A window replacement is a sizeable investment—but it’s well worth it, in terms of making your home more energy-efficient, visually appealing, and comfortable. We sat down with Jeff Ludy of Houston Window Experts to ask your top questions and make the window replacement process more manageable. Here’s what he had to say.
How can you tell that it’s time to replace your windows?
People have many different reasons for replacing windows.
First, because they need to. Second, because they want to. I like to think of it as comparable to two different types of surgery. If you have a ruptured appendix, you need it. But if you’d like to have body sculpting, for example, it’s because you want it. It’s much more fun, I imagine, for a surgeon to help people feel more happy about the way the looked, versus the other surgeries, even though both give you a certain level of satisfaction as a doctor. So we really like it when people contact us to say, “I want my home to be more beautiful and/or more comfortable.”
With those kinds of projects, do you ever do any major replacements, such as to the wall structure (ex: enlarging the window, etc)?
There are times a customer will contact us and say (for example) “I have a new pool going up and I’d like to turn this double window into a door or a sliding door.” That’s one of the projects we’ll take on as a company. A lot of times, people who are in the window/door replacement business truly aren’t qualified or interested in the extra time and work it takes to involve a mason, to do siding, or finishing out the new opening, or building out transition pieces between existing flooring and the new door, etc. But we have a qualified crew that does this at least a few dozen times per year.
What can a homeowner expect with their first initial meeting with either on a sales floor or a contractor?
One thing that separates us from other window companies is that we offer 18 brands of windows to choose from. I designed our business around the CarMax model—we offer lots of different brands, and we’re happy to give our opinions about the different brands, but ultimately it’s up to the customer. So on a typical first visit, we spend more time listening than talking, so that we can determine what you want and if we have a product, and if we have the skillset needed to do your project—and if we don’t, we’ll point you in the right direction.
Once you get to the quote/estimate, what should a homeowner expect to see in it?
We’ll come out and take some measurements, for estimate reasons, and give you an on-site estimate (based on that info), specifying each window opening based on its “room name” (living room, etc). Then we come back with specifics for each window—the energy efficiency rating, the sound transmission, how much each window costs individually, etc. We like doing this more than giving a lump sum price on the back of a business card, etc. This builds confidence in a homeowner about us, and it enables them to make changes if needed, based on budget. For example, if you want a big picture window facing your backyard pool, rather than two smaller windows, we’ll print out both options (prices) to give you the choice. This is important because that big picture window could require much heavier glass, or it may require tempering the glass. As a result, a project that should’ve been $10,000 is now $12,000, so this helps you plan and adjust your budget for the project.
You said that when you make the estimate, you also include the energy ratings. What are some of the energy considerations when you’re replacing your windows?
If you have a super energy efficient window, it’s definitely going to improve your home’s energy efficiency, and therefore decrease your monthly utilities, but the trade-off is that it will make your home much darker. So I like to look at it by each particular project and what they’re trying to accomplish, and also room by room. If they say “upstairs on the west wall is a game room, and it’s always hot up there, we might go with a more energy efficient option there on that side where the sun sets (than we would across the front of the house) because otherwise, they end up with these dark living rooms.
Is there a time of year that’s best for replacing windows?
It depends on where you live. If you live in Minnesota or Michigan, winter is a really tough time to have your windows open and people in your home. But in the southern climate, where we are, the phone typically rings all year round. A lot of homeowners who delayed their project for years and years say they wish they’d done the replacements sooner, because they realize they could have enjoyed the improved comfort, reduced energy bills, etc, for so many more years. Plus, the prices of new windows continues to rise each year, so waiting 5 years to save money doesn’t make sense. So if you think you’re going to do it eventually, it makes sense to do it sooner rather than later.
Have you seen any new products on the market, etc, that you’re excited about/that seem to be taking off?
Milgard Windows and Doors came out with a product line called “Essence”—it’s a full fiberglass-framed window with a real wood interior. When most window companies offer a wood product, it’s a wood window that has some form of a small thin layer of cladding on the exterior. But in our climate, once water gets behind that cladding, it can’t get back out—and then the wood begins to rot and the cladding pops off.
But Milgard’s window is different. The entire window is made from a composite material, and the wood is on the inside, where it’s not exposed to any of the elements. It works well for humid and wet climates, or for really cold climates. But one of their latest products was a radius top casement window. They’re the only company in the US making this radius top casement window, where you don’t have to have a divider between the top and the bottom. For example, sometimes you see a window that has an arch on top of it, or there’s a bar separating the arch from the window beneath it. So they’re able to take a product that’s a composite 4×8 sheet, almost plywood—it was considered the product of the year by Window and Door Magazine.
Anything else you’d like to add, or any advice for homeowners?
There are two chief components for a successful, “I’m happy, I’m smiling at the end of my window project” project. The first is finding a window you like (meaning you’re happy with the look, performance, color, and warranty), and the second is a good installer. Unfortunately, I see the mistakes that other people have made, and the problem is almost always not the window itself, but the installation. Having a great window with a bad installer is, in my opinion, a bad window. If anything, you’d be better off having a great installer installing a bad window. This is something that people tend to overlook, the installer. Focus a lot more than you are now on the installer, more than the window itself.
That’s great advice to end on. Thanks for speaking with us today, Jeff!