Window Shopping…Really I Mean Shopping For Windows – Part 1

Things to Consider When Buying Windows


Whether you are shopping for new construction or replacement windows, the first thing you should know is, not all windows are created equal. The same is true for installation. As the saying goes, ‘you get what you pay for’. When picking windows this is as true as any other time. It doesn’t mean that if you spend a lot of money that you will get the best deal. It is however a good idea to do some research and know what you’re getting – for what you’re spending.

The first thing that you need to do is to determine why. Are you building something new or adding a room? If you’re not building then why do you want/need to replace or add windows to your existing structure? If you will give this some thought, it will help you to make the best decision. Once you have answered the why question it will help you going forward. For help answering this question read my blog about how windows make you feel.

Once you have determined why then you can shift your focus to the what and how. There are three main areas of research to be able answer these questions, material, construction and design. In this post I will review the material question. I will address the construction and design elements in two later blogs.

MATERIALS – The biggest difference in windows are the frames. There really isn’t much difference in glass manufacturing. The glass choices are mostly what types of insulating gas or sun blocking coatings you would prefer. Some windows also offer a third pane option. The frame material is the important thing to consider. There are a several options, with wood and vinyl currently being the two most common. There is also aluminum, steel and fiberglass reinforced composites and who knows what may be next.

411530104_6f5d483b36_oWood Benefits – Stability is the biggest benefit to wood framed windows. The wood frames expand and contract less with changing temperatures. This means the seals where the glass and the frame are connected are more likely to last longer.

Strength is another benefit of wood. Wood is not likely to be structurally damaged by hail or flying debris. If hit it may be dented, but it is unusual for that to cause failure of seals or to decrease the integrity of the window.

Wood Concerns – The most common concern of wood is the cost. Wood windows, especially good quality windows, generally cost more than the other materials.

Rot is also a concern of wood. It is less of an issue now than it used to be. Most wood framed windows now have an external aluminum, or some type of cladding that protect them from the weather. If an unclad window is used it will need to be painted and then be regularly repainted for the life of the window. Most wood windows now are being treated to help prevent water damage.

V5456092177_4ea777747b_oinyl Benefits – One good thing about vinyl is that it doesn’t rot or deteriorate from exposure to moisture.

Vinyl windows are a less expensive way to get new windows. There is a wide price range of vinyl windows and this is due to various construction practices; i.e. thickness of the vinyl, welded or molded corners, how the vinyl is extruded and/or frame construction. This is an area where manufacturer research would be good.

Vinyl Concerns – One concern of vinyl window frames is the possibility of damage from hail and mower thrown rocks. I have on several occasions replaced vinyl windows due to frames broken by hail. The fact that the vinyl frames were broke and the glass wasn’t is something to consider when deciding. The longer the vinyl is exposed to sun and weather the more brittle it gets.

Vinyl expands and contracts considerably with changes in temperatures. This is also something that you should factor in to your decision.

Fiberglass Benefits – One of the newer window frame options is fiberglass. It is a product is a mix of the benefits of both wood and vinyl. It is stronger than vinyl and expands and contracts less. On the other hand, it won’t rot like wood.

Fiberglass concerns – The main concern with vinyl is price. It will be more comparable to wood in this area.


As you can see there is a lot to consider when it comes to deciding what you want when you buy windows and we only covered a portion of it here.

I hope that this gives you some insight and direction when shopping for windows, be sure to come back and learn about construction and design in the next few weeks.

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