Thinking of Replacing Your Windows – Thoughts to Consider

Are you thinking about investing in new windows? There are really great reasons to invest in new windows, but there are also a lot of mythology about replacing windows that must be explored because replacing existing windows is a major investment.

There are also several caveats which must be understood, plus you need to understand the role of windows and window flashings to keep water out of your walls.

There are also questions of scope and determining what is included in your window replacement bid and what you think is included. Remember, you are on your own here. Texas is a state that depends on buyer initiative to protect yourself. Buyer beware.

Lets get started.

We are going to try and keep this story simple and to the point by asking and answering a series of questions. They are linked within this page unless noted otherwise, so you can jump around as is helpful.

If you have a question that is not answered, leave it in the comment section. If you hear what you think is a wild claim or wonder, let us know and we will follow up.

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Have you considered window treatments as an alternative to replacing windows? ” bwidth=”2″]There is a diverse variety of window treatments offered in the marketplace, and they can be confusing. It can be dificult to sort out what each is doing  for you and what they do not do to solve your issues. You really do need some perspective, we have a discussion about window treatments here. [/stextbox]

If you think I am being harsh  or overly dramatic about windows or if you feel I have missed talking about a critical aspect of windows here, speak up, we want people to have as much critical information as possible.

Questions and Answers

I am considering buying new windows for my existing home. I am being told new windows will help me save a great deal of energy in my home… is this true?

Here is a question not enough people ask. What are the pitfalls of having windows replaced?

I was told that my new windows would be a great sales enhancement when I go to sell the house. Is this true?

Are there alternatives to replacing windows to solve my window problems?

You answers seem awfully dogmatic here? I want new windows and I can save some energy and… I want new windows
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I am considering buying new windows for my existing home. I am being told new windows will help me save a great deal of energy in my home… is this true?

Energy savings through windows must be put in perspective. New triple pane windows are up to nearly R-8 vs. the oldest windows around- less than R-1. Then technically it could be said this window can save you 800 per cent on energy loss… but it is through that window, and leaves out the rest of your house. What is needed here is perspective.

But lets make a couple points first.

1. Your home has a unique set of issues that cause air leakage, heat loss and moisture entry. As sources of air leaks related to heat loss and moisture issues, walls and windows fall far down the list as compared to the ceiling or a crawl space if you have one. Natural forces make the ceiling a huge zone of air leakage. Windows, which make up just a portion of the walls, make an impact on a minor portion of your home’s energy loss profile.

2. Now I just made a very broad statwment and I don’t like it. Your windows might be a big issue but you cannot make that judgement from a brochure or a window replacement salesperson talking about all the energy you can save talking about homes in general and taking into account only the windows. Your home and the space you occupy during an important time of the day for you, might very well be undated by solar energy. You are not interested in abstract issues of energy savings. You need a solution to your solar gain issue. We explore solare and comfort issues in your space here. 

But you also need to look at the house as a system.  When looking at the impact of your windows, you need to understand the orientation to the sun, shading effects of overhangs. The imapct of the sun on your  the windows: your solar gain- is a critical part of your cooling load. You need perspective on your homes energy issues. You need an energy assessment that points out your biggest issues  and gives you a priority list for investing in saving energy. LINK

3. Replacing windows in an existing house to save energy has a really lousy payoff. 30 years if you have huge issues with your existing windows. Sun shining directly into a large expanse of windows- replacing single pane, leaky windows… if you don’t have these major issues your pay off is even longer.  So long as you know that, then you can make a decision about replacing windows, from the standpoint of your personal comfort, of your wish to look at our window without being lambasted by solar energy,  but enjoying the beautya nd esthetics of beautiful new windows. Do not let the nerds get you down, but also don’t let anyone pile up the BS and sell you on something that does not add up.

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Here is a question not enough people ask. What are the pitfalls of having windows replaced?

You really need to concentrate on the contractor you hire and what they intend to do.

All kinds of critical steps can be left out of a contract and you can be left with busted up brick which you had no idea you would be left with. I knew a homeowner really well who replaced windows in a brick veneer wall and the remodeling contractor used sledgehammers to knock out the windows and urethane sealants tu paste the broken brick back together.

That was not expected. There are many companies that can get you distracted on a variety of issues but when all is said and done, they have your money and you have headaches. In Texas, remember, buyer beware. There is no licensing requirement for remodeling or general contractors in Texas.. Anybody can be a window installer tomorrow. Buyer beware.

 Replacing windows is fraught with opportunities to screw up the drainage plane.

