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Windows of Opportunity

Nothing can so radically revitalize your home as installing new windows

Windows of Opportunity tout
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Purchasing and installing new windows isn't a casual proposition. Whether you're changing and relocating windows as a part of a major remodel or choosing new units for an addition, you're going to spend significant money. But there's no better way to make a dramatic change in rooms that are dark or hot or give you that closed-in feeling. And the effect on the exterior of your home will be just as pronounced. You'll find a dizzying range of styles and materials to choose from, including wood-framed double-hungs, vinyl sliders and clad casements that can be installed in virtually limitless sizes and combinations. Here, we'll give you guidelines on choosing windows that deliver the improvements you want and feature window styles that enhance your home, rather than clash with it.
Purchasing and installing new windows isn't a casual proposition. Whether you're changing and relocating windows as a part of a major remodel or choosing new units for an addition, you're going to spend significant money. But there's no better way to make a dramatic change in rooms that are dark or hot or give you that closed-in feeling. And the effect on the exterior of your home will be just as pronounced. You'll find a dizzying range of styles and materials to choose from, including wood-framed double-hungs, vinyl sliders and clad casements that can be installed in virtually limitless sizes and combinations. Here, we'll give you guidelines on choosing windows that deliver the improvements you want and feature window styles that enhance your home, rather than clash with it.
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Casement windows with blue frames
Pozzi
The blue frames of these casement units from Pozzi offer a strong color contrast to the exterior walls of this home.
Which Windows Do What? Knowing what you need a new window to do will make deciding on the appropriate size and style easier. There are four primary reasons for changing the look or location of your windows. ADDING LIGHT
Even the most sophisticated artificial lighting can't substitute for natural light. A quick rule for estimating the size of new windows: Useful light penetrates two and half times the height of the opening. Clerestories — a band of windows running under the roofline along the top of a wall — are an exception. Because of their lofty location, they tend to funnel light deeper into a space. Also remember that the amount, angle, and quality of sunlight change during the year, and the difference can be substantial. East- and west-facing windows admit the warm glow of dawn and dusk, but they also bring the hard, glaring beams of afternoon light. A southern exposure is the best source of warm ambient light, while a northern opening catches cool, indirect light. An architect can help you forecast how the sun will fill the room and also give you a sense of how light will play through your house by building a scale model and facing it toward the sun.
The color of the walls surrounding the window is another variable: Lighter tones reflect the sun, brightening the room, while darker ones absorb its rays. Shade trees should also be factored into the picture; new windows aren't an enlightened move if they're blocked by towering evergreens. COOLING DOWN

