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Buying Windows in Florida
Florida property owners who wish to purchase new or replacement windows for their home or property face many hurdles during the decision making process. Several factors must be considered before making a new window purchase for a newly constructed home or when replacing existing windows. By doing their homework beforehand, property owners can avoid the potential pitfalls that arise during window installation projects. The pitfalls could include purchasing windows that fall short of the necessary building codes, desired efficiency ratings or hiring a non-reputable contractor or window supply company.
Material Types and Window Styles Suitable for Florida
Shopping for new windows in Florida means you will be faced with some tough decisions on material types and window styles. The following information will break down the different window frame materials and styles to help you get started.
- Vinyl framed windows have virtually replaced aluminum as the most popular window frame material. The tough, rugged plastic never fades, peels, chips or requires maintenance.
- Fiberglass framed windows incorporate the best attributes from each material. The fiberglass elements stiffen the window and allow it to be painted, making it more versatile aesthetically.
- Wood framed or wood-clad windows are wooden frames with a layer of vinyl, aluminum or fiberglass covering the exterior surfaces for added protection from outside elements.
- Single Hung windows incorporate a fixed sash, usually the upper, and a lower sash that opens and closes to provide room ventilation.
- Double Hung Windows are a window type where both the upper and lower sashes are capable of opening.
- Bay windows are fabricated by mulling two side windows together with a larger, center section extending between 30 and 45 degrees outward from the structure. Often, homeowners utilize the extra interior space created by the Bay window as a bench seating area with underneath storage.
- Sliding windows utilize two window sashes that slide side to side horizontally. This type of window is also available with a single slide option where only one-sash slides and a 3-lite version with a fixed center sash and two outer sashes that slide.
- Casement windows incorporate a single sash that is hinged on one side. An interior crank or handle allows the user to open the window a full 90 degrees for optimum ventilation. Colonial casement windows operate the same as a traditional casement window with the difference being a decorative meeting rail to enhance its appearance.
- Picture windows are fixed panes of glass that do not include any operation. They are great for homes with expansive views, for example Floridians that live on the beach.
- Awning windows utilize hinges mounted at the top of the sash. This allows the window bottom to swing out when open. A crank or handle located at the base operates the window.
- Garden windows extend outwards, away from the frame and incorporate side, top and bottom panes to create a box. They are designed to invite sunshine and showcase plants or herb gardens.
- Arched windows are fixed panels of glass that do not open or shut. They are available in many shapes and sizes and are commonly used over entryways, stairwells or any other area where natural light is desired.
Window Panes and Glazing
- Single pane or single glazed windows utilize a single layer of clear glass that is typically 4mm thick. A single glazed glass allows the highest daylight transmission.
- Double glazed windows incorporate two panes of glass with an air or gas-filled layer in between. Typically, the gas is argon but some manufacturer’s use krypton.
- Triple-glazed windows utilize a third layer of glass that increases noise reduction capabilities and energy efficiency significantly.
Windows and Florida Climate
Florida has a wide climate range with its central and northern regions experiencing humid, sub-tropical conditions, while the southern part of the state is a tropical climate that experiences extreme humidity. It is important to be aware of your area’s climate conditions before purchasing new windows as it can have a major impact on the type of window you choose. It should be understood that a vinyl-framed window would provide the best durability and is well suited for rainy, humid regions like Florida versus a wood framed window which would deteriorate more quickly.
Florida is saddled between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, making it extremely vulnerable to hurricanes. Category five hurricanes can generate wind speeds of over two hundred miles an hour. The wind speed alone is destructive but when you consider all the debris that suddenly becomes airborne, it carries even more potential for damage. That is one reason the Florida Building Code requires all windows located within one mile of the coast be impact-resistant and capable of withstanding wind speeds of at least 110 miles per hour.
Energy Efficiency Windows in Florida
Today, single-pane windows offer a certain level of energy efficiency but double-pane, high-performance windows take energy efficiency to a whole other level. The level of energy efficiency you choose will depend on certain factors applicable to your area, budget and desire. Check your state and local building codes to determine efficiency requirements before making a window purchase. As mentioned previously, some areas of Florida require hurricane rated/impact resistant windows as well. High-performance, energy efficient windows will carry a higher out-of-pocket expense, however, you can expect higher ROI “Return on Investment” as you realize reduced energy costs through the added efficiency.
Windows Permitting Requirements in Florida
Replacing or installing new windows often requires a building permit. It would be wise for Florida residents to check with their city’s local building department to verify when a permit is necessary. This will prevent the unfortunate circumstance of an inspector catching wind of your project and red tagging or issuing a stop work order.
A project requiring a building permit that becomes active without first obtaining it faces the potential of paying double for the permit as well as other applicable fees and fines. Building permits and inspections ensure that all building practices in the State of Florida adhere to the Florida Building Code. If you are working with a qualified contractor, they should take care of this for you.
Windows Rebates and Incentives for Floridians
Purchasing and installing new windows can require a substantial out-of-pocket expense. This is especially true when you are considering replacing a whole set of existing windows. Not only do you have to pay for the new windows and their installation, but also the costs of removing and discarding the old windows. In addition, you might run into circumstances during the installation that lead to more costs such as damaged drywall, wall studs or stucco repair.
It is to your benefit to take advantage of any rebates or incentives available to you to help reduce the costs. Many states as well as the federal government have realized the value of energy conservation and have set in place home improvement rebates and incentives designed to promote energy efficiency. These programs often include window replacement when the windows meet set criteria of energy efficiency. Visit energy.gov for a comprehensive list of tax credits, rebates and savings available to Florida residents. You can also view the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency “DSIRE” which allows you to search for policies and incentives by state.
Where to Buy Windows in Florida
Florida residents have many choices when purchasing new windows for their home or business including home improvement centers, window supply companies and manufacturers. Windows are sold individually or in whole house packages and in most cases, companies offer installation services as well. Most retailers allow you to shop online or visit their showroom, but they will require a precise measurement of each opening before you place an order.
Unless you are purchasing a poplar size they carry in stock, one of their representatives will need to take the measurements at your home. This protects both you and the manufacturer by ensuring that once the windows are fabricated, they will fit easily into the window opening. One advantage when buying your windows from a home improvement center is they often entice customers by offering rebates and incentives as well as special financing options for the purchase. This can come in handy for property owners short on cash.
Hiring a Windows Contractor in Florida
Most property owners will hire a contractor to install their new window or window package. The State of Florida requires that all residential and building contractors operating in the state be licensed, certified and carry the proper type and amount of insurance coverage. The requirements are statewide and the only exceptions are if you own the property and install them yourself. Hiring a contractor in Florida should not be taken lightly as there are many who fall short of the strict, statewide requirements. You can verify the legality of potential contractors and verify the status of their license by visiting MyFlorida.com, which is the official portal of the State of Florida.
Paying for your New Windows in Florida
Paying for your new window purchase may require a substantial upfront investment. Property owners who do not have the necessary cash to cover the out-of-pocket expense can finance their purchase. As mentioned above, large window retailers often offer financing to attract your business. Their rates are competitive to or better than traditional financing options. Banks and other lending institutions offer HELOC’s “Home Equity Lines of Credit” to Florida homeowners with some lenders providing attractive or reduced rates for energy efficient home improvement projects.