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Ryan Z
Need help choosing new windows

I live in northeast ohio, in a home that was built in the early 50's. Currently my home has aluminum windows with marble sills... VERY COLD in the winter, and there are a lot of big windows throughout the home.
I have had a few different companies come out for estimates and I have noticed this is not an easy decision. I will be staying here for many years so I want energy effecient long lasting windows. The house is a brick ranch and every window company says their vinyl replacements are "the best".
Question #1- Buck framing, does this need to be done and should they use a composite wood?
#2- Thickness of the glass, 1/8in better than 1/16?
#3- Seal between the double panes, I was told most have a metal type, but came across a company that uses a butyl type seal with no metal and supposedly they can fill the argon with very little loss, Told about 97% fill. This sounds like a very good option but would really like to hear what you guys have to say.
Oh..... #4- Should I replace the marble sills with wood?
Any info will be greatly appreciated, Thanks Ryan

MLB Construction
Re: Need help choosing new windows

Anderson 400 series is my advice if you want a great long lasting window that's energy efficient

Re: Need help choosing new windows

Going to energy efficient windows is the best 'bang for your buck' to save energy costs. As you've discovered, that field is wide open and full of people claiming darn near everything. All I can offer is generalities, but they will help you decide what to do and who to get to do it.

Buy the best product you can afford. Look at the hardware- if it has small plastic parts which might break, then they will get broken. Check for smoothness of operation, including tilt-in and removal features. Check for movement with the sashes locked- there should be none. It should feel like quality throughout. Ask for references to customers from several years ago- the further back the better- and check with them in person to see how their windows have held up. Check the warranties carefully, especially concerning the glazing. Don't do business with installers or purchase products which don't have at least ten years solid reputation behind them.

The most important part of this is the installation, and a great window badly installed is no better than a cheap one. Any wood that needs replacement should be dealt with. While most installers don't paint, you can. Be sure all the weather exposed wood is painted before it gets covered if it needs it. Installers should caulk as per the window manufacturer's instructions, and insulation added at any gaps (sometimes mentioned with the former). Follow those instructions for shimming too- this step is often overlooked! If there are any 'weep holes' be sure they are not caulked closed. If any wood is added to close in an opening it should be painted on all 6 sides (custom-made windows or standard openings won't need this). Watch the installers and make sure they are following the manufacturer's instructions- don't settle for anything less or your warranty will be void. Get everything in writing and be sure whoever wrote it is authorized to back up what they say.

If the installers seem to be high-pressure, run away. There is no free lunch and there are no 'limited time specials'. The manufacturer and installer are having to pay the same prices at all times so they do not have any 'savings they can pass on to you'. These are all marketing gimmicks designed to separate you from your money. A good contractor will quote you a solid price that will be good for several months and will not try to rush you into anything. They may cost a little more but are usually worth it in the end. As always, get several bids for like products.


Re: Need help choosing new windows

"Bang for the buck" is a relative term when it comes to new windows due to their high cost of several hundred dollars per window installed. If I were to replace all the windows in my home at a cost of $10,000, that would be the entire cost of my present yearly gas bill for 10 years! You will save heating costs, but the pay back period will be very, very long.

Windows are nice and they have other benefits: they do make your house more comfortable, they are less maintenance, they give more "curb appeal" which translates to higher sales value when you sell.

In terms of payback, in a 1950's house that has not had its insulation upgraded, the payback would be far faster than new windows. Also, the average older house leaks air like a sieve. Sealing up air leaks is relaltively cheap with far greater results in relation to material costs. Going up in the attic with a couple cans of spray foam, pulling back the insulation and closing all voids in the ceiling plane would help energy costs greatly. Every electrical line going down the wall, every ceiling electrical outlet, cannister light, plumbing stack, etc. is heat pouring into the attic.

I certainly don't discourage your wanting to upgrade your sindows. !950's aluminum windows were miserable creations. Aluminum is inherently inferior as a window material. It conducts heat/cold 1400 times more than wood!

One of the best improvements I made in my last house was getting rid of the 1970 aluminum patio door and replacing it with a Pella metal clad, wood interior slider with Low-E glass. The old door had insulated glass, but the radiant cold off it made it very uncomfortable to sit at the dining room table. Low-E glass really makes sitting close to glass more comfortable. Even the coldest below zero day did not radiate cold to the interior.

