In this new content series called 'Contractor Connections', we aim to answer questions from homeowners from our wealth of experience working in the residential & commercial wood framing industry. The first article in this series addresses a typical question we often hear "which custom window brand is better for my home?" - an update from our earlier article on custom windows we had written in 2019
Get The Best Window For Your New England Home
Home improvements are an important part of adding value to your home. And when it comes to value, you need to make sure that you have the right window style that perfectly complements your home. Whatever the architecture, there are custom windows that fit elegantly with the design of your home and give you a higher return on investment. In this article we take you through why custom windows are important, the different materials used in windows, how to select the right option, and how brands play a vital role.
Why Are Custom Windows Important?
Here are some reasons why custom windows make a difference to the value of your home:
Aesthetic Appeal: When you replace your weathered windows with custom windows, your curb appeal goes up and there is a significant increase in the perceived value of your home.
Long-Term Savings: Custom windows keep you warm during winters and cool during summers, saving energy on heating or air-conditioning and getting you lower electricity bills.
Natural Lighting: You can use custom windows to optimize natural lighting and space. Take your pick from floor to ceiling windows, bay or bow windows to give your home a quality makeover.
Now that you know how custom windows add value to your home, you need to now understand how to assess the efficiency of these windows:
U-Factor: This measures heat transfer and decides the insulation capacity of the window. A lower U-factor means better insulation. The U-factor should be verified by the National Fenestration Rating Council. The full unit U-factor is what is relevant. To reduce heat, cold transfer and condensation, spacers are required at the edges of the window. Warm edge spacers made of non-conductive foam polymers help lower humidity and reduce condensation.
Low E-Coatings & Argon Gas: For higher efficiency, you need low E or argon-filled windows. Low E or emissivity decides how well the windows reflect heat. It allows natural light but minimizes the entry of infrared and ultraviolet light. Argon gas also minimizes heat transfer and helps in regulating the temperature of your home through summer and winter. It also keeps out 90% of UV rays. Though the UV factor can be lowered to 0.19 using triple pane windows, it puts an extra load on your windows and increases the custom window cost. So your best bet would be using Low E Cardinal glass double-pane windows that would be as effective as triple pane windows
Different Materials For Windows & The Best Installation Options
Now that you are familiar with U-factor and glass packs, let us understand the different options for materials and the best choices for you.
It is always advisable to go with top brands and the choice is between Marvin vs Andersen vs Pella. There are varying grades of vinyl - good, better, or best. The best option gives you better strength, improved weatherstrip, superior quality glass packs, and a lifetime warranty. Select a full unit U-factor of 0.30 or under. Vinyl gives you a lower custom window cost compared to wood or fiberglass. Recaulking would be required with the drying of the exterior line of caulking. For optimal results, go for the best quality vinyl.
Nothing beats wood when it comes to the appeal as it is solid, natural, and goes well with the architecture. Wood is generally coated with fiberglass, aluminum, or vinyl that are low maintenance. Extreme weather causes water damage to the wood from condensation and UV damage. The bottom corners will have to be treated with steel wool and varnish. These windows come with a 10 to 20-year warranty, with a 20-year warranty for the glass. Custom windows in wood give you the option of decorative hardware and grids. Choose the best quality of wooden windows that provide you with the lowest U-factors.
This material is a combination of wood fiber and vinyl. One of the top window manufacturing companies, Andersen, has a Renewal brand of windows, where the composite material used is Fibrex. It is tougher than Vinyl, has a matte finish, but the custom window cost is higher.
With the lowest contraction and expansion, and the highest strength, fiberglass custom windows have narrower frames and sashes. They admit more light and you can either have an all fiberglass window or combine it with wood. You can have the wooden look and feel with Infinity fiberglass windows from Marvin. While the custom window cost is high, you also get a warranty of 10 to 20 years.
Installation Methods For Your Custom Windows
This installation method works best with double-hung windows that have wood inside and out. It is easy to install these windows with easily removable sashes creating a flat frame for a new window. The aluminum covering on the exterior trim keeps maintenance costs low. Rot in the exterior window can be corrected with new wood.
Full Frame Replacement
You would need a full-frame replacement if the exterior material of your window is either vinyl or aluminum. The window would have to be taken out completely, leaving behind just the opening in the wall. A new window would then have to be installed on the exterior portion of your home using a nailing flange. If you are looking for a new color scheme or want a different interior casing, go for a full-frame replacement. This installation gives you a new interior trim.
If you want your original glass size to remain unchanged, along with water-proofing solutions, a full-frame replacement is recommended. The custom window cost would go up, especially if removal and replacement of the exterior are required to reach the present nailing flange. If you have trim, this won't be a problem. This installation does not work if you have a brick opening, and regular commercial caulking to prevent water intrusion would be required for a lifetime.
If condensation has damaged your window sash, a cheaper sash replacement instead of a full-frame replacement is an option. For casements or crank-outs, you would need the existing window manufacturer to be in business. All you would need is new sashes and new stops or weatherstrip as required. If you have double-hung windows, a sash replacement kit including new side balancers is an option. However, an insert window with a frame is the best choice.
The Best Brand For Your Home
Here is a comparison between Marvin vs Andersen vs Pella, to help you decide what's best for you.
It is no surprise that for most homeowners in Minnesota, it's always the decision between Marvin windows vs Andersen windows as both these have a presence here. Based in Iowa, Pella comes a distant second. Whether it is Integrity that uses a real wood interior and fiberglass exterior or Infinity that has fiberglass with a stainable interior, Marvin scores on craftsmanship. They don't use vinyl in any of their products.
The Ultimate Double Hung by Marvin is worth its price. Your best bet would be combining their Infinity brand with Everwood interior to give you the feel of wood. The only problem with their real wood lines is the use of metal spacers.
This is the only company that uses vinyl-covered wood on the exterior. The features are obvious - low-maintenance and durable exterior. Double Hungs by Marvin is better than Andersen, but the Andersen casement is a better bet than any real-wood Marvin. The vinyl-covered sash in Andersen helps avoid issues between wood and glass.
The Renewal line from Andersen uses Fibrex, a combination of wood and vinyl. Renewal is made using by-products from other lines. You could also try their Renewal Lite model with white as the only color for interiors, it is a value for money proposition. Avoid the single-hung model with a stationary top sash because it doesn't come with a tilt-out feature that's needed for cleaning. If you need to clean the window from inside, their sliders and casements are a better deal.
Never talk about Renewal when negotiating with a framing contractor because they know that even with a high-markup, they will still be cheaper compared to Renewal. When comparing the cost of Marvin windows vs Andersen, both have their high-end offerings and the premium is worth it.
If you are looking for a one-stop-shop solution, Pella is a great choice. You can take your pick from wood windows with aluminum, fiberglass, and 3 types of vinyl. Choose the best grade and check the U-factor when going for vinyl. A great option is their Impervia line, which is all fiberglass with solid color interiors. The Architectural line offers a finely crafted wood lines that come at a premium. If you need blinds on the glass instead of your home, try the Designer series. Avoid the entry-level offering, Proline, since lack of space between the glass and aluminum spacer damages the wood.
If you are thinking of improving the value of your home, you need to give custom windows a serious thought. Their aesthetic appeal aside, these windows help you stay comfortable in the most extreme weather conditions. Whatever the design of your home, there are custom windows that fit perfectly into it.