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Windows State Buying Guide of Washington, DC
A new window purchase in the District of Columbia, whether it is to replace existing windows or for new construction requires important considerations before starting the project. Climate, desired energy efficiency, type, and glazing options are just a few of the decisions you will face when purchasing new windows. The buying guide below will touch on the most important areas of new window purchase and installation to help you make the right choice and enjoy the best benefits from your investment.
How to Know When a Window Replacement is Necessary in Your DC Home
Age alone is a key factor to consider when determining whether it is time to replace your windows, and for obvious reasons. The older a window is, the less energy efficient it is which translates into more wear and tear on your heater and air conditioner. When newer windows are installed, the Efficient Windows Collaborative reports that homeowners can expect to see a 15 percent drop in their utility bills.
With temperature swings from the low 20’s to the mid 90’s and almost 40 inches of precipitation annually in Washington, DC it’s easy for window frames to begin to rot, leak, and/or warp. If your windows show signs of leakage or are rotting, then you definitely need to get them replaced immediately. The longer this is delayed, the higher the likelihood that your exterior walls will suffer structural damage or have mold growth. Along the same lines, the more your windows warp, the more difficult it will be to open or close them. If this is the case, then you and your family would be in serious danger if ever an emergency were to occur, making it all the more important to go ahead and replace these damaged windows.
Window Permit Requirements for the District of Columbia
If you have chosen to replace five or fewer windows, do not live in a historical district, and are not altering the wall structure, then you or your contractor can apply for a postcard building permit by visiting the Homeowner’s Center on the Washington DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs website. If you do not fall into that category, then your contractor will need to apply for a building permit by filling out an application and submitting a fee of $30 plus 2 percent of the construction costs. So long as the new windows are the same dimensions as the ones they are replacing, schematic plans should not be required.
If you happen to live in the historic district, expect to have to do more legwork in order to get your permit issued. It is recommended to get a contractor that has plenty of experience who can help your through all the red tape.
Property owners and contractors can apply for a building permit in the District of Columbia by contacting the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 1100 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. Office hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. and Thursday 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. You can also contact them via telephone by dialing (202) 442-4400, Fax (202) 442-9445 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, you can access an online building permit application by clicking here.
Hiring a District of Columbia Window Contractor
Most property owners considering a new window installation or replacement require the services of a window installation contractor for the project. Hiring a contractor is one of the most important aspects of any home improvement project. Your contractor will control the quality of the entire installation process as well as obtain the necessary permits and handle any unforeseen circumstances/problems such as stucco and brick repair, termite damage, stud replacement, and drywall repair that could arise during the installation.
Careful consideration is required by you to hire a licensed, insured, and reputable contractor in your area who has the experience and knowledge to complete your project correctly and legally within the parameters of the law and/or local building codes.
After receiving estimates and copies of licenses and insurance coverage from at least three window installation contractors or companies, it is up to you to verify that their credentials are valid. You can verify a DC contractor online by visiting the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs website or by simply clicking here. A quick call to the applicable insurance company can validate insurance coverage and policy status.
As a final layer of protection, you should contact the Better Business Bureau “BBB” or the Office of the Attorney General to inquire about customer complaints and/or pending legal actions against said contractor.
Washington, DC Climate Consideration for Windows
The District of Columbia receives approximately 43 inches of rainfall and 13 inches of snowfall per year. The U.S. averages are 37 inches and 25 inches respectively. Temperatures in mid July hover around 87 degrees with winter lows in mid January averaging 26 degrees. DC residents can expect to enjoy approximately 203 days of sunshine and 115 days with measurable precipitation throughout the year.
Climate and weather conditions should dictate which type of window frame, style and glazing you choose. For example, since the DC receives an above average amount of rainfall each year, it would be beneficial to choose a window frame material that can stand up to the moisture and high humidity levels. In addition, since temperatures can drop to extreme levels during the winter months and approach 90-degrees during the summer, a window with a high-energy efficiency rating and frame resistant to expansion and contraction would also be helpful. Your contractor should recommend a window type that is suited for your property based on the climate, desired energy efficiency, and conducive to the style of your home.
Window Certification and Ratings in DC
When shopping for windows, you will see labels attached signifying rating levels and certification. Ask the sales person or your contractor to explain the different ratings as they outline the windows energy efficiency and UV blocking ability.
