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Top Factors for Selecting New Windows

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Posted by: Rate It Green Team

How do you decide what windows you need?  Green Builder Matt Hoots of Sawhorse, Inc. shares some top considerations, but first he reminds us that every client, every job, every building, and every budget is different. So, that means there isn’t one answer that works for everyone.

To help make this decision, Matt has a set of top questions Matt asks his clients.  These include: 

  • Start with overall style and look.  
    • Is the owner more modern or traditional, or are they looking to head in a particular design direction for the project?
    • Do the owners prefer divided lights or a casement look with a single panel of glass?
    • Are there existing doors and windows that must be aligned with, or matched?
  • Are there limitations for the project or building, or based on the particular window?
    • Which brands have the right combination of factors? Often, there’s a size or other limitation that forces customization and eliminates some brands from consideration. 
  • What are interior and exterior design considerations regarding color?
    • Do the owners wish to be able to paint the window, or is a more permanent color? Some types of materials are more difficult to paint, and some are really not for painting.  
  • What project goals relate to windows? For example, Matt explains that certain types of windows will not qualify for a Passive House project, where air leakage and energy efficiency must meet strict requirements. 
  • How long term is this decision?  Ideally, decision makers should select windows carefully, as these are long term decisions.  For example, once you pick a cladding color, you’re more stuck with it, where wood can be refinished.  Matt recommends cold or all fiberglass windows for durability, or even PVC, to last as there’s no rot worry. 

How do you decide what brand or type of window to select?

Again these are long term decisions.  So it’s worth taking care to balance all factors.  

  • Some of your choices will be limited for you, based on your project and window goals and designs.  As you specify what you need, the number of companies that have the inventory you need will likely drop. 
  • It’s often wise to stay in a particular universe. Often it makes sense to continue working with a brand or style that is already on the house, so you’re not mixing too many different design elements.  If you want to completely change your windows and can’t do them all at once, pick the brand that you think you can continue with as your longer-term project continues.  
  • Consider durability.  A name brand window will last 4–50 years, but a “shop built” window might last 10-20, maybe 30 years?


What is the difference between a manufactured, “branded” window and a “shop built window?”

As Matt reviews, the decision to use a shop built window is usually based on price.  Brands offer customization, but there can be limits, so a shop built window can often offer some more flexibility, That said, Matt makes clear that shop windows do not generally last as long as manufactured windows just by the nature of how they’re built.  For a shop window, a builder orders the parts and assembles the windows.  it’s more assembly than crafting a window.  Window manufacturers control much of the process and can create a more seamless process and product.  

There’s an incentive to build shop built windows, as a lower price can help make the building sell. Buyers often don’t know the difference, and value in these decisions.  So becoming educated and asking good questions is important for making smart choices.  We hope this information is helpful on that journey.  What are your other window questions?  What window and energy efficiency advice or experience can you share? Jump in, and add your voice in the comments, or post your own discussion on windows or any other green building topic.  


If you'd like to learn more about windows and energy efficiency, see our additional window discussions and articles!



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