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Everything You Need To Know About Windows And Doors

A Q&A with the experts on everything you need to know about shopping for windows and doors.
By Loyd Zisk |

Windows & Doors

Get the expert’s answers to all of your questions.


Q: I have a pile of torn-out magazine pages with creative window and door solutions. What’s my next step?

A: Go to the showrooms, says Frank Manzare, vice president of Statewide Remodeling, Inc. Do not assume that you will see a broad selection of products if you schedule an in-home visit from an installer. And don’t count on your contractor to explain all of the details and differences between products. Get into the showrooms, look around, and ask questions so you can learn about the differences between the various styles of windows and doors. Invest time in learning about different materials, their appearance and function, and how they’ll affect your comfort and your cost. Find out which colors are available. Take charge and ask about all of your options, especially those that impact hot- and cold-air transfer and energy efficiency. You’ll save time and money by educating yourself, and it’s actually kind of fun!

Q: This is probably the only time in our lives that my wife and I are going to buy windows. How do we come up with a budget?

A: The key to your budget is finding the right balance between price and quality, says Kelly Russell, owner of Texas Custom Window and Door, LP. Typically, you get what you pay for, so beware of that “super-special sale price.” Pay attention to the details; they’ll influence your total cost. What comes with that window or door you’re looking at? How does the installer charge? Are there guarantees or warranties? It’s important to understand all the details of a bid, the services promised, and the different types of warranties.

Materials also affect your final price. While composite, wood, and aluminum-or vinyl-clad wood window frames are the most expensive, they require the least maintenance and provide the best insulation. Plain vinyl and aluminum frames are less expensive, but they don’t offer the same degree of insulation and may shrink or expand, depending on the weather. If you get a low bid, make sure it isn’t based on single-paned windows. Most contractors and installers automatically select double-paned models.

Windows and doors are a long-term investment. What you spend upfront on superior materials and a reputable installer will save you money and stress in the long run.

Q: I want to add some personality to my house. How can I do that with my doors and windows?

A: Whether you’re building new or remodeling an existing residence, recognize that windows and doors greatly influence the overall appearance of your home, says Bill Powdrill, owner of Acadiana Accents. Consequently, it is very important to understand the differences in varying window and door styles –and your options for modifying those designs or going the custom-design route. Even before you visit a showroom or schedule a visit from an installer, think about how you want your doors and windows to function and relate to the architecture of your house. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I want my windows to open?
  • Do I want an awning-style window (hinged at the top, swinging open at the bottom)? A casement window (hinged at the side, swinging outward)? A double-hung window (two vertically sliding sashes in the same frame)? 
  • Should my door swing in or out?
  • Is this an exterior door that needs to provide security? Or does it overlook the backyard, where it should let in light? 
  • Do I want to make a decorative statement that ties into existing exterior architectural elements?

The right choice for you should combine design flexibility, structural integrity, and value.

Q: I want something spectacular for my new entry door. I like the look of wrought-iron, but will it be energy efficient?

A: Definitely, says Roberto Diaz,owner of Arte de Arquitectura de Mexico. Individually designed, custom-crafted iron doors are not only beautiful but also practical. Typically, these well-crafted doors hang in front of a separately hinged, low-e, UV-treated, insulated glass door, offering bothnatural light and energy efficiency. While some of these decorative doors are iron from top to bottom, others are available with a combination of wood and iron panels, creating a more traditional feel.

Q: I just got an amazing bid from a contractor. Why shouldn’t I go with the lowest bid? How can I choose the best contractor?

A: This is a highly fragmented industry, full of small start-up companies, says Frank Manzare, vice president of Statewide Remodeling, Inc. And more than 50 percent of home-improvement contractors go out of business within three years. You need the company that installs your windows to stay in business and service your needs in the future. So it is critically important to hire reputable contractors and installers.

Don’t judge the contractor by their bid. Price quotes can vary dramatically between installers for any number of reasons: the materials they’re quoting, whether they break out costs, whether they’re trying to give you an honest appraisal of what the entire job will cost or just entice you to hire them. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples; specify the product you’d like them to quote an installation price for, or ask exactly what product their quote includes.

Consider all of the facts before letting a contractor talk you into choosing a less expensive product, which might require additional maintenance and add to the cost of heating and cooling your home. The experts advise that you stick with name-brand products that carry long-term warranties. And always get warranty and service claims in writing. Verbal agreements can lead to major misunderstandings down the road and become an expensive mistake.

Q: I wonder about my windows energy-efficiency. Is there anything I can do to try to improve that? If I decide to buy new windows, how can I be sure they really are energy-efficient?

A: With any portal, the main objective is to reduce the amount of heat or cold that radiates from and/or flows through either the glass, wood, or metal, says Rick Dietel, general manager of Amersol, Inc. You also want to limit UV rays, as they can damage furniture and carpets. That’s why sun-control films are so popular now. They are designed to reduce transmission of heat through glass and are a great option for updating existing doors and windows. Applying the proper film on single pane glass can provide greater energy conservation than a standard double-paned window. Some films are capable of cutting heat transfer by 55 percent and UV rays by 99 percent.
When shopping for new windows and doors, check the low-e and U-value ratings on the product information. Low-e is shorthand for low emissivity, or how much heat is radiated from the substance. Window manufacturers use invisible low-e coatings to reduce heat. U-value measures how much heat flows through a material. A truly energy-efficient substance will have a U-value of 0.4 or less. Window manufacturers will also seal argon gas between panes to further reduce heat transfer. Another good rule of thumb is to look for the EnergyStar label, which certifies efficiency ratings.


Key Steps in Making the Right Window and Door Selections

Educate yourself. Visit the showrooms. Test out the products. Research the options. Know what you want.

Set your budget early. Many factors can affect your final price. Strike a balance between quality and price. Remember, this is a lifetime investment.

Choose a reputable installer and brand-name product. Don’t automatically go for the lowest bid. Warranties and service agreements are critical; get them in writing.



Acadiana Accents
1204 Noble Way, Flower Mound

Amersol, Inc.
9770 Skillman Ave.

Arte de Arquitectura de Mexico
1105 Dragon St.

Statewide Remodeling, Inc.
2940 N. Hwy. 360, Ste. 300, Grand Prairie.

Texas Custom Window and Door, LP
11419 Mathis Ave., Ste. 206.

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