It’s been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. There’s just something about connecting with the world around us, including other people that lends to a sense of “togetherness” that cannot be ignored. Looking into the eyes of your Denver-Metro neighbors, friends, and family has a tangible effect on both parties. Eyes are important.
A home’s windows represent one of the most important human senses. Like eyes, windows are important. Without them, we live in storm shelters without the positive benefits of the sun, connection to our neighbors, or the beauty of the world around us. Yet, most people don’t give much thought to the windows in their homes. Unless there’s a problem, they’re often ignored. This article will help open your eyes to the practical beauty and technology of modern windows and what you should look for when it's time to upgrade yours.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Light, heat, fading, and altitude
Size matters: Understanding the space you are trying to create in your home is important. Is it worthwhile to increase your window size? If you have the right contractor, windows and sliding glass doors can increase height and width, bringing more light into your kitchen, living areas, or bedrooms and letting in more of Colorado’s breathtaking views. This is your home. Why not consider the options? Instead of just new windows to replace the old, you could also give your space an entirely new feel (more modern or classic) with a little extra attention and cost.
Location-specific needs: The demands of the market to create windows that perform while providing amazing views are high, and many window manufacturers have responded accordingly. Using different window coatings (from the manufacturer) and internal technology, two identical-looking windows can block the sun’s heat and material fading properties on a south-facing window. In contrast, the north-facing windows can increase heat from the sun while blocking more of the cold. Impact-resistant windows can protect your home from errant golf balls (or golf ball-sized hail). Does your neighbor have noisy dogs? Some windows have quieting technology that can make you hate your neighbor a little less. You should consider all options when shopping for windows to find those that fit your specific needs.
Living a mile high: Colorado is unique and beautiful. Like anything else uniquely beautiful, it can be a little high maintenance. Depending on your home's or cabin's elevation, your windows will need special treatment. The “thin air” here can cause the argon gas (insulation value) between the panes to leak. Don’t buy a generic window and think it will perform in your Rocky Mountain High home.
It's not just the altitude: In September 2020, parts of Colorado saw temps of 104 degrees. Two days later, almost 4” of snow was on the ground. If you have lived in Colorado for a long time, you know you can wear shorts and a T-shirt during the day and get frost overnight. Temperature swings create problems for building materials, including windows. Rapid swings in temperature can cause windows to crack, warp, sealants to fail, etc. Therefore, materials and processes matter. The right window will last decades. The wrong window will cost you money in repairs not too far down the road.
Vinyl, Wood, and Fiberglass
Vinyl: Colorado's most popular choice for residential window frames due to the relatively low cost. Vinyl windows have advanced in recent years, including specific manufacturing, which provides some protection against harmful UV rays, which can make vinyl become brittle quickly. Vinyl is still, however, more brittle than other materials and doesn’t provide the strength of wood or fiberglass. The frame must be strong enough to hold the weight of the glass in place, so you’ll likely need more vinyl and less glass on a standard window. This can mean you have the same window opening with a smaller view.
Wood: I have always been skeptical of wood windows, especially on the front range of Colorado. Humid days can make wood doors hard to open. Shave that door down under humid conditions, and you’ll need more weather-stripping when it dries out. Yes, Colorado is dry compared to many other states, but Denver-Metro experienced ten days of 80% humidity in January 2022. It’s common for us to experience very high humidity at any given time during the year. If you think this makes wood windows a problem, you are right. However, some companies kiln-dry the wood, treat it, and create almost hydrophobic wood. Still, any exposed wood should be treated regularly like any other maintenance on your home. The benefit of this window type is its overall beauty and strength.
Fiberglass: One of the best performers in frame materials is fiberglass. Lab test results from a leading brand’s fiberglass frame are 100x stronger than its competitor’s vinyl hybrid frame. The results were shocking. This means far more hail resistance and far less need for massive frames to hold large panes of glass. Overall, this is a beautiful option. This material has minimal expansion or contraction, and it performs well in our state’s dynamic climate.
Your home is your refuge from the storms and chaos of life. Your home is what you make it, so make it both beautiful and functional. Different window manufacturers have different specialties. Don’t get sucked into buying a window based on the personality of a salesperson or their catchy tag lines or commercials. Some window companies are great marketing firms with overpriced products that don’t perform, especially in Colorado. Contrary to what a window salesperson will tell you, new windows will not greatly increase the value of your home unless it provides a dramatic and visible change. Be certain you are working with a salesperson who consults versus trying to sell you a one-size-fits-all product. There are a lot of options out there. Get what’s right for you.