Avoiding Window and Exterior Door Errors

Windows and doors

Windows and exterior doors are some of the first things people notice about your home. They're also some of the most important components in keeping your utility bills down and saving energy. Needless to say, these features must be chosen and installed correctly for the best results.

Unfortunately, many homeowners detract from the appearance of their homes and cost themselves extra money on heating and cooling bills by making some common mistakes. These mistakes can be made when selecting doors and windows, during the installation process, during routine maintenance or even by professionals hired for installation.

Here, we'll take a closer look at some of the more costly window and door mistakes. We'll also let you know how to avoid these errors, saving you time and money.

Choosing the Wrong Materials

Each component of your windows and doors will work together to perform their basic functions. If one of these components is poorly chosen, the entire structure will suffer. This may not seem like a big deal, but if it involves a perpetually chilly home or high utility bills, you'll soon wish that you had made a more informed decision.

Before you begin your project, whether it's a DIY job or a professional one, educate yourself a bit. Know the difference between a single- and double-pane window, and the benefits of each. Read up on the demands of your climate, and choose products which have been shown to stand up to it well. Simply choosing the best and most appropriate material for the job (instead of the cheapest) will help you avoid this common error.

A great example of a material error is trying to use an interior door on the exterior of your home. You would be amazed at how many homeowners try to cut corners by choosing weaker, thinner doors intended for indoor use only. This is always a mistake. Not only are the dimensions usually wrong, giving your entryway an odd look, but an interior door simply isn't designed to withstand the abuse which an exterior door receives. Weather will quickly take its toll on a flimsy door, leaving you in need of a replacement very soon. When you consider how much it will cost to keep replacing the doors, they don't seem like such a bargain.

A more involved example is the choice between the three most common window materials: aluminum, vinyl and wood. These materials all have their disadvantages and their advantages. It's up to you and your contractor to determine which benefits are most important for you. Vinyl windows are generally the least expensive, but you may be happier in the long run with the look of wood. Take all factors into consideration before making a decision about something which will be such a functional and visible part of your home.

Poor Installation

Replacing exterior doors and windows is often done because they have become inefficient. This often means that the area surrounding the window is compromised somehow. A house settles over time, and often this leads to crooked window openings. Adjustments must be made to ensure that a new window sits properly in its opening, and that all flashing and sealing can be installed properly. The same issues can occur with doors. A good contractor, especially one who does a lot of work with exterior windows and doors, will realize this and look for any signs of deterioration which might affect the new window or door's performance. If you're tackling this project on a DIY basis, be sure to educate yourself before beginning.

A very common installation mistake is improperly insulating and weather proofing the window or door. Weather stripping, different types of insulation, caulking and many other elements are involved in making a door or window as tightly sealed as possible. If any of these elements are lacking, the new door or window may leak or be less secure.

Poor Hiring Choices

As with any home improvement project, poor hiring decisions are one of the most common...and costly...mistakes made by homeowners. Windows and doors are integral parts of your home, and they're features you need to rely on for years to come. Don't leave such an important job to just anybody!

Finding a contractor or other pro for your window or door project isn't as intimidating as it may seem at first. Ask for recommendations or use a website which connects pros with homeowners. Avoid simply calling numbers out of the phone book - if you can get more information and trusted opinions, why not start with the easier options?

Licensing, insurance and years of experience are the three most important things to ask about when choosing professional. While a license isn't required to work on windows or doors in most areas, being licensed as a home improvement professional shows a level of professionalism that usually translates into a higher quality of work.

Insurance is essential, for the workers and for you. If you come across a contractor who offers a low bid by cutting corners and not carrying insurance, look elsewhere. Not only does proper insurance coverage ensure that an injured worker will be properly treated, but it also ensures that any medical bills incurred because of that injury won't fall to you. This can happen if a worker is uninsured, since the injury occurred on your property. Contractors who don't' carry insurance aren't making a smart financial choice - they're putting their workers and their clients at risk.

Experience is also key when it comes to doors and windows. While they seem rather simple, a great deal goes into the proper installation of these features. Much of this is never seen, but if it's done wrong, the effects will show up quickly. Ask how long a contractor has been in the business, and ask for references. Websites often allow you to read reviews written by former clients - take advantage of this valuable insight.

Since different materials also require different skills, be sure to ask if a contractor has experience with, for example, installing wooden windows. The processes of installing each kind of window can be very different. Aluminum windows are of particular concern. They are custom made for each client, and most manufacturers will not honor a guarantee unless the windows are installed by a manufacturer-approved worker who has received special training. Ignoring this is a very common mistake, and it can be extremely costly if you need to replace your aluminum windows due to an installation error. 

Doors also have details and intricacies which are easy for inexperienced workers to overlook. As with windows, ask how familiar your contractor is with different materials and types of doors. A metal security door, for example, has different installation requirements than a solid-core wood door.

Ignoring the Frame

A very common mistake, which can lead to compromised home safety, is ignoring the condition of your door frame(s). Even the strongest door can't be truly secure if the frame it's installed in is weak or rotted. Many homeowners are truly stunned to see how dangerous a weak door frame can be. Deadbolts and security chains must have a strong and solid base in order to work properly. If the door frame is weak or compromised, a few strong pushes are all it takes to break into a home, regardless of the strength of the door itself. A burglar can simply rip the locks out of the frame or detach the entire frame from the wall through shoving and kicking.

If your home is older, strongly consider having the door frame replaced at the same time you install a new door, even if the new door fits perfectly into the old frame. For extra security, choose a strong species of wood and secure the frame to the wall with several long screws.

All the same principles apply to window frames. They should be replaced if old or weak, and should be secured to the surrounding wall to minimize a burglar's chances of getting inside.

Take Appearance into Consideration

In order to be successful, a window or door installation needs to take several things into account. Visual appeal is sometimes the only thing a homeowner considers, and this is a mistake. However, completely ignoring how your new doors and windows will look is also a big mistake.

Doors and windows are highly visible features. Ensuring that they are in harmony with the colors and overall style of your home goes a long way toward creating a great first impression. You don't need to go crazy with patterned glass or other elaborate decorative touches. Simply make sure that the color and style complement - instead of clash with - the rest of the house.

Ignoring Energy Saving Options

Windows and doors with a high energy rating are generally slightly more expensive than less-efficient options, but ignoring these options will actually cost you more in the long run. Energy efficient home additions can qualify you for valuable tax credits. In addition, you'll quickly see the savings add up on your utility bills. Don't' make the mistake of ignoring these earth- and wallet-friendly options - the initial cost is money well spent.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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