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Windows Buying Guide

by: Rachel Machacek | Log Home Living There's a long list of items that you just shouldn't skimp on when you build your log home. Windows are at the tippy top of this list, and fewer things will bear as much weight for a number of reasons. For starters, windows have a tremendous aesthetic influence […]

by: Rachel Machacek | Log Home Living

Log Home Window Buying GuideThere's a long list of items that you just shouldn't skimp on when you build your log home. Windows are at the tippy top of this list, and fewer things will bear as much weight for a number of reasons. For starters, windows have a tremendous aesthetic influence on the way your house looks and, depending on the style and shape of your windows — and even the grilles you choose — you can dramatically alter your home's architectural identity.

Even more important than looks, though, is performance. "About 30 percent of the energy used to heat and cool homes is lost through the windows and glass doors," according to Richard Garwood, owner and president of Montana Sash and Door. That's why investing in an energy-efficient product is essential. "You want to get a U-Factor as close to .30 as possible," Richard advises. The U-Factor, a.k.a. thermal transmission, measures the rate of heat loss through a window. (The lower the U-factor the lower the amount of heat lost.) The National Fenestration Rating Council, which provides information about the energy performance of windows, rates this as well as the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The SHGC measures the rate of heat gain. When buying windows, always look for the NFRC label that includes these numbers. "There are a lot of windows that aren't rated, Richard says, "and I think it's a big mistake for clients to put an unrated product in their home. It's up to the builder and homeowner to do their home work." Another seal of approval to look for is the Energy Star label, which provides the government's energy performance rating system. It's important because it gives product recommendations by four different climate zones that will influence the type of window you need.

A good window that's maintained properly should last at least 30 years, notes Richard, and he recommends going with an established manufacturer that has a portfolio of successful projects and references. Likewise for the window distributer, who should be well established with an extensive track record of projects in your area, and have a long-standing relationship with the manufacturers they represent. "Anyone can build a window that lasts five years, but it's at 10 years that you see problems like glass and seal failures with condensation between glass panes," Richard says. "Every window company has seal failures, but a good company will stand behind it."

This is where the warranty comes in — look for 20 years on glass pro-rated (if you have a failure after 18 years, you may pay for some of the glass replacements) and 10 years for the fenestration. "It's imperative that the manufacturer be backed by significant resources so that your warranty is supported for the duration," Richard explains. "It's the service of your window package by the distributor before, during and after the sale that will ultimately determine your satisfaction with the product."

Style Gallery

Hung Window
Pella's Architect Series® mahogany window with paprika stain

This is the classic window style with either a lower sash that slides up to open (single-hung) or both the upper and lower sash open (double hung).

Slider Window
(Anderson photo)

Composed of two sashes — one is stationary and one slides to the left or right on grooves or tracks.

Casement Window
(Pella photo)

Features a one-hinged sash on one side allowing the other side of the window to swing out.

Bay Window
(Pella's 250/450 Series wood windows available at Lowe's®)

Arches away from the home providing a sweeping view and a ledge inside for display items or a window seat.

Awning Window
(Loewens Studio Push Out Awning window)

Hinged at the top and swings out. Great for rainy climes.

Garden Window
(Simonton garden window)

Similar to bay and bow windows in that they extend out from an exterior wall. Lets in more light and has a ledge for houseplants and herbs.

(Pella open skylight)

Located in the roof, skylights bring in sunlight from above. Some are operable, and some are designed with "tunnels" to access rooms with no exterior roofline.

Window Materials
Just as much as the glazing, the materials that make up the frame and sash will determine overall efficiency — and looks.

Vinyl: Made from impact-resistant PVC with hollow spaces inside that make them resistant to heat loss and condensation. Can distort in temperature extremes. They can't be painted and color can fade over time.

Wood: Doesn't conduct cold or allow for condensation as much as other materials, though it can shrink and swell, and eventually rot if not protected. Needs regular maintainance.

Clad-wood: These windows are the best of both worlds with wood inside and an aluminum or vinyl exterior, which covers both sash and frame. Keeps window maintenance-free for years. Won't rust or rot.

Aluminum: Thin, light and easy to handle. Insulated with a thermal break of extruded vinyl, which helps reduce heat loss and condensation. Durable.

[TIP] Budget Business
When buying windows, a good mantra is you get what you pay for. (Read: This is not the area to skimp). For a good-quality window and exterior-door package (excluding front door), a reasonable investment is about 5 percent of your overall budget. Keep in mind, too, that there are tax credits available when you go with energy efficiency. For windows with .30 or less U-Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) you're eligible for up to $1,500 tax credit in 2009 or 2010 from the U.S. government.
Comment Feed

One Response

  1. You didn’t mention fiberglass windows which are the best of all worlds and aren’t affected by temperature, moisture and are paintable if need be. Many of the major manufactures are carrying them now.

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