Those of us on the Eastern Seaboard are finally jumping for joy now that spring has arrived! Home improvement projects can kick into full gear, and you can start tackling that long to-do list of ways to beautify your home, inside and out.  But if you’re living near or in a coastal zone, you may have more than one house on your mind!

Owning a shore house comes with its own special set of spring cleaning and maintenance challenges. But time and again, so many of our clients–especially those with shore houses in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware–come to us looking for help with one particularly important home improvement task: choosing new windows for their shore homes. So, for the next two weeks, we’ll provide an overview of the most important factors you should weigh when making this crucial investment in your home. If you’re living in the Delaware Valley and are wondering how to tackle this task, whether for a shore home or your primary residence, we hope you’ll find this buying guide useful.

Step One: What’s the Warranty?

With a dizzying array of window companies to choose from, how does a consumer begin to weed out less reliable brands from their high-performing counterparts? The first and last place to look is the warranty. Every company will be happy to volunteer the fact that they have a warranty backing their products. But by no means are all warranties created equal. You’ll have to read the fine print to know exactly what you’re getting, and what kind of recourse you’ll have should you detect a problem with your windows.

This advice comes from Clayton DeKorne, writing for the Journal of Light Construction. He offers an in-depth review of warranty must-haves and warning signs. Here are some of the most pressing points to look out for:

  • DeKorne suggests settling for nothing less than a non-prorated, transferable warranty that is good for 20 years on glass components, and 10 years on non-glass parts. He notes that, “While a 20-year glass warranty will adequately cover this most common window failure, a warranty on non-glass parts also becomes especially significant on the coast. Constant humidity, blowing rain, and salt attack will quickly degrade cheap finishes and hardware, and hinder sash movement.”
    • Non-prorated means that in the event your windows or parts need replacing, you will not incur any costs for the replacement or repair. Prorated warranties, on the other hand, may require you to cover some of these costs.
    • Transferable means that the warranty will apply no matter who owns the home. This is important because it demonstrates a manufacturer’s commitment to quality, and makes your home more attractive to potential buyers in the future.
  • Be sure to look for exclusions. DeKorne notes,  “This is key in coastal climates. Some warranties specifically exclude coverage for damage from environmental factors, such as high humidity or salt spray. The exclusion may apply to the glass as well as to the hardware and finishes.”
  • Beyond the language of the warranty, it’s crucial that you get a sense of whether the company you’re dealing with will even be around in 10-20 years. You may be thinking, I can’t predict the future! How am I supposed to know? While it’s true that any company can go under without warning, established window manufacturers that have demonstrated a commitment to producing windows that exceed industry certifications and to providing exceptional customer service are out there. Don’t let cost-cutting lure you into choosing an unreliable company.

 

Step Two: How Good Is the Energy Rating?

With any home, choosing the right windows is more than a matter of aesthetics. But with shore houses, it’s particularly important that your windows sport a high energy rating. While you’re out enjoying the sun at summer’s peak, the last thing you want is for those rays to wear on the integrity of your windows or warm up your home.

The folks over at Okna Windows offer a helpful approach to making sure the windows you choose come with a top-notch energy rating: “When you purchase a window or patio door that is advertised as the most energy efficient, you want to be sure the claims are based on facts, certified by a truly independent and objective authority. Their unbiased test results educate purchasers allowing them to make a more educated choice.”

What kind of independent and objective authority? Well, there are two we recommend. First, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, or the AAMA, is a stellar independent authority to look to. They offer quality assurances that manufacturers alone cannot, because, as they note on their website, “The AAMA Certification Program is the only program in the window and door industry that requires that components used in the finished window and door assembly pass their own set of performance tests. The program also requires the use of AAMA-accredited labs so that tests are performed by qualified, experienced professionals using properly calibrated equipment.” The AAMA has certifications for both structural and thermal performance; look for the AAMA Silver Certification Label to be sure that the windows you choose are energy efficient.

The second authority is the Energy Star rating program, a US Department of Energy program which, as the agency explains on their website, “ensures that each product that earns the label is independently certified to deliver the quality, performance, and savings that consumers have come to expect.” This kind of assurance goes beyond what even industry certifications offer, so be sure to seek out Energy Star-rated windows by utilizing this buying guide.

Join us next week as we discuss the specifics of energy ratings and dive into three more of the most important factors you’ll want to evaluate when choosing new windows for your shore house: impact rating, design pressure, and air/water infiltration resistance.