Custom Windows Alexandria LA
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Custom windows are smart upgrades that can improve the appearance, enjoyment and value of any home, and add a "wow" factor as well. While cost is certainly a consideration in the selection process, custom windows can add a definite upscale and unique look to any home.
There are a number of reasons homeowners might want to opt for custom windows, as opposed to stock products. The two most common reasons are size and style. When replacing windows in an older home, for instance, standard sizes might not fit the home's irregular window openings. Rather than placing a smaller window in the opening and filling in the open space with molding or gypsum board, or enlarging the space to accommodate a larger window, custom windows are designed to ensure a tight and efficient fit in the existing spaces.
Homeowners can order custom windows in all sorts of designs, including straight-line and radius (curved or arched) configurations.
Appearance is also a major consideration, for both older and newer homes. Custom windows can be manufactured to match a home's architectural style and overall design. This is an especially important consideration for custom-built homes, as well as historic homes. In fact, custom windows offer homeowners almost total design freedom, limited only by prevailing building codes and manufacturers' size limitations.
Shopping for custom-made windows is hardly an open and shut case. Homeowners must weigh a number of factors when choosing custom products. Beyond the broad details are myriad decisions that can affect appearance, performance and cost.
Before ordering, homeowners should clearly determine what they want the windows to accomplish, suggests Rod Clark, product manager at Jeld-Wen, a Klamath Falls, Ore.-based manufacturer of windows and doors. For example, one homeowner simply might want a certain type of window, in terms of appearance, quality or performance, that's unavailable as a stock product, while another may be planning to completely transform a home's facade with large, highly dramatic windows with geometric shapes.
As far as custom window designs are concerned, homeowners can select straight-line geometric shapes, such as hexagons, octagons, triangles and trapezoids, or radius (curved) shapes such as ovals or half, quarter or full rounds, as well as windows with a combination of straight lines and arches or curved portions. Some manufacturers will create custom-shaped windows that feature original curves and lines. Homeowners also can specify single, double or triple widths and panels, as well as which window segments will open and the direction and the manner in which the windows raise, tilt, swing or glide.
Other customizing upgrades include a choice of muntin configurations. The muntin is the short bar or divider that separates the panes of glass in the window. Diamond-shaped muntins are popular in some types of homes, for example. Some companies, such as Gorell Windows and Doors, can seal the dividers inside the insulating glass to make the windows easier to clean.
|Diamond-shaped muntins (the short bars that separate the panes of glass) are popular in some types of homes.|
While all custom windows carry a price premium, all things being equal, radius units are generally more costly than rectangular units, as are any units larger or smaller than a standard size. When selecting a manufacturer, homeowners should look at the price, product capabilities, and features and benefits of the various models available.
Materials and Finishes
Most custom window manufacturers offer their products made from a wide variety of materials and finishes, though generally not every type of material or with every type of finish. It pays to scout around to see which options or combinations are available in your price range. Homeowners can order custom windows made from wood, fiberglass, aluminum, vinyl and composite materials, or various combinations of those materials, often with the option of clear, obscure, tinted or low-energy glass.
Wood, which has the flexibility to be made into almost any curved shape, is the most popular material used in higher-end homes. In fact, in luxury homes, wood windows with either a clad exterior or a true wood exterior predominate. Popular wood species include pine, alder and fir, though some manufacturers are also seeing increased requests for exotic woods.
Fiberglass, which falls between wood and vinyl in price, is available in an increasing array of shapes, though not to the extent of wood. Composites, which are relatively new to the marketplace, are generally more expensive than aluminum or vinyl.
Aluminum can mimic various wood grains and provides added strength, which might be desirable in high-wind-load locales. Exterior anodized aluminum finishes and a broad assortment of aluminum clad colors are also available, notes Cathy Leonard, marketing communications manager for Windsor Windows, a custom window and door manufacturer based in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Vinyl is typically less expensive than aluminum, fiberglass and wood, though it may overlap with them in cost. It is the most popular material, overall, for custom windows.
