Replacement Window Questions

Have a few wooden bedroom windows that are about 30 years old, have some rot on them, and need to be replaced.
Have never looked at window replacements for many a year.
Would like to get some basic info. prior to calling in a contractor.
These are the pretty typical wooden bedroom windows.
a. Do I want to consider Vinyl, which always seem to be advertised ?
There seem to be so many types available like all wood, vinyl over wood, etc. Could someone describe a bit re the pros and cons, and costs, of some of the different types of construction ?
What are the pros and cons of vinyl vs. wood ? e.g., cost, quality, etc. ?
b. Can a few vinyl windows blend in "well" with the remaining house's wooden windows ? Are they paintable, or do you just match the outside vinyl's color to the trim used on the existing wooden windows ?
c. What is meant by "double hung" windows ?
d. Is it worth the extra cost for insulated glass, etc. ? These are not massive windows; just the regular bedroom size
e. what else should I be thinking of, but aren't smart enough to know enough to ask here, or to make sure to ask the contractor ?
f. I realize there are a zillion variables involved, but what (live outside of Boston) are "typical" window prices ? And, as a total price, with installation ?
Thanks, B.
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Robert11 wrote:

Sure, you want to consider it. Consider all your options. Whether you ultimately go that way is a decision you can make later.

There's basically the material the window itself is made of and then there can be material it's clad with either on the interior or exterior or both.
There's wood-clad vinyl, aluminum clad wood (exterior) and I'm pretty sure aluminum clad vinyl (exterior). Getting exterior cladding is supposed to increase durability. Wood-clad vinyl is supposed to look nicer but personally, I think it's pretty obvious that it's just some wood panels on top of vinyl - at least from the windows I've seen like this.

Vinyl generally costs a bit less, though how much less depends on quality. A really good quality virgin vinyl window will only be about 10-20% less than a decent wood window, in my experience pricing these things out.
Of course, YMMV depending on where you live. I live in ultra-expensive Long Island, where prices are jacked up so high to begin with that any price differences are lessened, percentage-wise.

I've read that there is a certain type of paint that can be used on vinyl. But they're not "as" paintable as wood. I think most people just match the color when they get the windows, though, and leave them unpainted. That's supposed to be one advantage of vinyl; you don't have to paint.
As for how they blend, I don't think they do at all. That's one reason I'm going wood for my replacements. (I'm just a bit further along in the process than you right now.) If you're getting all your windows replaced, vinyl might work better, but I just couldn't see having some vinyl windows and then right next to them having wood. I've already got a mix of vinyl and wood from the previous owner so I know it doesn't blend. Vinyl windows are bright white and flat and look like plastic. Wood windows are textured and imperfect (because wood is imperfect) and "thick". They will look different no matter what you do.

The kind of windows with an upper and lower sash - the most common type of window in most houses.

Most new windows will have some type of insulating glass standard. If you mean the argon-filled glass, or some other option, then it's probably not worth it if you plan to only have a few windows done. If you eventually plan to replace everything, it might be more worth it. But it's not really going to accomplish anything if you're not doing the whole house.

Installation. Can be a big part of the expense and supposedly makes all the difference in your end results. Ask a lot of questions about how it's going to be done.
If you're going vinyl, make sure you get "virgin" vinyl (the guy I had show me vinyl windows called it "pure" vinyl - I guess some contractors don't want to use the word "virgin" in front of customers). Virgin vinyl supposedly lasts longer, is physically stronger and is a brighter white.

Size makes a huge difference.
I have a bunch of windows that are approximately 28x50, 36x50 and 28x56 that I'm getting replaced. These are double-hung windows. On average, I was quoted $865 per window from Pella, $500 per window from Alure (for Quantum2 vinyl windows) and around $550 per window for the same Pella wood windows from Lowes. Those are installed prices.
I'm going with Lowes Pella.
If you've got standard size windows, or you're willing to fill in your siding and walls a bit, you can always buy cheap pre-made vinyl windows for like $150 and have them installed. I think that after filling in the siding and walls, though, that you won't even be that far ahead on price and you'll have what I would consider an ugly, cheap window. So you pick your poison. For me, I went with the cheapest price I could find replacement wood windows that fit in my existing pockets; that seemed like the best option. But you should look at everything in your area that you can before making a decision. It can be a big expense so you want to make a good decision for yourself.
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On Sun, 9 Jul 2006 08:08:50 -0400, with neither quill nor qualm,

Vinyl is modern and stark but needs no upkeep at all. It wipes clean and practically nothing sticks to it.
Wood is much more beautiful but needs semi-annual maintenance and/or refinishing to stay looking good. Had you been more conscientious and kept yours up, they wouldn't have rotted (as quickly.) Consider annual home inspections, either on your own or with a handyman or inspector. It can save you a bundle.

