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Window Replacement in Virginia
Virginians may not be subject to the regular blizzards of the Northeast or the weeks upon weeks of 100-degree days that the southern states experience, but its location in the heart of the mid-Atlantic guarantees a wide variety of temperatures, including some extreme highs and lows. That mixed climate means that ideally, windows should be just as good at insulating during the winter as they are at keeping the sun out during through the summer months. Luckily, there are models out there that can keep your home comfortable throughout a variety of conditions, especially new window coatings that will help you save money on your energy bills at the same time. This guide will help you get to know the basics of window replacement in your state—not only which products are right for your area, but how to obtain permits and locate a contractor as well.
Things to Know About Window Installation in Virginia
A window replacement isn’t as complicated as a total remodel, but it definitely requires a great deal of specialized knowledge to complete—generally, more than your average homeowner can handle. That’s why it’s a good idea to hire a professional contractor to do the job for you, especially if you’re unfamiliar with window work. A licensed contractor can ensure that the work is done safely and in accordance with manufacturer guidelines and local jurisdictions, keeping your home and your family safe.
Additionally, a contractor can help you investigate your home’s air sealing and the area around the window, so you can make sure your new window will help, not hinder, your home’s insulation. That, combined with a new energy efficient window, stand to save you quite a bit on your heating and cooling bills, and there are often programs available in your area to help you afford such improvements. For instance, Columbia Gas of Virginia’s WarmWise Program and Danville Utilities HomeSave Rebate Program both offer incentives for homeowners purchasing energy efficient windows. To make sure that you’re not missing out on any potential loans or rebates, check with your local government and utility to see if they offer energy efficiency incentives for windows.
In most cases, a direct replacement takes a skilled contractor just under an hour or two, as long as the project goes smoothly. Additional work, such as changes to the wall opening surrounding the window or the removal storm panels, can definitely add time to the job.
Hiring a Contractor for Virginia Window Installation
When searching for a contractor, it’s a good idea to shop around, so ideally, you should obtain at least three different estimates. Ask contractors to break estimates out into labor, materials, and other costs. Also, ask to see your contractor’s license so that you can verify that they’re qualified to work in your area. You can also check yourself using the using the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation License Search.
Additionally, don’t underestimate the value of your own intuition—if something feels off, it probably is. You want your contractor to be someone who communicates well and keeps a positive, professional relationship, so your sense of the contractor’s communication skills is just as important as their rates.
After you’ve selected your contractor and received a final contract, review the details to ensure that they match those you were quoted in your estimate. If there are changes or costs you never discussed, don’t sign. Additionally, if your contractor requests a deposit before work begins, make sure you understand which portion of the work that money covers. After you sign, request an executed copy for your records.
Permits for Window Installation in Virginia
Whether or not a permit is required for your window replacement depends upon the extent of the work—is the window a direct replacement or will the opening surrounding the window need to be enlarged, and other structural changes made to the wall?—and also upon the specific requirements of your local building department. Permitting offices may require you to submit additional materials along with your application, including plans, copies of the manufacturer’s brochure, or documents certifying your homeowner’s insurance and property ownership.
Because requirements can vary so much from region to region, it’s best to contact your local building department well before you begin any work on your home. Your local office should be able to answer questions about requirements and permits, and your contractor can help you complete parts of the application that require technical know-how.
Preparing Your Property for New Window Installation in Virginia
Although a window replacement generally takes just a few hours, you can make the job run even smoother by taking some time to prepare the area before the contractor arrives. In particular, you should do the following:
- Remove any window treatments installed over the window.
- Take down window hangings like photos, artwork, or shelving that may be disturbed by the work.
- Trim back tree branches and shrubs that may be in the way of the window.
- Move furniture and other items to clear a path from the window to the front door.
- Turn off your home security system temporarily.
- Cover furniture and floors in the area with tarps and drop cloths.
- Keep pets and children away from work area to prevent injuries.
