Your Definitive Guide to Buying Windows with Spahn & Rose
Windows are an important detail for the architecture and décor of your home. They can improve curb appeal and create a central focal point for their respective rooms or spaces indoors. But their importance is also functional; they let light and pleasant weather inside while keeping out annoyances like bugs or humidity. Making the most of your windows means balancing style with energy efficiency. Fortunately, Spahn & Rose can help you do just that.
Our window experts have helped create this useful window buying guide. Whether you’re an experienced contractor or a new homeowner, we’ll share tips and tricks for making the smartest choices. This includes the type of window, the materials used, how the installation process is involved and more.
Part 1 – Understanding the Types of Windows and Their Materials
You don’t want to just settle for the first set of windows you come across. There are a number of materials to choose from, as well as a wide range of styles. These choices will impact not just how the windows look, but how they function as part of a home or business. Before you start looking, consider asking yourself these questions:
What architectural styles do I prefer? Windows suited for modern, minimalist properties will likely be very different from those you would put in a historic home.
How do I want to use them? For many homeowners, energy efficiency is a top priority. Some window materials will be more efficient than others at trapping or blocking out heat.
Where will they be installed? Installing energy-efficient windows in south- and west-facing walls can help lower the impact of the more intense heat of the afternoon.
Common Window Styles
While the shape and style of your replacement windows may be restricted to the existing frame, you still have options. If this is your first time buying replacement windows, let’s review some of the most popular types.
Single-hung windows: This classic window features one moveable sash on the bottom of the window. The top sash remains fixed.
Double-hung windows: While almost identical to single-hung windows, a double-hung window allows both the top and bottom sash to be adjusted.
Casement windows: Casement windows are hinged onto the side of a window frame rather than the top and bottom. They close with a latch and can be opened by turning a handle.
Sliding windows: When opened, the one moveable sash slides from side to side.
Awning windows: Awning windows swing open like casement windows but in an upward direction. When fully open, they resemble an awning.
Bay windows: Bay windows are a larger type assembled from several smaller windows. The central window is often fixed while windows on either side may be opened for ventilation.
Bow windows: Like bay windows, bow windows jut out from the window’s frame. Bow windows feature four or more windows assembled into a smooth curve from one end of the frame to the other.
Egress windows: This special type of window allows you to add another bedroom to a basement. These are typically large casement windows, allowing for escape in the event of a fire or other emergency. To install one, you’ll need to have a professional dig near your foundation and cut into it to create the opening.
There is also a wide range of picture, accent and even custom-shaped windows that can offer a unique look or complement different architectural styles. Once you’ve decided what type of windows you want, it’s also a good idea to compare materials. Most modern replacement windows are made from wood, vinyl and even aluminum. Others are manufactured with composite materials and may offer specific benefits.
Wood: A classic for a reason, wood windows are traditional and sturdy. They can help keep the heat of summer and cold of winter outside, making them good picks for insulation. To cut down on maintenance, modern wood windows have metal cladding on the outside to protect the wood.
Vinyl: For an affordable, low-maintenance design, vinyl windows are the way to go.
Aluminum: Another low-maintenance option that’s a good alternative window for modern homes. New versions have extra insulation in the frames to cut down on heat transfer.
Fiberglass: Fiberglass windows made from composite materials can often boast superior strength and temperature resistance compared to vinyl. If you want windows to stand the test of time, consider exploring composite options.
The ideal option may be different depending on whether you’re replacing an existing window or working on new construction. In fact, there are specific types of replacement windows designed for fitting in existing frames that are in good condition. Other types fully replace the frame, which requires the original rough opening with exposed studs. You aren’t restricted to new construction windows if you have the rough opening. In fact, the biggest difference between replacement windows and new construction windows is the presence of a nail fin.
This nail fin is attached to the opening, helping keep the window in place while providing a layer of protection against heat loss, waterproofing and other concerns.
The Difference Between Replacement Windows, Retrofit Windows and New Construction Windows
You may come across multiple types of replacement and new construction windows. Understanding the differences between them can be a little confusing at first, so let’s review these differences.
- Replacement windows: Also known as retrofit windows, replacement windows simplify the installation process by fitting into an existing window opening. They may or may not have the frame included.
- Full-frame replacement windows: For full-frame window replacement, you’ll need to remove the entire window down to the rough opening and exposed studs.
- Block frame windows: Block frame windows include the frame and moving components of the window. They resemble new construction windows but lack the nail fin.
- Insert replacement windows: Sometimes called pocket windows, these can be placed into existing frames if they’re in good condition. They’re often used for window frames made from solid wood.
