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Information About Window Replacement in Washington
Bisected by the Cascade Mountains, average temperatures in Washington homes vary greatly depending upon their location relative to the range. Homes in eastern Washington may experience lengthy, freezing cold snaps in the winter time and a dry, semi-arid climate, while locales like Seattle, strung along the state’s coastline, experience warmer averages and regular rain and damp. Those differences in climate will largely determine the best window types for your area. Modern windows do a lot more than look nice—they help you keep out the elements and maximize comfort throughout your home. That’s why it’s important to consider not just what adds to your home’s design, but which models will help cut your energy costs, too. This guide will take you through the basics of window repair—window types and their energy efficiency, as well as what you’ll need to do to hire a contractor and obtain a permit as well.
Things to Know About Window Installation in Washington
While a window replacement is not the most complicated job in the history of home repair, it does require a bit of specialized knowledge—installers should have an understanding of local building codes and be able to read the manufacturer’s installation instructions. That way, the project can be finished safely and legally. That’s why, unless you are familiar with window repair work, it’s best to hire a licensed contractor who can do the job for you.
Another benefit of hiring a contractor is that they will be able to investigate the insulation and air sealing around the window—a necessity if you hope to improve your home’s energy efficiency. New windows can help keep out drafts and reduce the leakage of cooled and heated air, but not if your home isn’t properly sealed.
If you’re worried about the cost of these projects, there are often local programs available that can offset the expense of energy efficient improvements. Washington is a very energy-progressive state with an aggressive energy portfolio, so many local utilities offer rebate or loan programs that they reward to residents who install efficient windows. Contact your local utility or municipal government to see what incentives are on offer in your area.
Although it requires some professional know-how, a window replacement is not a time-consuming project—generally more contractors require only an hour or two to get the job done. However, changes to the wall structure to widen or reduce the window opening, or the removal of storm panels, can add additional man hours.
Hiring a Contractor for Washington Window Installation
To make sure you’re getting the best deal, be sure to obtain at least three different estimates for your replacement. Ask each contractor to break out your estimates into the labor, materials, and other costs so you can understand exactly how each quote breaks down. Additionally, tell your potential contractors that you’d like to see their license to work in your area—you can also verify this information using the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Verify a Contractor Tool.
When selecting a contractor, don’t underplay the value of your own intuition. Your contractor should be someone with whom you can form a relationship with clear communication, so if something feels off, don’t sign.
Once you’ve made the decision of which contractor to go with, your contractor should present you with a final contract. Review the details to ensure that nothing has changed since your estimate, and if there are details you didn’t discuss, ask your contractor for clarification before signing it. Additionally, if the contractor requires you to put down a deposit, be sure to understand which portion of the job this amount covers. After the contract has been signed by both parties, request a copy for your records.
Permits for Window Installation in Washington
Many local building departments require a permit for window replacements in their jurisdiction, even for a direct replacement where changes to the surrounding wall structure are not called for. Additionally, in Washington state, local municipal governments may require homeowners to meet certain standards that comply with the state’s energy code as well. Or the permitting office may ask you to provide copies of your homeowners insurance, or the manufacturer’s brochure—or even, in the case of a large adjustment, plans detailing the extent of the construction.
Since the specific requirements may differ from place to place, the best practice is to get in touch with your local building department before you begin any work. The local permitting office can answer any questions you have about the application process and any supplemental materials, while your contractor can typically help you complete the more technical parts of the application.
Preparing Your Property for New Window Installation in Washington
A window replacement is generally a simple project for a contractor, but there are a few things that can make the project more complicated. You can make the process run a lot more smoothly by making the following preparations to your home before the contractor arrives:
- Take down any window treatments, including shades, blinds, curtains, and valances, installed around the window.
- Temporarily remove wall hangings near the window, such as photos, artwork, and shelving.
- Trim back trees and shrubs surrounding the window’s exterior.
- Clear away furniture and other obstacles between the window and the front door.
- Deactivate your home security system.
- Protect furniture and floors with a drop cloth or tarp.
- Keep pets away and children from the work area.
Washington’s Climate Concerns for Windows
Washington homeowners need to consider two important measurements when selecting windows that will help homes stay comfortable throughout the variety of weather conditions that are experienced throughout the state. These measurements are based on a rating system from the National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC), and are usually listed on the window’s labeling or on the manufacturer’s brochure accompanying the product.
