What to Avoid When Replacing Windows


Whether you're tackling this particular project on a DIY basis or you've decided to hire professionals, the replacement of windows can be tricky business. Windows are a huge part of not only how your home looks, but also its energy efficiency. Improperly hung windows throughout your house can cost you as much in energy as leaving a single window wide open.

In this article, we'll review some of the most common mistakes made by homeowners while installing replacement windows. Even if you're hiring professionals, it only makes sense to be knowledgeable about potential errors. If you see any of these mistakes being made, don't hesitate to speak up. Not only will you be saving yourself money on energy bills, but you'll also be avoiding the time and potential expense of a premature repair job. In addition to pointing out these common errors, we'll let you know how to avoid them in the first place.

Ignoring the Style of Your Home

Your windows need to match your house. While this may seem obvious, far too many homeowners make the mistake of purchasing the least expensive windows they can find, without even bothering to look around. This mistake has led to countless return trips to the store, which translates into a lot of wasted time and effort.

A surprisingly common mistake involves the purchase of the wrong style of window frame. If your home features windows which slide up, don't buy a replacement window which uses a hand crank. This simple slip-up has sent many homeowners back to the home store, shaking their heads at their own lack of observation.

Before you shop for windows, take a few pictures of your house. A picture taken from the street will give you a good general view of your home's style. Take some closer shots as well, capturing the style of casements and other details. If your home has any custom or irregularly shaped windows, remember that they will have to be specially ordered. Write down the dimensions of all windows before you leave for the store.

If you happen to live in a very hold home, you probably have wooden window frames. You may even have some severely outdated hardware which is literally not manufactured anymore. If this turns out to be the case, don't worry. Many companies specialize in creating hardware which mimics the appearance of old fixtures while still retaining modern safety and ease of use.

Whether you're replacing a single window due to an errant softball or refitting your entire home, remember to keep the home itself in mind when shopping. You'll save yourself a great deal, both in money and in time.

Ignorance of Materials

There are three major types of windows: wood, aluminum and vinyl. Each material has its disadvantages and advantages. Sometimes, a particular material is called for, regardless of the ups and downs. For example, you wouldn't want to install modern vinyl windows on a historic farmhouse; the resulting clash would be unmistakable. However, most homeowners do have a choice, and it pays to make an informed decision.

Wooden windows are beautiful, and devotees swear they last much longer than other options. However, keep in mind that wooden windows are more costly to install. They require much more precision than vinyl, resulting in the need for more skilled labor, which costs more money. In addition, many wooden windows are custom made, pushing the costs even higher. If you truly love the look, perhaps the expense is worthwhile for you. Base your decision on your home's style, your budget and your taste.

Aluminum windows also require custom manufacturing and skilled installation. In fact, most companies will not guarantee their aluminum windows for any length of time if they're not installed by a worker who has been licensed by that particular manufacturer. Aluminum is also very unforgiving of minor mistakes. Extremely precise measurements need to be taken into account, and being “off” by even a hair can result in leaks.

Vinyl windows are regarded by many home improvement professionals as the smartest option. These windows are very forgiving of small errors. A tiny miscalculation will not result in a leak with a vinyl window, since they retain a certain amount of flexibility. In addition, vinyl windows are simply easier to install, leading to a shorter work time which will cost you less.

Hiring Inexperienced Workers

If you do choose professional installation, the potential mistakes don't go away. Making the wrong hiring decision is actually one of the most common mistakes homeowners make when installing replacement windows.

If you're dealing with aluminum windows, you must hire workers who have been approved by the manufacturer. Otherwise, any guarantee or warranty will likely become void. Check and double-check to make sure you hire according to the manufacturer's specifications to save yourself headaches and expenses down the road.

If you're installing wooden or vinyl windows, you have a bit more room to breathe when it comes to hiring workers. However, you still need to be careful. There are far too many disreputable contractors out there, as well as workers who mean well but are simply too inexperienced to do the job correctly.

Hiring a contractor or worker doesn't have to become a lengthy process. Simply ask a few key questions and make your decisions accordingly. If a license is required in your area, does a particular contractor hold that license? Do they carry insurance for themselves and every worker for the full duration of the project? Have they replaced this type of window before? If the answers don't satisfy you, look elsewhere.

Using a home improvement website can give you a wealth of resources which make the selection process easier. On many sites you can view criteria such as licensing and insurance coverage, as well as years of experience. You can also read reviews written by former clients, giving you a valuable inside look at just how a particular contractor operates while on the job. Pictures of completed projects are also sometimes available.

Choosing your professional workers wisely will help you avoid biggest and most common mistake of any home improvement project. Putting in a bit of effort now can save you big in years to come.

Accepting a Too-Low Bid

While this mistake is actually part of the previously mentioned error, it deserves its own mention. Accepting a bid simply because it's the lowest of the bunch is almost always a mistake, yet its one that homeowners make time and time again.

Seeing a low bid is exciting, after all. Suddenly you think that the job can get done for far less than you originally thought, and less than you've been told by other contractors. Before you accept that bid, however, stop to think for a moment. Exactly why is the bid so low? Often, the answer is not one that you want to hear.

Contractors use several methods in order to offer ultra-low bids. Occasionally, these bids are complete lies, intended to secure a deposit from you. Once the contractor gets your money, you may never see them again.

A less despicable (but still negative) method of offering a low bid is to scrimp and save on the project itself. This may mean hiring inexperienced workers, purchasing cheaply made materials, or failing to obtain the proper permits (where required). Some contractors will also rush their workers in order to get the job done faster and at a lower cost. Rushing usually leads to mistakes.

A good guideline is to obtain several bids, at least three, then choose one in the middle. This will help make sure that while you're not over-paying, you're not purchasing a shoddy installation job either.

Ignoring Energy Efficient Windows

When shopping for replacement windows, it can be easy to simply grab and go, purchasing the least expensive windows which meet your needs. However, ignoring the new energy-efficient windows on the market is a huge mistake. While these windows do present a higher initial cost, the savings they offer more than makes up for that initial investment.

Energy efficient windows can save you significant amounts of money in all seasons. They can keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer, requiring less of your HVAC system and therefore lowering your utility bills.

Be aware that in certain cases, specialized training is beneficial when installing these windows to maximize your eventual savings. A knowledgeable home center employee will be able to let you know the requirements of each brand.

Time and Forethought

As you can see, simple things like taking a bit of extra time when choosing a contractor and putting some careful forethought into purchasing decisions can make a big difference when it comes to window replacement. Remember that your windows are a huge part of your home's appearance, and they also play a very large role in the energy efficiency of your home. Whether you're replacing a single window or a whole house's worth, take that extra time when making decisions. Your wallet - and the environment - will thank you.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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