There is an enormity of information available on window selections for both new construction and remodeling. I could cut this article short by referring everyone to www.nfrc.org, and call it a day; however, I have some local experience in the subject matter, and could possibly save another homeowner some time, energy, "energy", and $$$.
Why discuss window selection so pointedly? Well, according to most statistics, windows account for approximately 25% of a home's energy/carbon footprint due to air infiltration, inadequate thermal insulation, and ultra-violet rays. As such a vital component of the home's overall energy footprint, the window product is naturally supported by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), and is so widely a published subject that a Google search is mind boggling.
The window industry has evolved to a point where most window production and supply is geographical in nature. In most scenarios, the average consumer doesn't have to sift through products oriented towards extreme cooling climates (Key West, Florida) or to the hottest of warming climates (Bangor, Maine) to arrive at a suitable product for their neighborhood. There are, however, many specialty features still available to every climate. Some of these specialty features include the typical safety, or tempered glass, hurricane wind-force glass which can withstand wind blown projectiles, super-insulated glass, and UV protected products that protect interior furnishings, just to name a few.
As our window technology has dramatically evolved with improvements such as green, super insulated, super storm resistant strength glazing and synthetic frames through market competition and industry "watch dogs," the local installation market has unfortunately not been so rosy. It seems that everywhere you turn, there is a new expert window installation company either advertising in the Yellow Pages, or taping a flier to our mailboxes. I am embarrassed to admit it but I have personally had to reject several of these "experts" from my jobs for butchering the installation of brand new window units. Coming to think about it, other than voiding the manufacturers warranty by faulty installation (i.e. lack of flashing, not adequately shimming, improper use of foam insulation, improper fastening, etc.) and possibly having to take remedial actions, it's kind of an installation free-for-all. Recently, a competitor of mine contracted a whole house window replacement on one of my neighbor’s home and I was naturally curious on their quality of workmanship throughout the project. In a matter of hours, their two man crew had removed and installed nearly 12 double hung window units. Upon close inspection, I noticed that none of the window jambs (rough framing) had been protected by window tape and there were no signs of any other weather stripping or flashing. I questioned the owner of the company about their practices and he said that, "his foreman told him that flashing the new windows was too hard because they couldn't get behind the siding," or words to that affect. That comment, coming from a locally, well established remodeling business absolutely blew my mind!
In construction, as well as in many other industries, time is money. The principal works like this: the more windows that you install the more money that you make. Simple yes, but it can backfire on everyone without acknowledging the inherent dangers of slapping in a new, high tech, super insulated window by an unsupervised and untrained crew. Homeowner's should approach their window replacement project with vigilance and take the time to hash out every detail with their chosen professional installer. I am going to list a few items that may assist some homeowners in their upcoming window replacement project:
• Speak to several suppliers (custom shops to "big box") and learn about the various products available.
• Interview several installers and learn about their practices, references, warranties, and rates (everyone should know the difference between a neighborhood hack and a trained, well groomed, licensed and insured operator). Insurance is crucial... and as mentioned above, without adequate supervision and quality control, a contractor's pedigree is worthless.
• Develop a relationship with your supplier and always have a written contract with your installer.
• Make sure that there is a plan for prep, waste removal, corrective framing and flashing, installation, trim work, painting, and clean up.
• If your local municipality doesn't inspect the window installation (few if any do), then who is, and how will you be apprised? This is an awkward issue, but once the window is covered by trim material, you have to assume that the unit was replaced correctly. A simple walk through by the homeowner and supervisor could be beneficial.
• Establish a scheduled inspection by the installer several months out to ensure that the new windows are operating correctly, and that all seals and trim joints have maintained their integrity.
• If you have the time, check out the NFRC website above for a comprehensive layout on the subject.