Below is an example of what you will see on a label:
- U-Factor — represents the rate of heat loss of a window assembly. Lower U-factors represent a greater resistance to heat flow and increased insulating properties
- Visible Transmittance (VT) — is an optical property that indicates the fraction of visible light transmitted through the window
- Solar Heat Gains Coefficient (SHGC) — represents the fraction of solar radiation admitted through the window
The NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) stamp certifies windows are rated according to the criteria above.
Types of Glazing Used in the District of Columbia
Window glass, called glazing, is an important factor to consider when purchasing new or replacement windows.
Single Pane– Windows manufactured with a single pane of glass offer little protection against energy loss and outside noise. Few single-paned windows are used in new construction today with the exception being the areas of a home that do not require conditioned air such as a garage, workshop, or storage area.
Double Pane — Also referred to as an insulated glass window, represent a window with two layers of glass filled with an inert gas such as Argon or Krypton. Since the gas is not conducive to thermal conduction, it slows the transference of heat through the glass.
Triple Pane— Offer the most efficiency as the windows are manufactured with three layers of glass, which seal two layers of gas within the frame. Ideal for northern climates they are also the most effective at filtering outside noise. Their noise reduction capabilities would make them valuable assets in homes located near major highways or airports.
Window Frame Materials Used in the District of Columbia
Another crucial component of a window is the material used to fabricate its frame. The frame material will dictate how well the window stands up against the climate and weather conditions in your area as well as add to the windows overall strength and energy efficiency. The most common types of window frame material are listed below.
Aluminum is a lightweight material used in window frame construction that is many times stronger than wood and three to four times stronger than vinyl or fiberglass. Its strength not only provides supreme durability against harsh climate conditions, but also provides the strongest structural integrity between the three clad window types mentioned here.
Vinyl-framed windows have increased in popularity over recent years due to their low maintenance and resistance to weather, fading, peeling, cracking, and chipping.
Fiberglass provides the greatest energy efficiency benefits. Expect to pay the most for fiberglass windows for its insulating factors and resistance to expansion and contraction. Another attribute is the material can be painted easily, providing a greater range of decorating appeal.
Types of Windows Common in the DC
The type of window you choose will depend on the style of your home, the climate, your budget, and discussions with your window contractor. Listed below are some common window types and some that are used less frequently in the District of Columbia
Single Hung windows utilize a fixed sash, usually the upper, and a lower sash that that opens to provide room ventilation.
Double Hung Windows are types where both the upper and lower sash opens.
Bay windows are fabricated by mulling two side windows together with a larger, center section at between 30 and 45 degrees extending outward from the structure. Often, homeowners utilize the extra interior space created by the Bay window as a bench top seating area with underneath storage.
Box windows are similar to Bay windows with the difference being they take on a more rounded shape because more window sections — 3, 4 or 5 — are mulled together at lesser degrees.
Casement windows incorporate a hinged sash on one side. A cranking mechanism allows the user to open the window a full 90 degrees for optimum ventilation.
Picture windows are fixed panes of glass that do not open. They are often used to highlight picturesque views around a property.
Double slider windows incorporate two 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 sliding outer sashes.
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. The sides, top and bottom panes create a box. They optimize the sun’s rays to enhance plants or herb garden growth.
Geometric windows are fixed panels available in many shapes and sizes. Common areas where geometric windows are found include entryways, stairwells or any other area where natural light is desired.
Clad wood windows utilize a wooden sash and frame that is covered with a protective layer on exterior surfaces for added protection. In most cases, homeowners choose clad wood windows when the elegance and natural beauty of wood is desired for the interior areas of their home.
Window Resources in the District of Columbia
You may be able to reduce the costs associated with new or replacement window installation in the District of Columbia depending on the type and energy efficiency of the windows you choose. Within many local and federal programs, incentives and rebates are available that are designed to promote energy efficiency and conservation. Explore the websites below to discover programs that might be available in your area.
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency
- Energy Star
- Rural Energy for America Program
Many benefits are realized when you install new windows in your home. Not only do they beautify your home’s exterior, but also provide increased energy efficiency, which can reduce your monthly energy costs.