to new glass. While homeowners once had limited choices in this regard, today’s consumers have access to a wide range of products. John Gorman of Save Energy Company goes over a few popular options:

  • Vinyl window frames were originally created to replace aluminum frames installed in houses throughout the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Today, vinyl continues to be a cost-effective option, providing high-quality performance for an affordable price. Besides being energy-efficient and easy to maintain, vinyl frames are less likely to collect condensation than other frame styles. Additionally, almost all vinyl frames come with lifetime warranties.
  • Wood window frames are popular with homeowners who prefer a traditional and authentic aesthetic. Like vinyl, they’re very energy-efficient, but they’re also more expensive and require more maintenance. Additionally, warranties for wood frames aren’t as strong as those that come with vinyl frames—instead of a lifetime guarantee, it’s usually 10 years for the wood and 20 years for the glass.
  • Fiberglass and composite window frames are similar to vinyl frames, but they’re made of much stronger material. Unlike wood and vinyl frames, they can be painted on both sides. They can also be fitted with a wood veneer that gives the inward appearance of a wood window.

Personal preference isn’t the only factor that can affect your choice of window frame. For example, in San Francisco homes that are considered “historic,” homeowners are limited to window frames that maintain the home’s historic aesthetic. Eric Warm of Quality Windows & Doors, Inc. submits another consideration: impact on home resale value. “Depending on the home, even a quality window frame like vinyl can potentially diminish resale value,” he says. “While vinyl frames’ cost-efficiency makes them a great choice for a home valued at less than $800,000, they can negatively affect the resale value of a high-end home. For example, if you install vinyl frames in your high-end home and your neighbors install fiberglass or wood frames, your home’s resale value can suffer by mere comparison. In this case, a frame style like fiberglass or wood is a better choice.”

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