Replacing construction grade windows

by: Cyndi Beaver

I love the windows in my home. But until recently I had no idea if they are “construction grade windows”. The light shining through makes my home so bright and inviting. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we bought the home. What never occurred to me was having to replace them.

At some point in time most homeowners will have to address this problem. I just never thought it would be so soon for us.

Windows as a Barrier

My house is not that old; only eighteen years. The windows seem to function well. They open. They close. They do keep out the rain.  But the heat and the cold, not so much.

Our windows are double pane and I suspect the glass does have some energy efficiency quality.  At least that’s what my husband says.  They do not appear to be Low E which is a reflective glass used on new windows that helps to keep the heat out in the summer. That is probably why the previous owners tinted all the windows.

Construction Grade Windows

The windows in our home are what is known in the industry as “construction grade”.  These are the low end, least expensive windows that are installed in most new homes. And our home builder must have used the cheapest construction grade on the market.

We have several windows where the grids are beginning to crack and fall between the panes of glass creating Picasso-inspired obtuse triangles. It is just a matter of time before all the grids will slip to the bottom of the window, as is apparent on several of the neighboring houses around me.  Thank you, cheap home builder.

I have also taken note of several other issues. For one, condensation has begun to appear between the glass on several of the windows. (Queue epic “Jaws” soundtrack here).  Like the great white shark, this is not a problem that will go away on its own.

Condensation is a sign that the seal between the two panels has failed and moisture has built up between the glass. Any argon gas which was installed between the panels to help keep out the heat, has likely escaped.  Thus, making the windows about as effective as a single pane window.  Even on our windows without condensation, I can see the seals are cracking between the panes.

The biggest impact of these low quality construction grade windows has been in the upstairs master bedroom. This room sits on the south east side of the house and gets all the morning and afternoon sun. In the summer, this room is hot enough to cook the evening meal. Just set the roast in front of the window and “ta-da” dinner is ready by the time I get home! Seriously though, my husband and I have taken to living downstairs during the summer and sleeping in the downstairs guest room. The alternative to running the AC all night long.

Replacing Construction Grade Windows

So, if you are experiencing similar stories in your home, it might be time to consider replacement. As you look into this project, keep these suggestions in mind:

1) Work in Phases – You can split up this project to make the cost more manageable.  Focus on the problem areas of the home. For example, our master bedroom will be first on my list. In a couple of years, all the grids will have collapsed, and those windows will be next on my list and then so on and so forth. If you choose to break up your project over several years be sure  to purchase a window brand that has some longevity and won’t be out of business next year.  Upon completion you will want to have windows that look the same, are from the same company and offer the same warranty.

2) Funding – If you want to do the whole project at once and are looking for funding, consider a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program. These programs enable property owners to fund 100 percent of energy efficiency projects and pay it back over time as a property tax assessment.  For some homeowners, this is a great option that can keep payments affordable and may even provide some tax benefits. This program is not offered in all communities so do some research.

3) ROI – Although replacing those cheap construction grade windows can be a costly project, it may also offer a considerable return on your investment.  Per Angie’s List, window replacement can bring a 70 percent ROI on home resell value depending on how many and the type of windows that you replace.

4) Tax Credits – The US government also offers tax credits for energy efficiency upgrades and energy efficient windows may qualify for a 10% credit (not including install). Eligibility for credit can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website.  This tax credit offer may expire anytime so you might consider replacing windows now rather than later.

5) Energy Star – ENERGY STAR-rated replacement windows will also help control those increasing energy bills. Per EnergyStar.gov savings can run $126.00-$465 a year when replacing single pane windows and $27-$111 a year for double-pane, clear glass replacement.  Not a bad deal when you consider that new windows will last 20-40 years.

When to Upgrade Windows

There are many things to consider when doing a construction grade window replacement and ultimately, the energy savings, comfort, funding and esthetics to your home will all play a big part on your final decision. For me, I’ll be moving forward soon on my project.  Looking forward to having beautiful windows that do a lot more for my home then just open and close.

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