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Birmingham Window Replacement Guide
No matter your level of home improvement expertise, most homeowners are novices when it comes time to replace their home windows. Depending on their craftsmanship and material quality, it is not unheard of for windows to last for 40 years or more, making it likely that a homeowner has experienced this type of upgrade once or twice at best. Even this knowledge is rendered mute when you take into account the shift to modern energy efficient technology and changes in the city’s building codes. Considering one replacement window today costs roughly $300 to $800 or more, this is not an undertaking you want to begin without understanding each step of the process.
The benefits from a renovation of this scale are well worth the energy, effort, and dollars though in decreased monthly utility costs and increased property values. Due to Birmingham’s climate, your windows need to be able to block out the humid summer heat and the extreme temperature swings of winter, all while being as energy efficient as possible. The city of Birmingham does have specific building codes in place that must be followed in order to ensure that the job is performed safely and proficiently.
This Birmingham Window Replacement Guide will lead you through the steps necessary to determine when a replacement is needed, which window materials and design are best for the Alabama climate, and the municipal requirements to ensure that the job is done to code.
How to Know When a Window Replacement is Necessary in Your Birmingham Home
Unfortunately, age alone is not the only indicator that the time has come to replace your windows; although, if your windows are more than 30 years old, it is pretty likely that they have run their course and need to go. If you notice that your windows have warped making them difficult to open or close or that they simply do not open at all, then you have a serious safety hazard on your hands were an emergency to occur that needs to be remedied. Also, if your home’s windows have begun to rot or crack, then moisture is able to seep into the walls of your home which can lead to extensive structural damage and/or mold issues. Everyone wants to keep their family protected, by replacing worn out windows, you are able to avert issues before they even begin.
Another aspect to consider is your current window’s energy efficiency. By opting to replace poorly performing single-pane windows with climate appropriate, multi-pane windows, the Efficient Windows Collaborative says that you should expect to see a roughly 15 percent drop in your utility bill. But that is not the only perk your wallet will see. In fact, the 2015 Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors discovered that most homeowners recouped about 80 percent of their renovation expenses via increased property value. For this reason alone, 61 percent of these homeowners reported having a “greater desire to be home since completing the project.”
Window Materials Matter in Birmingham
When considering which type of window you would like in your home, you will need to decide on what material the window framing is made from, single versus multiple-paned windows, and any sort of specialized energy efficiency coating.
Although there are a multitude of options out there, the three main window frame materials are wood, aluminum, and vinyl. Due to Birmingham’s climate, the best frame material are those that block out thermal energy while being durable enough to withstand consistently high moisture levels like hardwood and vinyl. Most people would love to choose wood due to its classic look, 40+ years of lifespan, and its versatility, but it is almost always the most expensive option available. On the other hand, vinyl is quite reliable, inexpensive, and is virtually maintenance free. Don’t expect to have as extensive a color palette from which to choose, though.
The more energy efficient your windows are, the more materials and labor were necessary in their manufacturing. Accordingly, as efficiency increases, so does the price. Simplifying matters for the consumer, windows that meet a high enough energy efficiency standard are given a special classification from the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and Energy Star. There are three specific qualifiers to look for on a window of this type: U-value, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), and low E. The U-value and SHGC amounts measure the rate at which a window is able to conduct heat and solar radiation flow respectively from the exterior of your home to the interior and vice versa, while the low E represents how effectively the window can reflect heat when the glass is coated in a thin metallic covering. No matter what degree of energy efficiency you decide to go with, it is virtually guaranteed to be an improvement from what is currently in your home. However, the absolute best choice to make for your Birmingham home would be gas-filled, multi-paned windows with triple-glazed glass that has a low solar gain, a U-value less than 0.22, a SHGC below 0.25, and is coated with a low E glaze.
Birmingham Window Permits, Inspections, and Fees
The city of Birmingham does require that a building permit be acquired before any renovations begin. The application, which can be found on the City’s webpage, can be submitted by either the contractor or the homeowner at the Department of Planning, Engineering, and Permits, 710 20th Street North, Room 220, City Hall, Birmingham, AL 35203. Permits applications are accepted Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
So long as no structural changes are planned, all that is required at the time of applying is the application and a permit fee. The fee will be assessed based on the projected renovation expense in the amount of $8.50 per every $1,000 of the renovation, with the minimum fee being $50.
Once work has been completed, an inspection will need to schedule with a city inspector. Either the homeowner or the contractor can schedule this appointment by calling the number provided on your building permit.