If you paint the wooden sash windows to match the white vinyl, they'll blend nicely. Like I said, nothing sticks well to vinyl. ;)

2 sashes, usually movable vertically.
Read all about the windows and then formulate questions you want to ask contractors, Robert.

Insulated (double pane) windows are ABSOLUTELY worth the extra price. The'll save it for you in a year or two of lower utility bills and they'll make the house a lot more comfortable doing so.
I had wooden double-hung sash windows in my last home, a 1939 California ranch style. The windows were a nightmare because of overpainting and rot. When I moved into this newer (mid-60s) home in Oregon, it had aluminum framed single-glazed windows. I spent $2,300 (installed) refitting all new white vinyl windows in. 3x6-footers in the bedrooms and office, 5x10 picture in the living room, 3x6 and 3x4 in the shop (aka garage) and a 6' slider in the dining room. I did my room first and the difference was 5 degrees within an hour of the installation. It was warmer than the other rooms even with the door open. I was sold on the things right then.
My sister lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Her windows were wood/vinyl and cost $11,000 installed. Mine were JeldWen, hers Pella or Anderson. Both the windows and installation were at least double my costs.

I like the low-e windows which prevent more loss of heat in the winter or heat gain in the summer sun. Ask the contractor what types he carries and recommends. In a very cold area like that, they might suggest triple glazed windows. Ask your neighbors what they have. The manufacturers might have something along that line on their websites, too. They ship truckloads of different types to different climates.

