3 Important Details to Check For in New Replacement Windows
Cliche? Maybe. But if the window warranty is lifetime, why isn’t the labor? So hypothetically, if a piece of window breaks or fails, it should be covered? But, how much will it cost to have that completed? Manufacturers don’t generally get involved in that, unless they have an installation division. Only a few companies even do that because it isn’t efficient or practical which helps explain their outrageous costs. So honestly, finding a company that offers better warranties makes the most sense. Repairs can often cost more than the window was worth new, and can often result in multiple trips to make determinations for a resolution. So don’t get bitten by a high repair cost because the labor warranty expired. For a few dollars more, go with a reputable company up front that will put it in writing. It will literally pay for itself. FYI: most companies subcontract their labor, which is why they provide a skimpy 1 year labor warranty.
2. Foam Fill and Wrap
Foam fill and foam wrap can make even mediocre windows great! True poured in “expanding” foam into chambers of the replacement window can greatly enhance the R value of the frame. Some better than others, but it is a wise investment when possible. Beware foam inserts. They really accomplish nothing more than add to the cost. Certain “thin” line frames are unable to accommodate foam fill, and will most certainly suffer the “cold” frame syndrome. While vinyl is still way superior to aluminum, single wall/thin wall vinyl doesn’t reap all the rewards and efficiency as its thicker multi-chamber counterparts.
Foam Wrap around the exterior of the frame has been an ongoing debate in the replacement window community. A few have claimed it is unnecessary, but mostly because their manufacturer doesn’t offer it. I have literally seen installers removing it from the windows, because it makes the windows more difficult to install. Yes, that may be true. But after dealing with air leaks and whistling windows during a rough winter, it will change your mind! Replacement windows are like putting a smooth square block into a rough edged opening. That tiny space around those windows can source a lot of air. A decent window will easily withstand 60mph windows, most double that. But, the space around the window is usually the weak link.
A dirty little secret in replacement windows is to skimp on the sealant. Saving up to $20 per window, a contractor can use lower cost Latex based caulking that will look great and help seal the window. At least for a while. The problem is long term. Those sealants shrink, harden, and crack from the flexing and movement of the home. Latex is fine inside the home. It’s paint-able, and inside is a really mild environment compared to outside. A high quality poly/silicone sealant should always be used on the exterior of the window. Especially along brick. We see it all the time when inspecting old installs from other companies that need to be completely re-caulked. Even worse when the other windows had no foam wrap either. Nova and OSI both make excellent caulking that stretches and stays pliable.
Hopefully this helps someone when navigating the overwhelming aspects of replacement windows.