Virginia’s Climate Concerns for Windows
Homes in Virginia need to be fortified to withstand winter cold and airy enough to stay cool during long humid summers. Two industry measurements are of particular importance when you’re shopping for windows in your state: the U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC).
U-factor is a rating that indicates how well a window insulates the interior of your home. In Virginia, look for a model rated 0.30 or less—although windows with a U-factor of 0.25 or less will demonstrate the best energy performance. As for solar heat gain coefficient, a rating below 0.42 will ensure that your window shades your home as well, keeping out solar radiation during the summer.
Both the window’s U-factor and its SHGC will be listed on the window’s labeling and its accompanying brochure, next to the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label. For the highest energy savings, and to be eligible for the majority of rebates and incentives, be sure that the window you choose displays the ENERGY-STAR logo alongside these ratings, as that means that it meets the EPA’s guidelines for maximum energy efficiency in your area.
Understanding Virginia Window Ratings
There are several measurements that will help you determine how the window will perform once it’s installed in your home. The most important of these ratings are the following:
- U-Factor: This measurement tells how well a window insulates your home.
- Air Leakage (AL): This rating indicates the amount of air circulation a window allows through its glass and frame.
- Visual Transmission (VT): A measure that indicates the amount of light allowed through the window glass.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): The amount of solar radiation allowed through a window is indicated by this measurement.
Window Styles and Frames for a Virginia Property
Selecting a window is a personal choice that will depend on your tastes as well as the needs of your home. However, there are a few popular styles that homeowners tend to gravitate towards:
- Arch top: A traditional square window with a rounded, decorative top.
- Bay window: Project outward from a home’s exterior to form a seat or storage area.
- Box window: Usually placed in groups of three or five, these are large, multi-paned windows are generally hung for decorative purposes.
- Double hung: Similar to single hung windows, these have two operable sashes in the top and bottom halves of the window.
- Elliptical: This wide, long windows come in a half or quarter circle shape.
- French casement: Opening outward like French doors, French casement windows have two vertical panes that can be operated from the center.
- Picture windows: These large, single-pane windows are large and perfect for uninterrupted views, but cannot be opened.
- Single hung: Single hung windows are the most classic window types, operable from a lower sash that can be lifted above the upper to open them.
Beyond the window’s design, you’ll need to consider the material the frame is made out of, as different types bring different looks and efficiency levels for the window:
- Aluminum: Tough and sturdy, aluminum is nonetheless lightweight and can withstand extreme weather events.
- Composite: Ideal for those who crave the classic look of wood, without the drawbacks of wear and tear from moisture.
- Fiberglass: Durable and can be combined with insulation for optimal energy efficiency.
- Vinyl: The most efficient material on the market, vinyl keeps homes well-insulated, while being UV-resistant and sturdy.
- Wood: Classic and authentic, wood is the frame material of choice for many historic homes. However, it requires a great deal of maintenance to ensure that it does not become warped over time.
Glass Options for Virginia Windows
Lastly, you’ll need to make a decision about your window’s structure, called its “glazing”—as well as whether or not you’d like to opt for energy-efficient coatings over the glass. Here are the details of those options:
- Single-pane windows: Most modern homes do not have single-pane windows, as these contain no insulation and thus can increase a home’s heating and cooling costs enormously. If you decide to go with single-pane windows, make sure to use a sturdy aluminum frame and install protective storm panels.
- Double-pane windows: A layer of inert gas trapped between two panes of glass keeps double-hung windows especially well insulated.
- Triple-pane windows: Increase a home’s efficiency by adding a third pane of glass with a second insulative layer installed between. This may be more insulation than you need in a Virginia home, however.
- Low-E Glass: Low-emissivity coatings over window glass allow heat and air conditioning in a home’s interior to be reflected back inside, and can potentially reduce heating and cooling costs by 25 percent.
Benefits of Installing New Windows in Virginia
Beyond just improving the look of your home, new windows come with many unexpected benefits, including improved property values and higher prices on the housing market. Meanwhile, when you opt for newer more-efficient models, you’ll experience significant savings on your energy bills, while staying more comfortable all year long.