Choosing Replacement Windows

Replacement windows for your home can be significant investment in both time and money. There are many manufacturers, window types and styles, and a wide price range from which to choose, and the decisions you must make can seem endless. Which manufacturer should you go with? Do you want aluminum windows or vinyl windows? Should you choose hurricane impact resistant windows or non-impact windows with hurricane shutters? What about double pane-thermal insulated or thermal insulated with hurricane impact resistant glass? How can you take advantage of the new Energy tax credit of up to $1,500.00? Of course, as you make these choices you’re reminded that buying windows is like buying anything else: the more items we put in our ‘cart’, the higher the price. Choosing the right windows and a reputable company to install them for you can take a lot of time and homework, so read on for some helpful information to get you well on your way.

Choose a Window

Before you decide on a manufacturer, it’s important to find the right window that fits your needs and wants. Not all manufacturers make all types of windows, so choosing a window first prevents you from being limited to the windows in any given manufacturers’ line.

When deciding on the perfect windows, take a little time to decide which features you need for your situation and which benefits you want to include in your new window purchase. A must for many homes here in Florida is hurricane impact windows. As opposed to single-pane windows with hurricane shutters (or boarded up with plywood), hurricane windows are always ready to protect against high winds whether you’re home to put up the shutters or not. Impact windows not only provide much needed protection during a storm; they can also be very energy efficient — some of our brands can save you as much as one month of electricity. Another benefit is security against home burglary, a rapidly increasing crime in these economic times. The same shatter-resistant construction that protects against hurricanes also prevents thieves from breaking into your home through your doors and windows, giving you total piece of mind.

Another important consideration in choosing windows is that building codes in many areas of Florida now require impact resistant openings for your doors and windows. Furthermore, it is the shared opinion by many in my industry that with the way the insurance industry is headed in Florida, homeowner insurance will become very difficult or prohibitively expensive to obtain without having the window and door openings of your property “hardened” (i.e., installing impact resistant products). Hurricane windows are definitely worth the investment, and once you decide they are the right way to go, it’s time to make more decisions.

Choosing Frames

In Florida, some other considerations are whether to choose an aluminum frame window or vinyl. The majority of hurricane impact resistant windows are aluminum. It is stronger and therefore easier to build the window to the standards needed to obtain Miami-Dade product approval for the impact window rating. There are very nice vinyl impact windows on the market that do meet code requirements, however expect to pay a premium for them. The difference between aluminum frame and vinyl windows (besides the price) is that vinyl conducts far less heat than aluminum, making vinyl much more energy efficient.

When considering frame construction, keep in mind that welded frame windows are usually stronger than comparable units which are screwed together; this is especially important for vinyl windows. The welded frames help to hold the unit flat and square during the installation process and makes installing them much easier. Welded vinyl frames can also offer a virtually air tight frame construction which again can benefit the insulating properties of each replacement unit. A comparable welded frame will usually cost more than mechanically fastened units but the extra expense will pay off when your sashes work freely and properly without unnecessary friction. There’s nothing worse than sticky and poorly operating sashes.

Determine ahead of time which colors will match your home’s interior and exterior the best. Decide if you want just simple white windows, or brown or tan cladding. Do you need a tint or heat-reflecting Low-E glass? Do you live close to the ocean and need special turtle glass? These are all important considerations. You must also decide how you want the window to operate and function. Do you want single-hung, double-hung, horizontal sliding windows or maybe casement? Some of your decision will be based on architectural appeal, some of it price, and some of it operational. For example, when choosing impact windows I prefer horizontal sliders over single hung simply because the impact glass is heavy and sliding them open and closed is just easier, and I think they have a very nice look.


While windows can be installed by the homeowner, unless the homeowner is a qualified contractor with window experience, it’s never a wise idea. Hiring the budget handyman to install your new windows can be an even bigger mistake. Even the very best quality window will not work properly if it is not shimmed, level, plumbed, attached and installed properly. Improper installation is often not readily apparent but if there is a slight flaw in the installation, the windows in which you invested so much time and money will eventually fail to operate properly. It may be a year or two or three, well after the installer is gone — and so is your warranty. Finding a qualified company to install your windows is well worth taking some time and doing a little research, before you buy your windows. It is much easier to avoid future problems before you start rather than trying to fix them after they have already occurred. As a licensed contractor, I have seen the result of many botched installations and do-it-yourself situations gone awry. In the end, you’ll be happy that you made an educated decision on your window purchase and will feel confident that they were installed properly by an experienced and qualified company.

It may sound like a lot of information and choices, but if you can get a reputable window company to help you, all these decisions get much easier. A reputable window company can guide you through all of your options fairly quickly while answering your questions and concerns.