The U-factor is the measurement of how well a window insulates the interior of a home. Washington’s 2012 energy code requires that all windows installed throughout the state have a U-factor of 0.30 or lower—the lower the rating, the better the insulative properties. Homeowners that are looking for superior energy performance may want to look for a U-factor around 0.25.
However, that’s not the only measure that’s important to Washington homes, especially if you live in parts of the state that experience warmer weather. A home is also influenced by the amount of solar heat a window allows through its surface, also known as the solar heat gain coefficient, or SHGC. Although there is no required rating for energy efficiency in Washington, homes will experience highest level of comfort if they select windows that have a SHGC rating between 0.30 and 0.42. Choose ratings on the higher side if your home experiences colder temperatures, as this can help offset heating costs.
Additionally, to be eligible for the maximum number of incentives as well as saving the most money on your heating and cooling bills, look for the ENERGY-STAR logo on the window’s labeling—this means that the window has been found satisfactory by the EPA for maximum energy performance.
Understanding Washington Window Ratings
Beyond the window’s U-factor and SHGC, there are two other industry ratings that will help you understand how the window will perform in your home. These are the following:
- Air Leakage (AL): Air leakage ratings indicate how much airflow a window allows through its surface. It’s an important measurement for windy or storm-prone areas.
- Visual Transmission (VT): This measurement lets you know how much light is allowed to come through the window.
Window Styles and Frames for a Washington Property
While your window’s style should reflect your personal tastes, as well as what best suits your home’s design, there are several options available, some that you may not have considered:
- Arch top: Have a traditional square shape with a rounded, decorative top.
- Bay window: A large set of windows that project outwards to create an area for seating or storage.
- Box window: Box windows usually come grouped in threes or fives, and have many small panes of glass, hung as decorative windows.
- Double hung: These windows have two operable sashes, allowing the window to be opened from above or below.
- Elliptical: A large quarter or half circle shape that is hung for decorative purposes.
- French casement: Similar to French doors, these vertical panes open outward from a center line.
- Picture windows: These are large windows that contain a large, single pane of glass for uninterrupted views.
- Single hung: The most classic of window types, these windows have an operable sash which can be pushed above the upper portion.
In addition to the window’s design, there are several different frame materials that add a different aesthetic and efficiency levels to your home.
- Aluminum: Strong and durable, made to withstand storms and other extreme weather, but may conduct heat into homes in warmer climates.
- Composite: Wood tends to draw moisture and warp over time, but composite frames, which are a mixture of wood fibers and synthetic materials, are much more durable.
- Fibreglass: A durable material that can be combined with insulation for a double dose of storm protection.
- Vinyl: Flexible, sturdy, fade-resistant and insulative, vinyl is one of the best frame options.
- Wood: Adds an authentic, historic note to homes, but can easily warp and is subject to decay, especially in wet environments.
Glass Options for Washington Windows
A last consideration to weigh when making your window purchase is the window’s structure and coatings, which can add protection and energy efficiency to your home. In particular, the different options to choose from are:
- Single-pane windows: These exhibit many problems, including air leakage and poor insulation, and are generally not used in modern homes. If you choose to install a single-pane window, make sure to use a sturdy frame material, like aluminum, and add storm panels for extra protection.
- Double-pane windows: These windows are actually composed of two panes of glass with an inert gas trapped between, that helps insulate and protect against drafts and air leaks.
- Triple-pane windows: These windows are a great choice for homes in very cold areas, as they contain yet another pane of glass and another layer of gas.
- Low-E Glass: Low-emissivity coatings on a window are a microscopically thin layer over the glass that reflects heat radiation back into a home’s interior, helping with both heating and cooling, and potentially reducing energy costs by 25 percent.
Benefits of Installing New Windows in Washington
New windows have aesthetic benefits, such as boosting your home’s curbside appeal, and that can translate to financial benefits, raising your home’s market value when selling. Furthermore, if you choose to install new energy efficient window models, you’ll also save on your heating and cooling costs as well, in addition to feeling more comfortable in your Washington home, no matter where in the state you’re located.