Re: Need help choosing new windows

We covered this topic in the past, and here it is again.

Since windows have to conform to the same requirements and codes, spending a lot for windows doesn't make a lot of sense. All windows are now double pane, most are gas filled.

What's more important than the windows is the installation: It's better to have inexpensive windows installed right than expensive windows installed wrong.

Choose your windows with care, choose your installer with more care. And just how to you choose an installer? by doing your homework, by asking for references, then checking them.

Re: Need help choosing new windows

Part to consider is ease of cleanability and getting the screens in and out.

I need new windows too, but it would take 20 years to break even.

Re: Need help choosing new windows

What Ordjen suggests is good, but is somewhat different. Both will give good returns on your money. The point here is that the OP has what may possibly be the worst windows one can get in terms of efficiency. Even a poorly maintained and loose wooden single-pane window will outperform what they have, so IMHO a switch to better windows will net them a better return on their investment even if it would not do that for someone else.

To upgrade efficiency one must start somewhere, and new windows properly installed should automatically seal off any air leakage there, which keys in with Ordjen's thoughts on sealing- it's a start on that process too. The OP wasn't asking about insulation or sealing up the envelope or changing to a more efficient HVAC system- they were asking about windows so this thread shouldn't be drifting too far from that though it probably will anyway....


Re: Need help choosing new windows

Are the old windows otherwise still in good shape?

If so: I would buy storm windows and save yourself tens of thousands of dollars and get basically the same efficiency. Storm windows will stop as much or more air infiltration as replacement windows and the R value difference is negligible (a small fraction of 1 R difference multiplied by a small fraction of your wall space, so a few hundredths of an R overall for your house). Your metal windows have lasted 60 years, plastic "vinyl" replacement windows will last you 20 years if you are lucky, but probably a lot less. Someone replaced a few of the 150 year old windows in my house and those replacement windows are literally falling apart (drafty, warped frame and bowed sashes, won't lock, springs broken and I can't figure out if or how they can be replaced, top sash wont stay up so I wedged a piece of lath in one and a sledgehammer handle in another, flimsy) while the original windows are working great (after some basic maintenance). My neighbor's house was flipped into condos with replacement windows and the new owners say they are extremely drafty.

If you do buy new windows, I've read American replacement windows are low quality in order to be cheap, but I have heard of good German made windows (for a lot more money).

Edit: and storm windows have options like low-E glass and custom(ish) colors.

Ryan Z
Re: Need help choosing new windows

Thanks for the replies, but maybe I should have worded my question differently.
The windows in my house are very big...i.e. just one is 5' x 9', and in my living room there are 3 that size. I have thought about insulating the walls, but as I look around there isn't that much wall left to make that the problem solver.
My question deals more with the construction and installation of the windows:
1-Brick house, should they be buck framed...if so, should a composite material be used?
2-Is thicker glass better? i.e. 1/16, 1/8
3-Should the frame be insulated?
4-The way the 2 panes of glass are separated...many of the windows I've seen use some type of metal, but 2 use what they call a "super spacer" which has no metal and is more like a closed cell foam. I like the latter, but I wonder if it will break down over time. Which do you think is better?
Thanks again.

Re: Need help choosing new windows

#1- If you're doing a new type install and not a slip-in replacement, you may need to reframe them to size or use a custom-made window to fit the existing holes perfectly. If the old framing is sound and of the proper size, there's no need to replace it.

#2- It would seem so, but only in terms of durability. A fast-pitched baseball will go through either one so I wonder if it's worth the cost. Larger windows would benefit more than smaller ones but thickness should be adequate for any newly-made windows regardless. Your money, your call.

#3- Are you speaking of the window units themselves? If so, I don't think there's much advantage to be had so long as the inside and outside are both caulked and sealed to the house well, and a solid frame will be stronger anyway so that's what I'd go for. If you're taking about the house, then insulate anything you can get to while it's open and easy to do.

#4- I can't say about this, but I do know that better windows seem to last a lot longer, and that in time all windows will lose that seal necessitating a replacement eventually unless you like foggy windows. And I am a skeptic when it comes to anything new- show me a long-term track record and I'll believe it. Lacking that I prefer to do it the old way because I know what to expect.


Ryan Z
Re: Need help choosing new windows

Thanks Phil, I appreciate the info.

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