If you swore that this past winter would be the last time you’d put up with drafty, old aluminum windows, this week’s column is for you. Around this time of year, I get calls from lots of people looking for advice and information on replacing their windows. Not only do old windows let lots of warm air out and cold air in, they are also difficult to clean and maintain.
These days, many people are looking to replace their aluminum windows and sliding doors with a more durable option - something made from vinyl, wood or fiberglass that can withstand the test of time. There are lots of options out there and the one you pick will be based on four very important factors: the climate where you live, the amount of moisture and condensation your home is prone to, the kind of aesthetic you want for your home, and the maintenance required to keep them looking great. Keeping these four deciding features in mind, let’s go through the options.
When it comes to temperature, aluminum conducts heat and cold, which is why it’s a popular choice for cookware. Aluminum windows and doors are notorious for transferring the outside temperature in, which makes them very inefficient in both the winter and the summer. Wood fares better in the extreme seasons, but vinyl and fiberglass windows and doors are made for all weather and are built specifically to keep the warm air in and the cold air out. Remember that only 10 percent of the window is the frame, so investing in double pane energy efficient glass is your best option, no matter what frame you go with.
With our humid summers and damp winters, moisture is a major factor in deciding whether to upgrade your old windows and doors. Because aluminum transfers heat, it can attract condensation and moisture, which can lead to leaks, mold buildup, and rot inside your wall. The mold build-up I see around old windows would scare the life out of you, especially when you remember that you’re breathing those spores in every day! If you have signs of mildew or corrosion from your aluminum frames, it’s time to get them replaced.
Then there is the “look and feel” factor. Many people started replacing their aluminum windows and doors with vinyl so they could achieve a more contemporary look with the various finishes and designs that vinyl offers. Of course, aluminum products can be painted or powder coated to match the style of your home, but there will be maintenance to keep them looking great.
That brings us to upkeep. Be aware that any painted product will begin to chip and peel over time. The look of wood is elegant and timeless but it requires regular painting or staining, just like aluminum. Vinyl and fiberglass are very easy to care for and they don’t peel, fade or need to be repainted. These products are not prone to scratches, dings or dents and can give you a longer, hassle-free lifespan if you take care of them properly.
With winter behind us, now is a good time to think about replacing old windows and doors for products with maximum energy efficiency and minimal maintenance. If your home still has aluminum and you’re experiencing some of the problems I’ve mentioned, it might be time for an update.
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.