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Published: Thursday, 2/21/2002

Window shopping

Aside from being a major expense when you build or remodel, windows play an important role in how your home looks and feels.

Whether you're buying windows for a new home or the one you're remodeling, consider these factors: type, style, material, comfort, convenience, security, glass, quality, manufacturer and price. With more than 225 manufacturers of windows and window hardware available in the U.S, this could be a daunting task. But if you do the homework before you go window-shopping, you'll save time and money in the long run.

Begin with the understanding that the aesthetics of all windows involve framing daylight. Just as you would pick a frame for a work of art, select windows that are appropriate to the view and scenery around your home, the quality of your home, your neighborhood and your budget. You might also want to give consideration to window treatments. Some, such as plantation shutters, need extra depth to accommodate their wider blades.

Here's a guide to making some smart window-shopping decisions.

Have an idea of what you can afford before you begin. The cost of windows for an average-size house can range from a few to several thousand dollars. Your contractor, designer or architect can help you set your budget.

Cost-effectiveness, from lowest to highest, goes from aluminum to vinyl to wood.

If you can afford the best, choose the material and then select the glass, hardware and security options from a high-quality manufacturer.

Sliding: traveling side to side on a track

Casement: usually hand-crank operated, swinging outward from a side pivot

Awning: same as casement, but swinging outward from a top pivot

Hopper: same as awning, butmswinging inward from a bottom pivot, such as those common in older factories and basements

Hung windows: slide up and down. Single-hung means that only one sash slides with the other sash fixed in place. Double-hung means that both sashes move.

The architectural style of your home should provide a basic guide to selecting the window style.

Divided lights or windowpanes compliment Cape Cod or country-style homes. Full lights without dividing the window unnecessarily are suitable in contemporary designs and architecture.

Accent windows: geometric shapes or round feature window

Bay windows

Bow windows: arranged in an arc

Corner picture window: with bent glass and without the obstruction in the corner

Clerestory windows: set in a raised element above the roofline of the house

Picture windows and glass blocks

Temperature control is a function of frame color and material, aluminum is the most heat-conductive and least desirable; wood and vinyl are increasingly more efficient. Options that will increase the comfort of your home include dual pane glass, tinting for heat and glare, coating to reduce the ultraviolet ray passage, and low emissivity, called "low-e."

The glazing of your new windows is critical to their performance. In dual-pane or dual-glaze windows, a small space - usually filled with argon gas for insulation - separates two panes of glass.

Be sure to ask for argon gas in dual pane windows, because it keeps condensation from forming between the panes.

Tempered glass, which is stronger than regular glass and doesn't break into sharp points, has important safety considerations in heavy-use areas, such as in or near entryways. Federal law requires that if a window is within 18 inches of the floor or next to a door, the glass must be tempered.

Security is determined by the quality of the hardware and the locking devices. Multipoint locking devices are a must when you purchase gliding doors and large windows. Mid-priced window and door companies usually offer these features as extras, at additional cost. Expensive windows are usually loaded with these features as part of the quality package.

There are three basic price and quality levels from the perspective of a builder: minimum in entry-level housing, mid-range in most of the retrofit marketplace and move-up housing, and high-end in upper-end and custom-home construction.

Look for well-designed windows in the category you choose. Look over the warranty on glass and the window system when you compare brands. Do business with a reputable dealer or contractor who has a good reputation. Check with the building department in your community to find out if a permit is required.

???rdray of Budget Blinds suggests that if you plan to dress up your windows, consider your options during the early stages of your project. This offers you the opportunity to research the many types of products that are available.

"The beauty of your completed project is enhanced by the treatments you choose," states Cordray. "Homeowners who have planned for the look and style that really suits their needs, budget and preference, don't end up having to make concessions as an afterthought."

Comfort and aesthetics are very important when it comes time to dress the windows you've selected for your home.

Privacy, light and comfort are also factors that come into play in selecting window treatments. The cellular shades that Elden Draperies manufactures and installs provides all three.

Owner Gary Grubb says, "When the shades are dropped, 96 percent of the radiant heat of the sun is blocked, keeping you cool in the summer. The insulating quality keeps your heat in and the chill out during the colder months. You get these benefits without sacrificing privacy or eliminating natural light from coming through your window."



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