We recently had to replace a few windows in our home and the window company we used told us we had to install vinyl frames. Our home now has two different types of window frames. Was this correct information?
This is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer. There are several criteria points that come into play such as: Do you live in a manufactured home? Is your home in the Urban Wild Land Interface Area? Are you looking to install the most energy efficient window possible? Are you going for the least expensive window option available?
The current 2006 International Energy Conservation Code which our municipalities are operating under requires a .40 u factor. A u factor is the average combination of the frame and the window. Any window that passes this rating including wood, vinyl or aluminum frames is acceptable. There are no mandatory wood, vinyl or aluminum frame stipulations. If your home is in the Urban Wild Land Interface Area, there could possibly be other requirements that could affect your window replacement and it is suggested that you should check with your local Fire Department or Fire District. If you are unaware if your home is located in the Urban Wild Land Interface Area, again your local Fire Department or Fire District would be able to inform you.
The new 2012 Energy Code which is being considered by our municipalities, with local adopted Ordinances being implemented has more restrictive requirements for window replacement with one of the requirements going from a .40 u factor to a .35 u factor.
If you re-glaze your windows on site, meaning the windows must be site built, they cannot be transferred into the shop and all work must be done on the property, you are exempt from meeting any u factor requirements and you can replace and/or install as many windows as you want. Another allowable u factor exemption would be if you replaced up to 15 square feet of window only. This is one 3x5 window or installing a stain glass window of 15 square feet. Although you are exempt from the u factor window requirement, you are not exempt from the applicable building code requirements.
Another important factor to consider is all bedroom windows must meet egress, even if the window prior to replacement did not meet egress. Bedroom egrees must meet 5.7 feet of operable window. Building permits are required for all replacement windows as well as an applicable floor plan.
If you live in a historic district you should check with the Historical Preservation Committee as they have additional requirements that affect the frame and glass.
Windows are an extremely component of a home and there are many product options available. Are you after total energy savings? Are you concerned about less fading of furniture and household items and blocking UV rays? What level of low-emissivity do you want? Are you concerned about sound transmission? Are you after protection from the stray golf ball or baseball? Are you after cleaning convenience and dust control? There are windows that have baffled and offset weep slots which create a one-way path for water to drain out of the window seal without allowing air to flow back in. There are different types of window locks and various window materials. Window installation is a science and that is a good thing because if you put the highest-rated window in your home and still feel cold next to the frame then the installation techniques were not followed. Window installation techniques have improved dramatically over the years and there are best practices on the market now that will save you labor, keep you from having to have a window reinstalled and even improve energy efficiency and improve the window durability. So before you consider replacing windows, do your homework. It is not a simple process.