- Flush fin windows: Popular with stucco exteriors, flush fin windows also sit within an existing frame. A key difference is that the flush fin is far enough out to hide the frame itself. They’re sometimes known as flange windows or z-bar windows.
- New construction windows: With a nail fin, new construction windows can be installed into exposed studs or sheathing. These openings are determined ahead of time, giving the installer more flexibility about what style of window to use.
- Full-frame replacement windows: For full-frame window replacement, you’ll need to remove the entire window down to the rough opening and exposed studs.
Now that you have a better sense of all the types of windows at your disposal, we’ll take a deeper look at both replacement windows and new construction windows.
Part 2 – Replacement Windows
Installing a replacement window could be a part of your next home project, whether you’re expanding your home or significantly renovating an existing space. There’s also the possibility that the window itself should be replaced due to age or damage. Whatever the reason is, it’s important to choose the right replacement window for your needs.
First we’ll cover when windows should be replaced. This may depend on the material used to make the window. Next, we’ll discuss reasons why you may want to replace a window before you have to, such as improving your home’s energy efficiency. Lastly, we’ll help you recognize what to look for in your replacement windows.
How Often Windows Should Be Replaced
Unless something has damaged the window, knowing when to replace it will depend on what type of materials the window was made from. Since most windows are made from wood, vinyl, aluminum or composite materials, let’s compare them.
- Wood: Wood windows can last for 30 years or more when properly cared for. Wood will also need to be repainted every few years as sun and moisture affect its color.
- Vinyl: This low-maintenance, affordable material can also be surprisingly resilient. Vinyl frames may warp in instances of extreme heat or cold but can generally be expected to last between 20-40 years.
- Aluminum: Aluminum resists rust, making them great low-maintenance options for humid climates like the Midwest. You can expect aluminum windows to last between 20-25 years.
- Fiberglass: A sturdy and energy-efficient material, fiberglass windows will resist temperature changes through the years. They can last for more than 40 years with some routine maintenance.
If your windows are getting up in years, it might be time to start looking for replacement options. On the other hand, you may have noticed they aren’t working as well as they used to. This could be because:
- Watertight seal failure: Windows are energy efficient because they trap insulated air in between panes of glass. When the watertight seal breaks down, condensation gets inside and reduces energy efficiency.
- Hard to open or use: As moving parts wear down, using the window can be harder. In severe cases it may not open or stay open at all.
- Rot or severe damage: Water can ruin windows by cracking or warping the frame. Flaws can allow moisture, heat and even bugs into your home.
Issues New Windows Can Solve
While extensive damage can force your hand, there are other, less obvious reasons to replace your windows. If you’ve noticed your home is a little noisy or muggy, it could be because the windows are past their prime. Consider replacement window installation if you’re interested in:
- Reducing noise: Homes near busy roads and other sources of noise could benefit from newer windows that do a better job of muffling sound. Some styles are available with triple-pane glass, which cuts down on outdoor noise.
- Improving energy efficiency: Windows and doors are your home’s main source of energy loss. Rather than deal with a bigger energy bill, some homeowners choose to install replacement windows to keep their homes energy efficient.
- Reducing humidity: Old windows with failing seals can leave you with a damp or muggy feeling indoors. Replacement windows can help ensure your home stays watertight.
What to Look for in Replacement Windows
When choosing your replacement windows, you want to be familiar with what distinguishes a quality window from others. You should also be aware of additions or accessories that can offer the benefits you want most. We’ll help you get started.
- Single-, double- or triple-pane windows: Older homes often have windows with only one pane of glass. Getting replacement windows with two or even three panes of glass can significantly improve their energy efficiency.
- Argon gas: Double- or triple-pane windows can be filled with argon gas to further improve energy efficiency. This gas acts as extra insulation against heat, cold and humidity.
- Low-E coated glass windows: This ultra-thin coating reduces the amount of ultraviolet light that comes through your windows. This is the same type of sunlight that causes sunburn, and it can cause fabrics and paint to fade or increase the amount of heat getting into your home.
- R-value and U-value: These numbers will measure heat energy in different ways. The R-value demonstrates thermal resistance, or how well something can insulate against the flow of heat. The U-value or U-factor measures how much heat actually passes through the material. When it comes to the energy efficiency of windows, the U-value will usually be more important.
Starting the Installation Process
When you have a contractor install your replacement windows, they’ll measure the existing window’s frame as well as the surrounding siding. Problems in these places could influence what type or style of replacement window you end up choosing. If the frame is heavily rotted, for example, it may be best to choose full frame replacement models. Weatherproofing options should also be taken into account since these can help your windows last longer.