Some windows are especially effective if your wish list includes better ventilation. Crank-open casement models are best for regulating and directing air currents. Awning varieties, which pivot upward, also shield interiors from rain. When planning for improved ventilation, note the seasonal wind patterns around your property and try to pair up windows on opposite walls to capture the cross ventilation. Maximize airflow by locating windows away from corners. And remember, the velocity and cooling power of cross ventilation increase if the breeze enters through a smaller window and exit through a larger one. FRAMING A VIEW
It's tempting to use sweeping picture windows to highlight a striking vista. Unfortunately, really big expanses of glass cost really big money. And integrating them into an existing wall often involves a formidable structural challenge — and even more cash. Instead, consider ganging several smaller windows together. Besides being a potential money-saver, the windows divide the view into components that can be taken in individually or as a whole. "The human eye can see only about 60 degrees," says architect John Allegretti, of Michigan City Associates in Michigan City, Michigan. "Segmenting views makes them more interesting and manageable." DEFINING A PLACE
With their three-dimensional qualities, bay and bow windows are especially adept at defining a work space, breakfast area and other places. Windows that are flush with the wall can also highlight an area. For maximum impact, cluster them in a focal point or put a single fixed pane in a prominent place. Explore your home for opportunities to add light and interest. An awkward blank wall at the end of a hall or on the stair landing could be the perfect spot for an accent window.
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Pella Windows
Pella
A vertical cluster of corner windows from Pella updates the cottage feel of this home.
Picking a Style
On average, good-quality, standard-size double-hung and sliding windows cost about $18 per square foot, while casement models go for $25 to $30. (Remember, you'll pay more for hardwood frames, energy-efficient glazing and upgraded hardware.) Whichever style you choose, the windows should complement the character of your home, not contrast with it. That doesn't mean you can't have a little fun when planning your project; just don't force a totally foreign style on your house. For example, if you live in a Cape, colonial or Victorian, stick with multiple-pane, divided-light windows and experiment with the number of panes per window. Sketch out some cottage-style variations where the bottom sash of a double-hung window is taller than the top sash. Ranch-style homes are more adaptable: You can create a contemporary look with casements, sliders and awnings; or go traditional with divided lights. Large spaces — especially two-story areas like great rooms and entryways — can handle bold designs. Arched and round-top windows emphasize room height, as do pediment installations, while stacking or banding windows together accentuates vertical or horizontal lines. You can have virtually any size and shape window custom-fabricated. Just be sure the ones you choose are proportional to your home. An easy way to do that is to hang windows so their tops, rather than their bottoms, line up evenly (the typical measurement is 80 in. above the floor, level with the doors). This simple baseline keeps the outside looking orderly. You can create unique effects by combining window types. Examples include quarter-circle fixed panes that top off tall casements or a square awning set in the middle of a round window. If you go this route, make sure the end result is "architecturally correct" — window-speak for aligning the sashes and muntins of different window units. Your contractor or window dealer can steer you to fabricators who offer this detail.
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Anderson clerestory
Courtesy of Anderson
Light captured through this Andersen clerestory washes the ceiling and is in turn reflected deep into the middle of the room.
Glazings, Creative Details
and Window Location
Double or triple glazing, argon-filled windows and reflective films and coatings are among the energy-efficient glass options to choose from. You'll also find a spectrum of decorative treatments. Andersen, Kolbe & Kolbe, Caradco, Eagle and other manufacturers offer "art glass" lines. Finely crafted in beveled and stained glass with brass and zinc caming, art glass is often fabricated in panels mounted on the interior side of a fixed or casement window. Electronic privacy glass is another option offered by most major window suppliers, including Pella and Hurd. A film of liquid crystals is sandwiched between sheets of laminated glass. Flip a switch, and the crystals relax into a random frost pattern; hit the switch again, and a current of electricity causes the crystals to align, clearing the glass. Such innovative technology doesn't come cheap, however. The manufacturer, Viracon, cites a price of $150 per square foot installed. Lower-priced privacy alternatives include etching and sandblasting. Costs start at $5 per square foot for in-shop frosting and sealing by a glazing specialist, and increase depending on the complexity of the frame and grille. Another traditional option is glass block (about $14 per 12 X 12 X 3 7/8-inch wavy-finish clear block). While glass block needs no additional tooling to be effective, a skilled installer and some supplemental structural work may be required in some situations. New on the market are acrylic-block windows. A vinyl-framed, 28 X 36-inch unit with 8-inch blocks by Hy-Lite costs about $230.