One hot trend in upscale installations is the use of impact-resistant glass in custom windows. Impact-resistant glass is laminated with an inner layer of PVB (polyvinyl butyral) that is about 10 times thicker than the inner layer of an impact-resistant car windshield. The laminated glass is on the inside, so if the glass is broken from the outside, the laminated glass will not shatter indoors and no fragments will penetrate the home.
Originally designed to provide protection from hurricanes, this type of glass has other benefits as well. "Impact-resistant glass can effectively block noise and block 99 percent of UV [ultraviolet] light without tinting or added window treatment, and can provide security from intrusion as well," notes Dave Olmstead, public affairs and code compliance specialist at PGT Industries, a manufacturer of custom windows and doors, based in Venice, Fla.
Impact-resistant glass is also available insulated, for energy conservation. Insulated glass helps homes stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, reducing the load on the heating and air conditioning systems.
Homeowners should be aware that the cost of an upgrade can be substantially more than the cost of a stock window or door. For example, notes Olmstead, laminated glass windows can run about three times that of basic units. In Florida and elsewhere, however, some insurance companies give discounts on homeowner insurance premiums (up to 65 percent in some cases) for homes in hurricane-prone regions that have impact-resistant windows.
Before You Order
Before placing any order, it's important to make sure the windows you're considering conform to any applicable wind speed or design pressure requirements. Design pressure, expressed in pounds per square inch (psi), is based on local wind speeds and the square footage of the opening, so it can be calculated if you know those variables.
Wind speed requirements vary anywhere from a low of 80 mph to a high of 150 mph. Generally, distributors, showrooms and big box stores do not provide details about local wind speed and design pressure requirements for windows, though usually an architect or experienced designer can. If not, you can request that information from your local building department, so you can ensure you select the right windows for your home.
|Impact-resistant custom windows can protect the home from debris borne by high winds, and can block damaging UV light as well.|
"For example," says Olmstead, "a homeowner adding or changing windows in Dade County, Fla., would have to meet design pressures between 45 and 60 psi, whereas a homeowner in Indiana may have to meet design pressures of only 20 to 25 psi."
Another consideration when ordering custom windows is low-e (low-emissivity) glass, an option on some lines of double- and triple-pane windows. Low-e glass features a coating that greatly reduces temperature transference, and so can reduce the loss of treated air from inside and the intrusion of unwanted heat from the outside. There are various types of low-e glass, designed for particular climates and compass orientations.
One good way to get started in selecting custom windows is to peruse window manufacturer websites, suggests Clark. Many are richly contented with technical information and photos that explain possibilities and capabilities. Usually, in addition to reading FAQs, homeowners can e-mail questions to the manufacturer and find listings of dealers by zip code. At least one manufacturer (Marvin Windows) includes charts with design pressure ratings by window type and size, which can aid homeowners in the selection process.
"The most important homework for the homeowner to do is to understand the code requirements of the locale, assess the benefits of the various upgrades and prioritize the most important factors," says Olmstead. "A homeowner should also evaluate the paybacks in terms of potential energy savings." In addition, he says, when placing an order with an authorized dealer, the homeowner should "make sure you will have the services of an experienced installer who understands the local building code."
Adds Clark, "If the new windows are full window replacements, rather than new sashes or pocket windows that fit within the existing opening, homeowners likely will benefit from professional advice." This is especially true if the homeowner plans to enlarge an opening in the building envelope. Cutting back siding to accommodate a custom window, for instance, could compromise waterproofing and the ability to get a proper seal in the completed installation, Clark notes. It also could compromise "the integrity of the load-bearing members."
For most manufacturers, the lead time for custom windows is the same or just a bit longer than for stock windows. Delivery of custom windows typically runs between two weeks and 13 weeks, depending on the manufacturer. The end result, though, will no doubt be well worth the wait.
William and Patti Feldman are frequent contributors to Smart HomeOwner. They're based in New York.