Rain sheds off of your walls over what is called a water control layer. On most Texas home construction this ends up a layer of building wrap. This layer is supposed to be the final barrier to keep water out that gets in through you cladding. Cladding comes ina variety of materials. brick veneer, composite wood, or vinyl siding or  stucco or synthetic stucco or cement board are not intended to be water shedding but protect the water control layer the building wrap.  When we take out windows we are altering this water control layer. We talk about the drainage plane here.

 So how serious is your window installer about this change to your water control layer? Picking the right installer is non trivial. It is your responsibility to pick the good ones out.

Great marketers do not necessarily mean conscientious contractors who care about customers.

They use technology well, they have great pictures, and make a great impression… Cut through the hype, make sure they address the issues that matter to you. Make sure you know the issues that matter. You will find many of them on this page or other references here. There will be other critical information you find.

Beware of wild promises about price and discounts and wild promises about energy savings.

Remember, you are not buying replacement windows just for the energy savings. We squashed that on this page several different ways. You are looking for beauty, a new look too, or are dealing with a specific challenge with windows. So don’t buy the hype. You want to base your buying decision on quality windows and  quality installation. Do not be distracted. Do not shop on price. We talk about the high cost of a low price here.

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Are there alternatives to replacing windows to solve my problems?

All the issues you have with your old windows- real or imagined,  can be improved with treating the actual problem rather than replacing the windows.

You have water stains around windows. Water leaks at windows are really serious and is not related to the actual window but to a defect in your drainage plane and the window flashing. This is really serious and needs to be looked at by a professional. Leaks in walls create rot and mold issues and the problem only gets bigger. We talk about water in walls here. We talk about tracking down a potential water leak here.

Leaking air around windows –

Air leaks around windows need serious attenion to air sealing. This is work for an air sealing professional. Proper professional care is needed here because you need to know what to caulk and what to leave alone. Quite often the leaks are not just associated with the window but the wood framing around the window and the seal between framing and window frame.

The mechanisms of the actual window can be worn and leaking air and these can be appraised by a window professional not just trying to sell replacement windows. Now there are leaks right through window frames and through the moving parts of windows. These are not solvable without rebuilding- probably impractical and replacement is the alternative.

Condensation on windows-

I don’t know how many issues in Texas we have with condensation on windows unless a cool window is getting lambasted with moist air from a kitchen or a bathroom. Maybe you have stained or mess up finish on a wood or sheetrock finished window sill. Yes, new windows can help here, but there are a variety of things you can do to stop this without new windows.

Condensation issues can be treated. Air leaks as mentioned above might be an issue. Solve  the air leaks and then refinish.. You might have a humidity problem from the kitchen or bathroom or some incidental humidity source. You can also refinish the window sills too, to get rid of condensation stains. Figure this out. Money saved- money not wasted- is money earned.

Solar gain – is too much sun shining in?

This is the biggy in Texas. It is already hot. It should be easy to shade windows in Texas, with the sun so high in the hottest months, but homes are built for other purposes and roofs shading walls falls down the list of priorities. We talk about home orientation and solar gains issues on comfort here. We address the idea of  window treatments as an option here. Remember they have to match your home and they have to make you feel good.

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I was told that my new windows would be a great sales enhancement when I go to sell the house. Is this true?

It might help sell the house more quickly but unless your windows were hideous- I don’t know how that could be… then you are only going to get back a portion of your investment on resale. Homes are appraised against similar homes iwth similar inemities and windows will not make that big a difference on resale. Make sure you understand that you will only get a portion of your investment back when you go to sell.

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You answers seem awfully dogmatic here? I want new windows and I can save some energy and… I want new windows

I apologize, it is my nature to fuss.

I would suggest you read the other questions and answers here and then do what you want while proceeding  cautiously. And , if you are thinking you are saving money on energy, make sure you see the big factors in saving energy. This can help you with perspective on this issue. Don;t let anyone show you how much your windows will save energy with  a thermal image. Windows in classic stud wall construction are surrounded by cripple studs and headers and have problems with thermal bridging through the wood superstructure. The more energy efficient window will not help this thermal bridging issue. I am sorry I am so hung up on this saving energy thing…

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In conclusion, make sure you want beautiful new windows because you want beautiful new windows- and not because you have not explored soluitons to issues with windows that do not include replacing the windows.

Make sure you find a great contractor who watches out for homeowners. There area a lot of fast talking muddlers in this field because people like to replace their windows. Find the good heart.

Your new windows will look beautiful!

Any questions… any comments… add them below.

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