Windows and doors tips and trends

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Sliding glass wall that leads to patio

Searching for new windows and doors for your home may seem overwhelming. Here are some tips and trends to help with the decision-making process.

DOORS
Architecture—indoors or out—plays a critical role in the style of your home. Doors are a part of that architecture and should reflect a style that’s cohesive with the rest of the home.

Exterior entry
In the past decade, the major advancement in exterior entry doors has been with fiberglass, a material that allows for both beauty and efficiency. Fiberglass is a moldable product, and most doors made of this material reflect the look of solid wood, which is the aesthetic material of choice for most homeowners. Fortunately, fiberglass is not as high-maintenance as wood and is much more energy efficient—one of the most energy-efficient doors available on the market today, says Derek Fielding, senior product manager for Therma-Tru Corp. “Compared to a solid wood door, a fiberglass door has four times more energy-efficient value. And, even with the addition of decorative glass, Therma-Tru doors retain their Energy Star rating due to the triple-pane construction of the glass panels.”

“Homeowners nationwide find that fiberglass doors add tremendously to the curb appeal and aesthetics of a home. Installation of a new entry door also helps enhance the overall value of the home,” Fielding says.

Sliding interior doors
Whereas exterior entry doors are a popular consideration of homeowners, interior doors are often overlooked or purchased only out of necessity. This may change soon thanks to the versatility and growing popularity of sliding interior doors—an option that can turn one room into two with a simple push.

“American families’ lifestyles often change, whether it’s a life change such as a teen going off to college or just a day-to-day change like wanting an open kitchen for a special party,” says Steve Johnson, vice president of L.E. Johnson Products, the maker of Johnson Hardware, which offers sliding, bi-fold and wall-mount door applications. “Demand is growing for homes that are more flexible and easier to adapt to changing space needs.”

The latest hardware technology, capable of moving multiple 400-pound panels, turn sliding interior doors into movable walls that can be used as space dividers. “Sliding panels of wood, metal, glass or fabric are becoming popular design tools for multiuse spaces,” Johnson says. For example, in a finished basement, sliding panels are an easy, versatile alternative to fixed walls. Panels can be used to open a basement rec room for parties, or they can create privacy and division when the room is being used for two different purposes at once—such as a home office for parents and a play area for children.

“This modern track technology—and new thinking about how to use movable walls—can help a family ensure they don’t outgrow their floor plan as their lifestyle needs change,” Johnson says.

Glass walls
For a real “wow” factor, check out the latest in window walls—they’re doors, too! Providing unobstructed views and allowing for a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors, folding glass walls, like those from NanaWall, can be an amazing addition to any exterior-facing room. They allow natural ventilation in mild weather, and in cold weather, they bring in natural light.

Ted Kirk, president of North Georgia Replacement Windows Inc., in Roswell, offers a word of advice for Atlanta homeowners considering folding window walls: “Atlanta is one of the toughest regions in the country to build in because of the humidity levels and the amount of rainfall (more per year than Seattle!). That said, it is not recommended to install full sliding window walls unless you have the proper infrastructure in place,” he explains. “This should include an area that is elevated and has plenty of overhang to shield out the elements.”  

WINDOWS
Most humans are solar-powered creatures. We wake up when the sun rises and begin to get sleepy after it sets. Naturally, since windows allow daylight into our homes, they play an important role in our everyday functions.

Replacement windows
Replacing windows is often seen as a costly and intimidating project, but if you choose energy-efficient products (look for the Energy Star logo), you should see a drop in your energy bills. And don’t let the season be your excuse to postpone a window-replacement project—windows can be replaced in cold or hot weather. According to research by Simonton Windows, the average time a window space is “open” during a replacement job is just 8-10 minutes.

So with the excuses aside, it’s time to start considering the options. Kirk says that traditional double-hung windows are popular among Atlanta homeowners. “Much of the local architecture is Colonial, and homeowners often like to keep the look of their traditional wood windows and divided lites without having to deal with the maintenance issues the old-style windows present,” he says.

When reviewing the energy-efficiency data for your window options, look for the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient and the U-Value of the product. “The U-Value scale is 0-1, so every little bit makes a difference,” Kirk says. “Any company offering a product with a U-Value higher than 0.30 is generally doing you a disservice. Homeowners should demand values closer to a 0.26 or lower for optimal performance.”

