There is no getting around it. Window replacement is a major renovation to your home. Besides adding tremendous aesthetic appeal, particularly in an older home, window replacement has immediate potential to save on electric, gas and oil bills. There is also the advantage of nearly 100% recuperative value of the cost should you decide to sell your home. So become informed of the ins and outs of window shopping, so you don't "break" your budget, and avoid these ten window wrongs. 1. Replacing One Window At a Time Over the Next Ten Years. This renovation should not be done piecemeal. It's better to do all the windows that need replacement at once, and preferably all the windows in the house. Room by room window replacement is cheaper and it can be easier if done slowly, a few at a time, but aesthetically, the house will not convey an organized, tranquil and cohesive design unless all the windows match well. What if materials are discontinued or become temporarily unavailable, or suppose there's not enough money to finish the house? If you can't afford them all now, don't start until the money is there. But don't worry about buying replacements because once finished, they should not need replacement again. 2. Changing That Custom Window Space to Standard Window Space. There is no need to downgrade that special custom window such as an arch, a small French door, or any unusual configuration. Installing plain single glazed panes, because custom windows are too costly, doesn't do justice to the unique features of the house with its different lines, corners, and spaces. Don't refrain from customizing your windows to fit the character of the house simply to save money. One cost effective way to get a custom look without the custom cost is to take several standard stock windows and combine them into a unique design which enhances that special space. The cost of customizing a window versus combining standard stock windows is vast. Although the options are more limited, the customer doesn't lose out on their designer detailing. 3. Not Matching the Features You Need With Available Options. You've been living in this house for ten years so what's needed is obvious, so put some brain power into the problems and write down the features that are most important before visiting the websites or the showroom. The options available are truly endless with as many fashion statements on the market as any Parisian boulevard. Bare it down to the bones first. Those multi-paned, lever-operated, jalousie windows in the living room are not only an eye sore, but a thorn in your side. They don't belong in your stately Victorian on the best street in New Orleans. Make a list of the features you really want and formulate a concept of the perfect dream windows. Do this before perusing over the options so the focus stays on the needs of your home first, before the glitter dazzles you away. 4. The Easiest Thing Is To Buy All Vinyl Windows Inside and Out and Be Done With It. Those TV commercials 25 years ago which showed how easy those replacement vinyl windows were to clean and open, did not show the vinyl after 20 or 30 years in a hard sun. It's true, vinyl replacements have improved, and are very energy efficient provided the vinyl does not deteriorate. However, I do not recommend all vinyl replacements at all and prefer instead a combined vinyl and wood replacement over an aluminum frame. It has the easy maintenance advantage of all vinyl, but does not depend on the heat sensitivity of the vinyl for efficient operation. Some people like wood at any cost. Although it requires a lot of maintenance and regular repainting, nothing breathes and feels like wood in any home renovation. For our money, we recommend an aluminum frame with wood on the interior side, and a vinyl coated aluminum frame outside for the maximum advantages of energy efficiency, aesthetics and maintenance ease. 5. There Are Some Great Deals On Dual Pane Windows. And if you fall for those great deals you'll get a rude awakening. Something like two pieces of glass of questionable quality, with no special coatings or surfactants, glazed together to form one window. Slightly longer than one year later when that sub standard warranty runs out, condensation builds up between the panes and a black spotty toxic mold starts growing all around the sides. "What a pity", says the new glazier shaking his head. "This rot is anything but dry. You should have come to me earlier." If only it really was a good deal. The manufacturer doesn't even return those calls and the contractor has left the state. True dual paned windows are expensive, and the options are numerous. There is a new state of the art version where the two panes are actually blown together into a single unit with a harmless insulating gas sealed between them. This completely eliminates fogging, condensation, and drafts. Other types need proper sealing and should carry a good low u-factor. The U-factor is a durability test which determines how much interior heat escapes from the window. Conversely, a low Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient, or SHGC tells the consumer how much heat from the sun penetrates your windows. If you bargain away your consumer protections, don't be surprised