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FAQs on remodeling and more...

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Windows and Doors                                                  Back to Main FAQs

What is the difference between a full frame and an insert?

When it comes to replacement windows, you usually have two choices to consider.  A full frame is simply that, a window and entire frame is installed into the existing opening requiring new interior and exterior casings/trim to be installed at the same time.  Most of these installations yield the best possible weather-tightness but not always since how the new window is sealed into the existing wall can be an issue. Another factor is whether the new frame and window sizing will affect the amount of daylight currently entering the area from the window. This change is usually minor and almost always is offset by the new window being so efficient and easy to operate.  Inserts are used less if the budget allows for a full replacement since these windows are designed to fit within the existing frame and can actually take away more light perhaps depending on the type and style and with this installation it is harder to get a more energy efficient installation since nothing is being done with how the original window was installed.  Generally speaking, the older the home the more beneficial the full frame replacement might be but if the home is newer and inexpensive windows were installed, they too can be good candidates for a full replacement unit.

Will new windows keep the house warmer?

New windows do two things better than their older cousins.  Not only do they seal better, allowing less air to move in and out around the frame and the sash but they also have better insulated glass options and the newer coatings and optional shading systems really go a long way to increase the overall energy efficiency.  A “warmer” window also feels better to be next too on a cold evening and a “cooler” window feels better to be standing next too when the sun is beating down on the glazing.  You would be surprised at the difference in both situations with the new window and how comfortable it will feel.

Wood clad, vinyl, fiberglass, steel, wood, HELP?

In regards to windows there are so many options to choose from it would be highly advised to consult with a full service remodeler to assist in making the proper decision what window type to consider installing.  Simply calling a specialty window company will all too often only give you a chance to be introduced to that company’s selected line(s) of manufacturers and more importantly might limit your options to “slip in” units.  These types of replacements fit within the existing frame that stays installed in the wall. On older windows, say pre 1950, there were often sash weight pockets adjacent to the window frame that contain large voids in the wall. These pockets are hard to access and that makes insulating them and controlling air flow difficult.  What a sham to install a replacement window only to have the existing frame and possible voids to not be addressed at the same time.  There are some acceptable replacement alternatives out there but the area surrounding the replacement needs to be taken into account in order to insure your thermal comfort in the window area as well as being as energy efficient as possible. More times than not the best type of window replacement involves removal of the frame as well as the sash.  A few extra dollars spent now will yield beneficial long term payback in comfort and efficiency.

Is a patio door wise to use a main entrance?

Generally we would suggest avoiding a patio door as a main entrance for several reasons.  First of all sliding doors can be difficult doors to access and operate. This is quite often a function of the age of the door, the weight and the type/condition of the hardware and track.  Couple that with a screen door and you have even more obstacles.  Swinging patio doors are a bit better but can be a bit difficult as well as this door style often has a high threshold as part of the door system. The most important reason to perhaps reconsider using a patio door as a main entrance is that the operating and locking hardware tends to be proprietary and sometimes difficult to use the lock or locking mechanism.  Being proprietary for the most part also makes it virtually impossible to key this door to conventional locks that you have throughout the rest of your home.  This would then require you to have multiple keys to access your home as well. 

What are the differences between sliding and French (double) doors?

Besides the obvious difference in operation there are other differences that make selection of the right door important.  Sliders have the advantage of not requiring swing clearances like any type of hinged door.  This is important in tight spaces or narrow rooms.  Sliders do have the reputation for not being the most energy efficient door system so select a high quality door with good air infiltration ratings.  French (double hinged) doors are generally more energy efficient but they too have published energy efficiency ratings and are worth checking out for both air infiltration and thermal performance.  We recommend inswing type doors since outswing French door panels can easily get caught in the wind and can become dangerous.  Screen door option need to be well understood before selecting this type of door as there are several good options to keep the bugs out.  There are so many combinations of glass doors, sidelights and operating mechanisms it is well worth asking your designer or remodeler what door(s) are appropriate for your project. 

What is the most energy efficient and easy to use window type?

We seem to constantly debate this in our shop, especially when new product introductions are made.  Basically, the most energy efficient window or door is one of high quality from a major manufacturer that has been properly installed.

The best performing windows are fixed sash in a solid frame that can be sealed into the wall system with the weather resistant barrier, proper sill and flange flashings and caulking to seal it tight.  As far as operating sash, casement and awnings are the next best followed by double hung windows.  The least efficient and one not seen too much in colder climates is the slider window since the overall efficiency is not all that great.  Again, most major manufacturer windows work pretty well but the true success in achieving the best energy efficiency is in properly installing and sealing/insulating the window into the properly designed and constructed wall assembly. 

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