How to evaluate windows for new construction?

jaymieloApril 16, 2007

Please help a newbie. We are in the process of deciding on windows to be used in construction of a new home. We are located in Nebraska, so we will spend half the time heating and half the time cooling the home. We want a good quality window with high efficiency that will last well. We will be using casement or awning windows with picture windows and/or transoms above. The home has a lot of windows in large configurations on the back where it might be rather windy at times.

We are looking primarily at Andersen 400 Series or Jeld-Wen Premium Wood Tradition Plus windows although Pella and WeatherShield have also been recommended by different builders.

My questions is, what should I be looking for? What questions should I be asking the window representatives? What specifications are important to look at and compare? Does anyone have any input of the quality of the Jeld-Wen and Andersen windows mentioned above.

Thanks in advance for all your help. I realize there are a lot of varying opinions on windows. I just need to know how to go about making an informed decision.

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Welcome jaymielo,

First, consider the different companies, their reputation, their warranties. No warranty is worth the paper it is written on if the company doesn't stand behind it.

Andersen has a vinyl clad wood window. All the other companies that you mentioned have alumunum clad windows. Do you have a preference? Aluminum clad allows a lot more color choices - if that is an issue for you.

Glass package - LowE2. No argument, you WANT the LowE2 coating. All of the companies that you mentioned have LowE2. For some of their lines it is standard, for some it is optional.

Wind - check the air infiltration numbers on the windows that you are considering. To a lesser extent consider DP ratings.

Windows are tested for air infiltration simulating a 25mph wind or a 1.56PSF pressure load - air infiltration is treated separately from both water infiltration and structural and it is independent of the design pressure of the unit. Said again - the air infiltration rate in a window is not based on the design pressure rating of the unit.

Air infiltration in a window is measured in CFM for Cubic Feet per Minute. The lower the number, the better the performance - in stopping air infiltration at or below 25mph wind.

Both water penetration and structural testing, on the other hand, are based on the window DP rating. Water infiltration is tested at 15% of the design pressure and structural is tested at 150% of DP rating.

What this means is that a window with a DP30 is tested for water infiltration at 4.5psf (15% of 30psf) while a window with a DP40 is tested at 6psf (15% of 40).

A window with a DP30 is rated to be able to keep out rain when its driven by 42mph winds and a window with a DP40 should be able to keep out rain when driven by 49mph water infiltration is DP related - and air infiltration is not - the nature of air and water infiltration is different.

You want the best U-value that you can find. Ignore R-value if a salesperson tries to take you in that direction.

U-values at .35 and lower are acceptable in your climate. Note I said "and lower". R-value increases performance as the number goes higher - U-value increases in performance as the number goes lower. So U-value of .3 is better than a U-value of .35. Again, forget R-value when dealing with windows.

I think that should get you started...feel free to ask more questions.

And as a final thought, INSTALLATION is huge! The best window installed poorly is next to worthless. Make sure that part is done right!!!!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 9:21PM
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Thank you so much for your input.

As to reputations and warranties, I've heard nothing but good things about Andersen but haven't heard much, good or bad, about Jeld-Wen. (I'm concentrating on these two brands right now because they are the front runners)

As to vinyl versus aluminum, we will probably go with a cream colored exterior, so the material used for the exterior really comes down to which is a better choice for our climate. I've heard that vinyl may have problems with the expansion and contraction due the temperature variations in our area, but, again, everyone seems to have a different opinion, so I'm not sure what to believe.

Thank you for all your other other comments. They are very helpful. I'll be sure to ask about/research U-values versus R-values for the windows and ensure LowE2 glass is used.

You've gotten me started down the right path. I'll be meeting with some window reps this week. Again, thanks so much for the pointers. Windows are such an important decision! As a novice, it's hard to know how to evaluate our options. Your advice is very helpful.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 11:25PM
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You are welcome.

Again, if you have questions following your visits with the window reps, feel free to ask.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 8:14PM
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I can't stress Oberons last remarks on installation. This is honestly the biggest problem in the industry today. Make sure your window installers are certified or properly trained to install the windows you purchase. If you have them installed by people who don't know what they're doing, you'll regret it later when issues start popping up. Good Luck!!!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 8:02AM
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Since solid-fiberglass frames are the best in terms of energy efficiency I would definitely consider those. The efficiency of the framing is really important, especially since wood in frames moves in response to humidity changes whereas fiberglass does not. So, with a fiberglass frame you have superior energy efficiency.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 9:13AM
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I've been reading on this forum and others about the importance of good installation. While that makes sense, how does one go about assuring that installation is correct? In other words, I don't know how to install windows so I couldn't spot a poor installation. Is the thought if you hire a GC your hope is he has good subs?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 10:29AM
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jaymielo, I've had Jeld-Wen aluminum clad double hung windows for 12 years. I've had 2 minor problems. I selected removeable inside grills for easier cleaning. They are very fragile and break easily. Most have been replaced over the years. Also, the outside grills are sealed with a material that has discolored over the years in our Louisiana humidity. Other than that, they are beautiful and remain well sealed and energy efficient.
I'm also selecting windows for a new home. I need pairs of casements that are 7'x3'. Does anyone know of a manufacturer that can provide wood/clad casements that open in? Does anyone posting have advice on the use of butted- glass or channel glass to form window walls?
Thank you.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 10:36PM
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jeld-wens aluminum is far superior to andersens painted wood sash and vinyl frame windows, jeld-wens warranty is also superior.

andersen is a great marketing company but the window itself is not great

never buy removable grilles, they will always break, everyones do, jeld-wen actually changed to a full surround wood grille which is much better than it used to be

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 12:08PM
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For what it's worth, Jeld Wen windows are of very poor, substandard quality. I have lived in many different homes over my lifetime. My current home has Jeld Wen aluminum clad windows that were installed in 2007. Living in my current home has been an absolute nightmare because of the windows. Flimsy, "cheap" quality. VERY drafty. There is just no substance to these windows. The sashes are very thin. There's absolutely no sound insulation as well. I can hear my neighbors' conversations from their yards as if they are standing in my house. Avoid Jeld Wen.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 6:48PM
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