Our Replacement Window Buyer's Guide will help you understand which materials and window features you should consider when choosing windows, we’ll explain the difference between window types and styles and we’ll give you some insight into new window trends in the industry.
If you’re looking for a project that will improve both the curb appeal and the potential value of your home, replacing your windows is a good place to start.
Not only are new windows great for resale value, they will improve the energy efficiency of your house, they’ll reduce your utility bills and they will improve the comfort level in your home.
5 Reasons to Replace Your Windows
#1 : Lower Energy Bills
Heating and cooling costs are two of the main expenses of keeping your home comfortable. Replacing old and/or drafty windows with new, high efficiency windows can have a big impact on your energy bills. Choosing ENERGY STAR® certified models can save you an average of 8% on your energy bills as compared to a standard window.
#2 : Give Your Home a Facelift
Your home is your most important asset and your largest investment. Window and doors are one of the top choices when considering exterior renovations for your home. Replacing your old windows is also a solid investment strategy when trying to sell your home as most prospective homeowners will factor in the cost of replacement windows into their offer if they will need replacing - and you get the benefit of better curb appeal.
#3 : Lower Maintenance
Modern PVC and mPVC windows are made with stable, durable materials which can last for decades. Further, their finish is final and requires no sealing or painting. These types of windows are essentially zero-maintenance, apart from the occasional cleaning or the lubrication of operator hardware.
#4 : Reduce Noise
Newer windows are more efficient when it comes to noise protection because the technology used is newer and the sealing in, and around the window is better. Exterior noise is transferred through windows that don’t close properly, through poor insulation and also through poor seals - not just between the two panes of glass.
#5 : Increased Safety
If your windows are damaged or are faulty and get stuck in either the open or closed position, it’s definitely time for replacement windows. Windows that stay open are a risk for intruders and those that remain closed could put you or your family at risk in the event of a fire. If your windows are warped, corroded or rotten, this could impede your ability to properly lock your windows.
Understanding The Different Types of Window Installations
There are two basic types of window replacement: retrofit and full frame installation. Newer homes (post 1970) typically get full frame installation replacements. Older homes are more likely to choose the retrofit option. A qualified window specialist can help you determine which option is right for you. You can read more on each of the types below.
RetrofitDuring a retrofit installation your existing window frame is left intact. This is typically done either to maintain the look of the house or to maintain the structural integrity of the existing frame because the window framing is load bearing. While this can be a less expensive option, it won’t necessarily remediate some of the issues that caused you to replace the window in the first place such as: leaky windows, energy savings, noise, or some other comfort factor.
Full Frame InstallationIn a full-frame installation, all existing parts of your window are replaced including; hardware, casings, jamb extensions and brickmoulds. This can be more the expensive option, but full frame installation ensures that any issues you have been experiencing with your windows will be resolved. This option allows you to take advantage of the latest window technology and also will ensure that your warranty covers all possible future issues that you might experience.
Choosing the Right Window Material
Windows are made out of variety of materials. Differences in materials are motivated by price, by geographic factors (like weather) by home builder preferences and by customer choice. Some people prefer the look of wooden windows but these are typically more expensive and require ongoing maintenance. Aluminum windows are used in apartments buildings because of fire regulations and in some high-end modern homes. PVC and mPVC windows are the most common types of windows used in replacement projects.
Wooden windows have been around for millenia. In modern homes they are chosen because of their natural beauty. While higher-end homes still chose custom wooden windows and doors, these are more expensive, they are not as durable as other window types, and they require a great deal of maintenance. Wood window exteriors require regular sealing and/or painting over the lifetime of the window.. This is a labour-intensive task that needs to be done correctly, to prevent warping, rotting or decay.
Aluminum frame windows are very strong and have been around for close to a century. While popular in high-end custom homes, they are expensive to make and install. They are also not as energy efficient as other window types. The most common application of aluminum windows is in commercial applications.
Since the mid-fifties PVC windows have become the standard window used in both new home construction and for replacement windows. PVC is a much more affordable option and is very low maintenance. These windows also offers a much higher energy efficiency factor compared to Aluminum windows. Traditional PVC windows are made from a thin-walled, hollow chambered PVC construction. This design requires a thicker window frame, which means less glass in your window.
Microcellular PVC Windows
MicroCellular PVC (mPVC) is next generation of PVC window. Launched in 2017, the RevoCell Window is stronger, brighter and more energy efficient. This window has a solid core that contains billions of microscopic cells. The physical structure is porous like bone. This technology results in a stronger frame, which allows for more glass per window and translates into more natural light in your home.
Want to learn more about the differences between all these window types?
Check out our RevoCell Comparison Tool and see the differences in strength, brightness, durability, ease of maintenance, energy efficiency and affordability in an easy to use tool.
Choosing the Right Window Style
After you have determine the window material that best suits your lifestyle & budget, you will need to choose the type of window best suited to your home. Most homes use a combination of window types. As an example, a home may have a Bay Window in the living room, casement windows in the bedrooms and main rooms and slider windows in the basement.
This type of replacement window opens up from the bottom with a crank mechanism (crank mechanisms should be covered by a comprehensive warranty). Awning windows look like a fixed window, but open up and can be left partially open even when it rains. They’re perfectly suited for kitchens or washrooms as they offer an easy way to get maximum ventilation.