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Caradco casement windows
Courtesy of Caradco
Clean-lined Caradco casements suit this contemporary interior and provide good ventilation while framing a midrange view.
CREATIVE DETAILS
Don't be afraid to exercise your creative side when selecting color and trim. For instance, on wood-frame windows, you can choose an oak, maple, cherry or mahogany interior finish to pick up on existing cabinetry or trim. Vinyl and wood-clad windows come in a wide array of colors, with custom shades available. You'll also find casings and brickmolds in a variety of profiles; Weather Shield, for instance, offers nine. Details like keystones and corner blocks can further personalize your windows. Purists prefer authentic divided lights to grilles. But it's tough to clean their many small panes. That's why simulated divided lights have become popular. They feature a removable, often wood, grille on the inside, a metal grille on the outside and usually two full-frame glass panels separated by spacing bars that mimic the muntins. Custom grilles are also available. Pozzi produces them in diamond-pattern, radius and other designs. WINDOW LOCATION
When adding or enlarging windows, you also have to balance the light they add with energy-minded code restrictions. In California, where the state energy commission oversees one of the most stringent codes in the country, a window area of anywhere from 16 to 45 percent of the conditioned floor area of a home could be allowed. That figure depends on a number of factors, including climatic zone, heating, cooling and insulation systems and the U-value of glazing. A common code mandate pertains to safety: There must be at least one window opening in all upper-story bedrooms with a minimum height of 24 inches and a minimum width of 20 inches, with a sill sitting no higher than 44 inches from the floor for adequate access and egress in case of fire. New windows can give a solid but dull home character. For instance, consider bridging windows set too close together into one dramatic expanse. Or close up a lonely opening and relocate the window to a more suitable spot. Few elements of home design are as tight a mix of form and function as windows. Making an informed decision on both fronts will pay off in a home that brings in more natural light and fresh air and looks better in the process.
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Milgard fixed glass windows
Courtesy of Milgard
A horizontal sequence of fixed glass from Milgard takes full advantage of this beachfront site.
Resources to help you get brighter views
Before you decide on new windows, call for manufacturers' catalogs or do some research on their Websites to familiarize yourself with their products. Compare availability, hardware options, delivery time and product warranties. And whenever possible, visit a dealer or showroom to get a firsthand look before your contractor places an order. Andersen Windows & Patio Doors
100 4th Ave. N
Bayport, MN 55003-1096
www.andersenwindows.com
800/426-4261
Caradco Windows & Doors
201 Evans Rd.
Rantoul, IL 61866
www.caradco.com
800/238-1866
CertainTeed
Box 860
Valley Forge, PA 19482
www.certainteed.com
800/782-8777
Crestline Windows & Doors
888 Southview Dr.
Mosinee, WI 54455
www.crestlinewindows.com
715/693-7000
Eagle Window and Door Inc.
Box 1072, 375 E. 9th St.
Dubuque, IA 52004-1072
www.eaglewindow.com
800/453-3633
Hurd Millwork Co Inc.
575 S. Whelen Ave.
Medford, WI 54451
www.hurd.com
800/2BE-HURD
Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co Inc.
1323 S. 11th Ave.
Wausau, WI 54401-5998
www.kolbe-kolbe.com
715/842-5666
Marvin Windows & Doors
Warroad, MN 56763
www.marvin.com
800/346-5128
Milgard Windows
965 54th Ave. E, Box 11368
Tacoma, WA 98424
www.milgard.com
800/MILGARD
Owens Corning
1 Owens Corning Pkwy.
Toledo, OH 43659
www.owenscorning.com
800/GET PINK
Peachtree Doors and Windows
4350 Peachtree Industrial Blvd.
Norcross, GA 30071
www.peach99.com
800/PEACH99
Pella Corporation
102 Main St.
Pella, IA 50219
www.pella.com
800/54-PELLA
Pozzi Wood Windows
www.pozzi.com
800/257-WOOD
Vetter Windows & Patio Doors
888 Southview Dr.
Mosinee, WI 54455
www.sweets.construction.com
800/838-8332
Weather Shield
1 Weather Shield Pl., Box 309
Medford, WI 54451
www.weathershield.com
800/477-6808
SPECIALTY PRODUCTS Hy-Lite Acrylic Block Windows
Box 2007
Beaumont CA 92223
www.hy-lite.com
800/827-3691. Acrylic block window panels
Pittburgh Corning
5681 W. Cleveland Rd.
South Bend, ID 46625
www.pittsburghcorning.com
800/624-2120. Glass block
Viracon Privacy Glass
800 Park Dr.
Owatonna MN 55060
www.viracon.com
800/533-2080
FURTHER READING Ideas for Great Windows & Doors
Sunset Books, $12.95
A good all-around reference, covering both technical and design topics
Designing With Glass: The Creative Touch
by Carol Soucek King
PBC International, $42.50
A wealth of design ideas, spanning traditional and avant-garde uses of the material. Particularly strong in architectural applications of fine-art glass
ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS Robert L. Harper
38 Oak Dr.
Centerbrook, CT 06409
860/767-0629
James Bischoff
49 Alcatraz
Belevedere, CA 94920
415/435-8492
Stanley Saitowitz Office
1022 Natoma St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
415/626-8977
 
 

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