New glass technology also offers improved low-E standards and better seals that are more resistant to condensation and seal failure, which Kirk notes is common to the Atlanta area. “For example, foam- and polycarbonate-based seal systems outperform metal-based seals,” he says.

Skylights
Combining privacy with increased natural light, skylights are a great option for most rooms. Now, with the latest product innovations, overhead daylight also can be an option for difficult spaces (such as hallways, interior bathrooms and even closets) with tubular skylights, a less-expensive alternative to traditional skylights that connects the room’s ceiling to an opening in the roof through a tube, directing sunlight into the home. Tubular skylights are offered in several diameters, and homeowners even can combine the skylight with an electric light, making the fixture a source of light 24/7.  

Skylights also have advanced to include solar-powered ventilation offerings, which utilize small solar panels to charge a remote-control system that allows you to open and close the skylight. The beauty of this product is that it requires no wiring, resulting in an easy and cost-effective installation. The solar panel also doesn’t have to be exposed to direct sunlight—it also works on cloudy days and with indirect light. As an added bonus, integrated rain sensors can close the skylight automatically in case of inclement weather.

With the latest advancements and techniques, replacing windows and doors is a rewarding home remodeling project that will boost style and energy efficiency. “Choose the window or door that best suits your home style, material preference and budget,” Kirk says. “If a company only has one style or type of window, get multiple proposals. Windows and doors are not a one-size-fits-all approach.” 

Bilodeau encourages homeowners to take a bit of time to consider two aspects of exterior shutters: surround appeal, giving architectural interest to all fronts of your home, and the fabrication material, ensuring the shutter has a long life and maintains its attractiveness. “There are four basic materials used in making shutters: wood, vinyl, composite wood and PVC,” he says. “Each has their own characteristics—don’t let the initial cost be the only determination.” Bilodeau offers the following ratings chart for shutter fabrication materials:

SHUTTER STYLE
Just as you choose window treatments for your interior, so should you for the exterior—in the form of shutters. “A home’s exterior is the first impression we make to our guests, passersby or potential buyers,” says Rene Bilodeau, owner of Mill Works Furniture LLC,  in Alpharetta, the manufacturer of Weather Works composite-wood shutters. “We want this impression to be good, yet many homeowners leave it to chance, letting the builder decide on the shutters or settle for what was originally there.”

SHUTTER MATERIAL RATINGS

Material Surround Appeal Initial Cost Longevity
Wood Good $$ +
Vinyl Poor $ +++
Composite Wood Good $$$ ++++
PVC Good $$$$$ +++++

GET MONEY BACK!

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 allows homeowners who replace their old windows and doors with Energy Star-qualified products in 2013 to receive a federal tax credit of 10 percent of the cost of the product, up to $500 for doors and $200 for windows. Learn more at www.energystar.gov.

PROJECT PREPARATIONS
Tips for getting ready to replace your windows

• When selecting a window installer, be sure to request paperwork that shows the entire installation team is bonded and insured. Also check the installer’s references and call past customers.
• Remove window treatments (including shades and blinds) before the installers arrive to give them easy access to your windows. Also remove glass ornaments and items that are near the windows, ledges and sills.
• Kids, pets and contractors—they’re like oil and water. For safety’s sake, make arrangements to keep young children and family pets secured and away from workers at all times.
• Double check the paperwork that comes with your new windows. If you requested Energy Star-qualified windows, make sure the stickers are on the product. Your installer will be checking to make sure each window comes in perfect condition, but you should also look over the windows. And, make certain to save your warranty information in a secure location.
• Pre-determine with your installer how much space will be needed to operate inside and outside your home for each window. Some furnishings may need to be moved away from windows or covered up. On the outside, ladders may need to be used in gardens or bush areas to reach the windows for replacement.
• Decide and communicate with the installation team which doors you wish them to use to gain access to your home, which restrooms are available to them and what procedures you feel most comfortable with for home access.
• Ask about cleanup. There can be a fair amount of dust and mess that comes with a window-replacement project. Find out the company’s policy for cleanup after the installation and for removal of the older windows from your home.
—Information provided by Simonton Windows

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