Spahn & Rose offers precise measurement services for available window types. For full-frame replacement windows, we may need to take the window and frame out before we can get an exact measurement. It’s important to note that warping in the frame or the house itself could make previous measurements out of date.
Finally, we can help make sure your new windows are measured when they arrive. That way you can be 100 percent certain they’ll fit into the frame or opening before installation starts in earnest. If you’re purchasing replacement windows from a trusted vendor, this is exceedingly unlikely. That being said, it never hurts to be sure. As the saying goes, measure twice and cut once.
If you’re looking for a quality contractor, Spahn & Rose offers a find-a-contractor service that can put you in touch with experienced, knowledgeable professionals.
Part 3 – Windows for New Construction
Many new construction windows are mass produced for home builders and contractors. These windows will be distinguished by the nail fins, also known as mounting flanges. These thin strips are fastened to the wall’s sheathing and hold the window in place while the shims or screws are installed. This fin doubles as a weatherproofing measure to keep wind and water out.
New construction windows may come with one of two types of nailing fin: integral or non-integral. Integral nailing fins are one solid piece, forming an unbroken seal around the edge of the window. This is only found on vinyl windows. Non-integral nailing fins, meanwhile, are an addition to wood, aluminum and fiberglass composite models. These fins feature seams that will need to be sealed during installation.
Choosing the Right Windows for New Construction
When selecting your windows for new construction projects, there are lots of things to consider when balancing cost versus quality. How many windows will you need? What materials will be used for the home’s exterior? Are there additional accessories you’ll need to purchase and install?
Vinyl is a popular choice for its durability and low maintenance. It’s also one of the most affordable options, making them ideal for projects with large volume. While they’re available with white and black exteriors, interior frame colors may be more limited than wood.
Aluminum windows are also low maintenance and an affordable alternative. Since they resist rust, they’re useful for buildings that will be more exposed to the elements. In the Midwest, that includes many agricultural buildings like machine and storage sheds.
Wood windows are a timeless option, but need periodic maintenance to continue looking their best. Many homeowners may prefer a material that’s lower maintenance, which could complicate a large project like multiple homes. However, modern wood windows have aluminum cladding on the exterior, which protects the wood and preserves its beauty. This protects the finish and helps them last longer.
Fiberglass is a premium material that could be a great choice for higher-end projects including larger homes. With the appearance of wood but the resilience of fiberglass, they can offer the best of both worlds. They can endure hot summers and cold winters, making them useful for the Midwest’s unpredictable weather.
For a more in-depth look at identifying the best materials for your clients’ windows, check out our contractor’s buying guide.
Part 4 – FAQ
Do you sell new construction or replacement windows?
We sell both types of windows. Most manufacturers have standard sizes but also offer custom options.
What materials are your windows made with?
We sell wood, vinyl, fiberglass and aluminum windows. Wood windows have an aluminum cladding on their exterior.
What styles of windows do you sell?
We offer a full range of styles, including custom options.
What brands of windows do you offer?
We partner with quality brands and vendors including:
- Alliance Window Systems Products
- Andersen Windows and Doors
- Hayfield Windows and Doors
- Marvin Window and Doors
What type of glass do you recommend or offer?
There are many glass options that are available. Energy efficiency, noise reduction and UV protection are all things to consider. Also, exposure to the elements may differ from one elevation of your home to another. Generally, a good Low-E product is recommended in the Midwest.
What kind of finish comes on the inside of the window?
Vinyl and fiberglass windows will come finished from the factory. However, if you choose wood windows, you can either choose for them to be finished at the factory or the jobsite.
What types of window grilles and patterns are available?
Grilles in-between the glass, Simulated Divided Lite and Full Divided Lite are some of the options available throughout the various window lines. Colonial, Queen Anne and Prairie are a few of the grille patterns that are available, as well as custom options.
Do you install windows?
Spahn & Rose Lumber doesn’t install windows, but we have many qualified contractors we can refer you to if you don’t have one.
Have you done any special projects?
Spahn & Rose has provided quality windows for numerous special jobs, such as golf courses and indoor basketball courts! We recommended impact-resistant glass as a durable solution for these unique projects.
Ensure Your New Windows Are Right for the Job with Help from Spahn & Rose
There can be a lot of information to keep track of when it comes to replacement and new construction windows. Luckily, you have the dedicated team at Spahn & Rose to assist you every step of the way. Whether you’re a homeowner or contractor, we can direct you to the ideal materials and styles based on your project’s needs.
Spahn & Rose would love to hear from you!
If you are interested in building a home or starting a new project, contact your nearest location and we will guide you in the right direction!