I got a real deal here. The window company was an offshoot of his old man's company and he gave me great prices. A typical vinyl window (3x6') at the local home improvement center was $139. He sold them to me for $125 and installed each for $35. Sucha deal!
I weighed the options: 1) that I could take 2 weeks + $100 extra in trim, probably half killing myself doing them on my own or 2) give him the extra $420 to do them in 2 days.
It was a no-brainer to let HIM do them for the roughly $300 more.
You'll probably have to triple those prices for Boston. <g> I heartily suggest that you get at least 3 bids before doing the job. Ask each contractor what they suggest and write it all down. If anyone gives you a new piece of info, use that in asking about your next bid.
Be sure to have them finish trimming and caulking all windows the very same day they install them. If there's a freak rainstorm, the house will be sealed against it.
Also, get every change and promise in writing. It will protect you if something goes wrong. If you have a digital camera, take photos of the before, during, and after for reference. The better contractors might want copies so they can put them in their portfolios along with your kind words for the contractor.
Good luck!
When love and skill work together, expect a miracle.
--John Ruskin (1819-1900)
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Great advice above. Couple small things -
- Make sure you're not in an historic district or have some other requirement (like a neighborhood covenant) that would make you get wood windows.
- If your house is worth a lot of money, don't get cheap windows. Personally, I would NEVER get wood windows again, why buy something that requires maintenance. YMMV !
Here's a big-ass articel from Consumer Reports, it's free here:
Windows Upgrading to energy-efficient windows will likely improve your comfort and your home's aesthetics, but it will take years to recoup the initial outlay from energy savings
You'll probably want to install new replacement windows when you're remodeling, when the old ones have deteriorated, or when you want windows that are easier to wash and maintain.
Modern windows incorporate a frame made of all-vinyl or wood, the latter often covered in vinyl or aluminum, with two panes of glass.
To cut energy use, those panes are separated with air or another gas and sometimes specially coated. Improved comfort in the summer and winter is the major benefit, and slightly reduced heating or cooling costs will be an added bonus.
Window styles include double hung, sliding, hopper, awning, casement, and bay. The major brands are American Craftsman, Andersen, CertainTeed, Crestline, Marvin, Pella, Simonton (which also makes Sears models), and Weather Shield.
Some brands are sold at home centers such as Home Depot, Lowe's, and Menards. But most brands, including Sears, are typically purchased by contractors through distributors. Some windows come in custom sizes; others in stock sizes only. The materials that make a window frame can affect energy efficiency, maintenance, and price.
Price range: $150 to more than $400 for 3x5-foot, double-hung, double glazed windows.
Vinyl. These frames are easy to maintain, but they aren't usually available in many colors. And they are sometimes difficult to match with existing woodwork. Vinyl windows are often sold as a low-cost choice. Many were lower-performing models in our tests.
Aluminum. As vinyl frames have become more popular, aluminum frames have become less so. The biggest drawback is that they allow heat to escape. That can make the area around the window chilly. In places with cold winters, a simple aluminum frame can become cold enough to condense moisture or frost on the inside, but where winters are mild, aluminum can be a good choice for its durability. If you are set on buying aluminum-framed windows, choose ones that have "thermally broken" frames, with insulating material between interior and exterior components.
Wood. For elegance, wood is difficult to beat, although it usually costs more than vinyl and requires painting or staining and other maintenance. To minimize maintenance where it's usually needed most--the exterior side--many manufacturers cover, or clad, the wood in vinyl or aluminum. Wood composite frames--some made from a mixture of wood fibers and plastic resins--are supposed to combine the durability of wood with the low upkeep of plastics.
Important features
Three types of glazing are commonly available: single, double, and triple. A single pane of glass, or single-glazed, allows the highest transfer of energy and offers little insulation against frigid winters and searing summers. Double-glazed windows have two panes of glass. A few manufacturers offer triple glazing.
The gas between the glass has a bearing on the quality of insulation. Plain old air works fine and is standard for some brand lines. Argon gas, which provides better thermal performance, is standard in other brand lines; sometimes it is a step-up option. A few top-of-the-line windows incorporate krypton gas, which provides incrementally better insulation.
Double- and triple-glazed windows are sealed assemblies so they retain any special gas between the panes and also keep out moisture, which can condense between the panes. Should the seal fail, moisture, water droplets, and fogging between the glass panes can occur.
Clear glass lets a relatively large amount of radiant energy (heat in from the sun during the summer, heat out from your home during the winter) to pass through. Low-E coatings (the "E" stands for emissivity, or the ability of a surface to emit heat) enhance the insulation quality of a window by making it reflect heat.
These coatings reduce some of the visible light that passes through the glass and may give a tinted appearance. The view out at night may be impeded somewhat. The coatings can be fine-tuned for different climates--a southern or a northern window, for example.
Most new double-hung windows have tilting sashes, a very handy feature that lets you pivot them inward for easier cleaning. With most, you simply flip a lever or two to tilt the sash inward. But with some, you must pull the sash out of the track.
Mullions are decorative vertical elements that separate panes of glass. To help keep out water, some windows have a thin lip-a strip of wood or vinyl about an inch high-that rises from the sill. You'll need to work around it when installing a room air conditioner.
How to choose
Performance differences. Consumer Reports has found most windows do a very good or excellent job at sealing out a fairly strong wind when the outside thermometer registers 70 F. Only a handful do well at sealing out a high wind when the outside temperature drops to zero. When it's that cold, weather stripping and other components can stiffen or shrink. Our tests have shown that aluminum frames are durable. But we have found windows with frames made of vinyl- or aluminum-clad wood can perform well, too.
Recommendations. If you're replacing windows, choose those that are designed for your region's climate. Cooling costs predominate in southern regions, so look for double glazing and a low-E coating. Give first consideration to windows with a low solar-heat-gain coefficient. The Department of Energy recommends that the number be 0.4 or lower.
Heating bills are of concern in northern regions. Give priority to well-insulated, double-glazed windows that are draft-free. A low-E coating isn't essential in places where summers aren't particularly hot. In central regions, both heating and cooling are concerns. As in southern regions, look for double glazing and a low-E coating. You'll also want high insulating performance and a solar-heat-gain coefficient of 0.55 or lower.
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