Bay, bow and box windows Windows
Bay windows can be comprised of a combination of window styles, usually fixed and casement windows, that function as a single unit and protrude to the outside. As this window arrangement protrudes and is larger than most other windows, it will make any room brighter and also appear larger. It’s very important to determine how these window are made. Are they screwed together (which can lead to air and water infiltration) or do they have a seamless, structural frame that makes the entire window stronger.
This type of window is, by far, the most popular. Also known as ‘crank windows’ Casement Windows open with a hand crank, like awning windows. They can be made to open from the left or from the right side - depending on your needs. This versatile window is perfect for many types of applications and opens to a full 90 degrees for ease of cleaning.
Double Hung Windows
Double hung windows are space-saving, durable and energy efficient. They feature two tilt sashes that move up and down using a constant force balancing system - this means easy cleaning and optimal ventilation. Double-hung windows are best used for window openings where the height is greater than the width and also in older homes to match the style of homes from that era.
Double Sliding Windows
Slider Windows are the ideal solution for areas of your home that require a window but don’t have a lot of interior or exterior space available. These types of windows are typically used in basement and in other applications where crank windows are not as easy to operate. One of the problem with sliding windows is that they don’t seal as well as crank windows because the locking mechanism on crank windows ensures a very tight seal of the window.
Window Options to Consider
When you have decided on the best window type for your specific application the next consideration is what window options should you consider. Some are cosmetic, like colour & grilles, others - like the choice of glass, will determine the privacy level that your windows provide.
Window grilles are a decorative pattern made from horizontal and/or vertical bars that divide the larger sheet of glass into smaller panes. While they are not to everyone’s taste, windows grilles are particular popular for homes that have more of a traditional style. The grilles themselves are available in a number of configurations, styles & colours.
Need a little extra flair or want your home to stand out? Why not consider a coloured window construction? The use of coloured windows is increasing each year as home renovators look for new ways of redefining the look of their homes. Not all manufacturers offer the same colours, and some even offer a different warranty (shorter) when you choose the colour option, so make sure you ask questions to help you make an informed decision.
Interior Seat Options (Bay Windows)
One of the extra considerations when choosing your bay window vs other types of windows is you will need to decide on the finish of the seat. Whatever the style of your home, you will be able to choose something that matches your current interior decor.
While glass finish could be considered a cosmetic option - it is also a privacy consideration. The glass finish you choose will vary from room to room as the function of the windows change. For example, you are likely to require a different level of privacy in a bathroom window than you are in a bedroom window.
Current Trends in Replacement Windows
While the design and style of replacement windows has evolved slowly over the years we are starting to see some emerging trends. We've summarized a few of the current window trends below:
Cleaner Simpler Lines
Window frames, mullions, and brickmould have traditionally included a more colonial style with more ornate patterns and beveled edges. Today, there is a higher demand for clean, square edges that present a simpler, more european aesthetic.
If you redo only some of your windows - especially in the front of the house, you need to match grill, tint and frosting designs of the windows that are not being replace. When matching other windows is not a consideration then we are seeing less use of grills, tints and frosting on windows. Clean, clear and simple seems to be the trend. We’re seeing the use of window coverings in general being reduced as homeowners strive to bring the outside in.
Black… is the ‘new black’
Coloured windows are not the exclusive domain of million dollar properties any longer. More people are looking to breath new life into their home by adding colour to their doors and windows. While off-white, black and brown are the most popular colours chosen for windows, there is an infinite colour palate available for you to express yourself.
Going Green is more important than ever.
Saving money with high efficiency windows is a good thing. Lowering your carbon footprint by reducing energy use is even better. While cost will always be the ultimate consideration in choosing a window, if you can get a high efficiency window at a good price - that seems to be one of the top priorities of any homeowner that plans to live in their home for any reasonable period of time in the future.
Finding a Reputable Window Company
In the replacement window market you'll find tons of companies offering up a lot of the same promises: the best windows, the best prices, lifetime warranties are just a few. We've put together a few key things to look at when you're choosing a company to go with.
The most important part of your replacement window purchase is not the window. It’s the warranty. It doesn’t matter what claims a window company makes, what they are promoting or what a salesperson tells you. You’ll decide on a price, have your windows installed and then you’ll have to life with whatever is installed for decades. That’s where the warranty comes in.
We wrote an article on what to look for in a warranty but, in short, make sure that everything (including all parts and service for everything) is covered in your warranty for the life of the warranty. Typically it is not and it’s very difficult to uncover the details.
There typically two types of window businesses: Manufacturers and Sales & Installation companies. When it comes to dealing with warranty issues that can be a problem. You will deal with a Sales & Installation company when purchasing windows unless you engage a company that does both - manufactures AND installs their own windows. Multiple contractors usually means multiple warranties - and this is where problems & delays in service can occur.
Good installation is critical to the future performance of your windows. No matter what choices you end up making or how big or small your window replacement project is, make sure you choose an experienced and trusted company to purchase from and perform the installation of your new windows. A great window will not perform at its best without a proper installation!
Service is also an important consideration. How big is the company you are dealing with? How big is their service department. How long have they been in business? Are there any costs at all (there shouldn’t be!!) associated with getting your windows serviced. How quickly will they respond? Choosing to purchase your windows from a company which manufactures, sells, installs & services their own windows will minimize the chances any issues arising in the future - especially if you ever need to make a claim against your warranty.
Getting a Quote
If you’ve never purchased new windows before, this information may feel a bit overwhelming! It shouldn’t. A qualified window representative from an experienced window replacement company should be able to answer all of your questions and help you make the right choices for your next replacement window project.