if that big renovation goes sour. 6. Customizing Into Complacency. Even the best windows from the best manufacturers could pose operational difficulties and design flaws. Not that they were the top of the line to begin with, but those ads for vinyl replacement windows showing the easy tilt down cleaning mechanism proved difficult for many people to use. Don't buy any windows that you haven't subjected to rigorous tests of your own. Just because a window is customized, doesn't automatically make it user friendly. There isn't a manufacturer in the business that hasn't made windows with design flaws and especially problematic are those custom features. Work them personally; don't just observe the demonstration. Have the family work them. Ask questions to the salesman. Any sticky wickets? Leave the windows at the store or at least those complicated mechanisms. Operation will only make them stickier. 7. Buying Windows Without NFRC Rating. NFRC or the National Fenestration Rating Council testing has become an industry standard in evaluation of energy efficiency and performance. It's a shame to purchase windows without the rating considering it doesn't cost you anything but the manufacturers depend on it to sift out those less then ideal quality windows. Also manufacturers who are cheaper but disavow their warranties after 1 year usually are those windows which don't perform well against their better quality competitors. In fact, many states now require the NFRC ratings in order to get a permit for window replacement of any kind. Check with the local council about building code requirements for your home. 8. All Window Hardware Is Basically The Same. The hardware installed with your windows determines the ease, safety, and durability of operation. In fact, your windows are only as good as the hardware holding them together. Window hardware can hide cheap metal materials in the locking mechanism or sash. Try to get hardware that complies with California's comprehensive anti theft and forced entry standards. They require that any closed window is a locked window and is able to stay locked under heavy lever type pressure. 9. Who Needs Two Guarantees? You need two guarantees to cover you in any eventuality and here is the inside story. First, there is the manufacturer's warranty. This covers the windows from manufacturing defects, untimely wear, replacement parts or anything to do with the windows themselves. It is an extended warranty that is issued with top quality windows for ten to twenty years and sometimes longer. It should not pro rate the benefits over time due to the age of the windows, and should be fully transferable should you decide to sell your home. Second, there is the guarantee from the contractor who installs the windows. This usually only extends over one year, although a contractor who is sure of their work and has a good reputation might be persuaded to offer more coverage, sometimes up to two years. In any case, this warranty is limited and covers only the work of the contractor regarding installation and not anything to do with manufacturing flaws of the windows themselves. For instance, if the surfactant is mottled on that western exposure picture window in the master bedroom, don't try to redress the problem with the contractor. Call the manufacturer. However, if mold is developing on the inside of one new window sill, get the contractor back over there as soon as possible before that warranty expires. Try not to get involved if there is a dispute over responsibility. Make them work it out. 10. It Will Save A Bundle If My Painter Installs The Windows and I Will Help Fine, if you have the time and the painter has adequate expertise but unfortunately, a lot of mistakes occur when trying to simplify window installation. Because window replacement is a more expensive and enormous undertaking than it seems unless it's only one or two windows we're talking about, or you've done it before, it's best to leave this to a contractor. Installation is the least of the expense of window replacement so it doesn't pay to cut corners here. One important tip, when you hire a contractor to install those new windows, besides doing all the standard evaluations of his work, such as viewing his jobs over the past three months, getting reliable references, not paying up front for the job, etc., if there is a little extra money to spare, consider hiring an engineer to evaluate the installation. It's a relatively inexpensive way to buy a lot of peace of mind. Even if you can't afford one, try asking the contractor during the interview if he minds if you hire an engineer to evaluate safety measures and installation. If he gets offended or refuses, don't use this contractor. The reason speaks for itself. If he says he doesn't mind or heartily welcomes the opportunity, then this contractor trusts his own work, and will no doubt work better knowing that an expert will be there, even if he isn't. If an engineer is hired, bring him once at the beginning, and once before the last few windows are finished to check for compliance before the final checks are written. Armed with these tips, you should get more for your money, and years of pleasure looking out your new "pretty as a picture" replacement window.