Renovation Handbook: Windows and Doors
What to know when you plan to replace your windows or doors yourself.
WindowsBefore you begin: Figure out what your priorities are. If you desire an unobstructed view, opt for a fixed (or picture) window. If you want air to circulate freely, take a look at a casement window that opens fully. Also think about how much time you’re willing to spend on keeping the windows shipshape. Wooden frames may need to be scraped and painted periodically; vinyl is virtually maintenance-free.
Know your materials. Select your window frame from four main materials: wood, clad, aluminum, and vinyl. Wood is beautiful and lets you match the interior trim to your molding and baseboards, but it can warp, is susceptible to rotting or destruction by wood-boring insects, and is generally expensive. Clad windows―
typically, a wood frame coated with aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass―stand up well to the elements and don’t require painting. Lightweight, rust- and mildew-resistant aluminum windows are favored by architects for their clean lines and thin frames, but the most affordable options tend not to be very energy-efficient. The least pricey (and most popular) material is vinyl; it’s durable, moisture-resistant (great for coastal and humid climates), and a breeze to care for―but it shouldn’t be painted.
Keep in mind: In bedrooms and basements, you’ll need at least one window that’s large enough to escape through―fire codes require this. Proper installation is critical, so hire a licensed contractor. Installation prices vary greatly. A 24-by-48-inch vinyl window starts at about $75; a custom-made wood window of comparable size can cost upwards of $1,000.
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