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New Orleans Window Replacement Guide
Ever since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is now known for more than just delicious food, fantastic parades, and amazing music. The Big Easy is now not always so easy when it comes to the weather, and if your windows are no longer as effective as they once were, then you can feel those same effects within your own home. Between the humidity, the intense summer sun, and the hurricane force winds, your windows need to be able to withstand a multitude of attacks, all while remaining as energy efficient as possible. Since some windows last upwards of 40 years, it’s likely that any homeowner will have only gone through a renovation of this nature once or twice, at best. So where does a homeowner begin?
This New Orleans Window Replacement Guide will help you on your journey to finding the perfect windows for your home by explaining how to recognize when a window needs to be replaced, what materials are best suited for the climate, and what municipal requirements are in place to ensure that the job is performed safely and legally.
How to Know When a Window Replacement is Necessary in Your New Orleans Home
At times, it seems pretty obvious that a window replacement is mandatory, but that isn’t always the case. If you have noticed that your windows no longer open or close with ease because the structural framing has warped and degraded over time, there is little you can do properly solve the issue other than shaving down the framing–which can bring a host of other issues. In this instance, it is usually wiser to replace the unit to ensure that you home’s exits are easily accessible in case of emergency. If you have wooden windows frames that have begun to rot, so long as the damage is not too extensive, you can repair the issue with a bit of epoxy and elbow grease. However, if the frame is eaten away enough to allow moisture to leak into the walls of your home, you will not only need to replace the window, but you will, also, need your contractor to thoroughly examine the structural integrity of the exterior walls to look for signs of deterioration and mold growth.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveyed almost 2,200 homeowners who had performed extensive renovations to their home, and found that 47 percent of them had replaced their home’s windows in order improve energy efficiency. If you are on the fence about shouldering the cost of a full replacement, you can opt for installing insulation sheeting, closeable drapes, or storm windows, and each will make your home more energy efficient to varying degrees. However, the only way to begin saving upwards of 15 percent on your home’s utility bills is by upgrading to Energy Star rated windows. If the $10,000 to $20,000 price tag still gives you pause, then be sure to get a true look at your return on investment by calculating in any incentives you may qualify for and increases to your property value. Most homeowners find that when they do, their new windows are well worth the expense!
Window Materials Matter in New Orleans
With New Orleans’s being one of the wettest and hottest climates in the country, it is important to select window materials that will be able to withstand the elements for decades. When deciding on framing materials, your three main options are aluminum, wood, and vinyl. Metal frames, like aluminum, are far too heat conductive to ever be granted the Energy Star stamp of approval, and should be avoided. As for wood and vinyl, it mostly comes down to where you live in the city and personal preference, so long as you opt for thermally improved and insulated versions of them both. Technological advances have greatly improved the durability of vinyl with most now lasting upwards of 20 years; plus, they are completely maintenance free and one of the least expensive options on the market. One of the biggest critiques of vinyl is that you are locked into their limited color selection for the life of your window, and far more importantly, the materials do begin to degrade when under direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Wood frames, on the other hand, are quite versatile and classic. Though, traditional wood frames would be susceptible to rot from all the precipitation, composite frames or fiberglass coatings can ensure that these windows remain structurally sound for 30 to 40 years or more.
Both Energy Star and the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) have set strict standards for a window’s glass as well. Glass must be able to properly insult a home’s internal temperature and not allow much transference to the outside air (U-vale), block an appropriate level of the sun’s solar heat from ever entering the house (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, SHGC), and not lose effectiveness due to changes in air pressure and extreme temperatures. Glass can, also, have an additional low emissivity (low E) coating applied to help block additional solar radiant heat. For the average New Orleans home, the best window to meet all of these criteria will be gas filled triple pane glass with a U-value less than or equal to 0.22, a SHGC less than or equal to 0.25, and a low-solar-gain low E coating.
It should be noted that safeguarding against hurricane force winds is incredibly important. Hurricane impact resistant windows are a definite must for any New Orleans home.
New Orleans Building Permits, Inspections, and Fees
The City of New Orleans requires that either a Renovation Permit be granted for all non-structural changes prior to work commencing. An application may be submitted in person at the Department of Safety and Permits which is located in Room 7E05, on the 7th floor of City Hall, 1300 Perdido Street, New Orleans, 70112, or online at City of New Orleans webpage. Usually plans will not need to be submitted for review, and all you will need is a completed application and the appropriate fee in order for your permit to be granted that same day. You can expect the fee to be $60 plus $5 per $1,000 of the projected renovation expense. For example, if you expect to spend $10,000, your assessed fee will be $110.
If you do plan to alter any openings, you will need to apply for a Renovation/Elevation Permit and submit plans for review. The fee structure will be the same as above with the addition of $1 per $1,000 of the renovation budget.
When your home is zoned to a Historic District, you will have a few extra steps and restrictions to your process that will need to be met before an application is approved. The Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) has all the information you need listed here. It should be noted as well that there is a 50 percent surcharge added onto the permit fee for all homes subject to the VCC. If you are unsure if your home falls within this area, be sure to check your property zoning before submitting a building permit application.
Feel free to contact the Department of Permits and Safety at (504) 658-7130 if you have any questions in regards to your application process.