Sometimes called the “eyes” of a house, windows and doors draw the difficult assignment of letting in light and air when you want them and keeping the elements out when you don’t.
If it’s time to choose windows and doors for a new house, or to choose replacements or additions for a remodeling project, here are some points to consider:
* How many do I need? The rule of thumb is that your window space should equal one-tenth of your floor space. If close-by neighbors compromise your privacy, it may be wise to reduce the number of windows and install a few skylights (they admit five times the light, as well.)
Climate and orientation to the sun count too. Think ahead about how the windows and doors will make the room feel at different times of the year. You may also want more apertures to take advantage of a great view or to capture prevalent breezes. Look at potential window and door placement from both indoors and outdoors.
* What style do I like? Pick a shape or style that matches your taste and your home’s architecture, not just what’s trendy in your neighborhood. Use sizes and shapes that call attention to the structure’s best features--a round-top window in a prominent gable end, for example. Combine stock (ready-made, rather than custom) sizes and shapes to save money as you create dramatic designs.
* Is energy efficiency a priority? Today’s windows and doors shouldn’t just look great. They must also provide a barrier against the elements if you are to remain comfortable and keep your utility bills manageable. Double-pane glazing is standard these days. Specialized glazing and weatherstripping boost the insulation value of windows and doors. Compare the Unit U-value--a new standard for measuring heat loss through glass, frame and seals--of several models and ask your contractor what is appropriate for your situation.
* How do framing components compare? Wood frames require the periodic upkeep of painting or staining, unless exterior faces are protected by vinyl or aluminum cladding. This adds to their cost. Improperly sealed wood units can also warp or decay over time. Outdoor temperatures can be transferred inside through poor-quality metal frames, and they may be difficult to fit, but this material is generally the least expensive. In a similar price range, all-vinyl frames are easy to maintain, but colors are limited and purists object to the interior finish.
In almost all cases, however, technology has led to improved construction methods. Evaluate the look you want against the maintenance you’re able to perform, then factor in durability and price.
* How do I protect my investment? Whatever size, style, efficiency or framing material you choose, look for quality you can count on for years. Look for a reliable manufacturer and dealer and read warranties carefully.