What to Look For When Choosing a Window: Part II

Today’s post is part two of last week’s post about how to choose a window for your home; whether as a replacement window or as a window for your new custom home, window choices are vital when ensuring that your AC and heat don’t escape.


Aluminum and wooden frames are often the two most talked about frames when it comes to windows, but in actuality, there are many more choices that are not as widely known.

  • Vinyl frames are less expensive than wood or aluminum but that doesn’t make it a bad choice.  When a vinyl frame window is made well and installed correctly, it is a viable contender with other frame materials.
  • Wood-clad windows are a window frame that is typically vinyl or aluminum exterior and wooden interior, this comes with the benefits of a low-maintenance exterior and temperature transfer resistant interior.  Unfortunately, they are also somewhat prone to water leaks which can lead to water pooling and eventually sills and jambs rotting. When these are properly installed with a sill pan, it will drain any pooling water away and minimize any wood deterioration.
  • Composite frames are usually made from recycled plastic resins and wood shavings, these can be made to look like wood but are practically maintenance free.  Fiberglass is also a type of composite frame made of polyester resin and glass fibers; this type of composite frame is more expensive than the first type discussed but they are extremely energy efficient and an excellent choice for durability and strength.
  • Wood frames are the best when it comes to insulation, but the upkeep required is much more than any other type of frame.  They also don’t work well for wet or humid climates.
  • Aluminum frames are practical choices, especially for wet and humid climates.  They do not perform well with heat loss and transfer but their superior strength means that they are often used in hurricane-prone regions.


It doesn’t matter how much you pay for your window if it is not installed properly.  Incorrect installation means that your window is not able to perform its job as an effective barrier for heat, cold, air, water, etc.  Pre-installing and waterproofing should be completed before your windows are actually installed, this will start your window installation off on the right foot.

Keep an eye out for sealants and expanding foams being used to seal your window in place, they aren’t waterproof and can lead to air leakage or worse over time.  Flashing and caulking are both areas which are often ignored or quickly done, these should be done carefully as they are a final barrier to air and water leakage.

What to Look For When Choosing a Window

Last week we touched on four factors to know about when choosing new windows for your home – either as replacements or for your custom home.  These four factors are: Glass, Design, Frame, and Installation.  Let’s take a closer look at what to know about these four essential parts of a window.


When it comes to window glass, there are a lot of buzzwords that get tossed around, what is really necessary for a good window that is going to last and be worth the money that you put into it without breaking the bank?  Double-pane windows with a vacuum-sealed argon fill and low-E glass.  It will probably cost you an additional $30-50 per window but you will see a difference reflected in your energy bill.  We have talked in depth about the differences in single, double, and triple pane glass in previous posts.

When looking at windows, you can usually find a sticker directly on the glass that will tell you exactly what the window’s efficiency features are.  If the window has an Energy Star sticker on it then it means that it has met the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)’s standards.  These standards are measured in two ways: Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) – measuring the amount of heat entering a house through the glass, and U-Value – measuring a window’s ability to resist heat loss.  For each of these factors, the lower the number, the better energy rating it will receive.

South Texas home owners often choose UV-repellent film as a tint for their windows, it’s practically invisible but it will preserve textiles and paint as well as keeping the interior of a house cooler and save money on utility bills.


The design of a window can have huge effects when it comes to energy efficiency, but that doesn’t mean that you have to settle for something utilitarian or boring.  In the past, custom home builders focused on aesthetics rather than function, but now the modern approach is functionality and beauty in one.  A window can be both décor and an inlet for fresh air, this is especially applicable for transoms (the window above a door or another window).

Decorative windows that are also functional require a deeper casing which can contribute a lot to the aesthetics of your house as “active” transoms.  If you’re looking for further benefits to be reflected in your utility bill, don’t choose a semi-circle or half-moon window as these are not as energy efficient.

Come back next week as we explore the last two of our four important window factors: Frame and Installation.

Should I Replace My Home’s Windows: Part II

A few weeks ago, we discussed questions to ask when you are considering replacing your home’s windows.  We’ll continue that discussion in today’s post; these situations and questions may help you figure out if your house’s windows should be replaced even if you have a historical home where you would normally want to preserve the original windows.

Here are a few situations to consider:

Windows in poor condition.  When your house’s windows are not in good condition: cracked window panes, rotting sashes, sills, or frames, pests coming into your house, inability to open or shut the windows, leaking water, humidity problems in your home are all indicators that you should replace your windows completely.

Windows with safety problems.  If your windows are loose, don’t open or shut, or are weak because they haven’t been maintained properly or are damaged, should be replaced.

Windows with single-pane glass.  If your house’s windows have single-pane glass or temperature conductive sashes or frames, it is typically wise to replace them as much of your heating and cooling will be escaping through these exits.  These windows are usually poorly installed, and or cheap windows that were not well made.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a window:

There are generally four factors to consider when choosing a new window.  These factors are: glass, design, frame, and installation.  We’re going to discuss these factors in more depth in our post next week but here’s a brief overview.


Double-pane windows with a vacuum-sealed argon fill and low-E glass are probably among the best window options for your money.


This area is fairly subjective to what the home owners want, but keep in mind that half-moon shapes, or semi-circles will decrease the energy efficiency of that window.


At first glance, wood may seem the best choice: it doesn’t transfer heat or cold as readily as an aluminum frame but these aren’t your only material choices.


It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a window if it’s not installed correctly.  Keep an eye out for sealants and expanding foams being used to seal your window in place, they aren’t waterproof and can lead to air leakage or worse over time.

See you next week when we delve deeper into these four factors!

Replacement vs Storm Windows

Last week, we discussed some of the differences between replacement windows and storm windows and how to make the choice between them.  Today, we’ll continue to talk about replacement windows and storm windows and help you better decide what is the right decision for your home.

Pros of Replacement Windows

  1. This is a permanent solution to your window problems because with a quality choice comes the assurance that you won’t have to replace your windows in the coming years just because of their age.
  2. Better climate control, energy efficiency, and insulation.
  3. Better and more design choices.
  4. Increases the value of your home
  5. Outside noise reduction.
  6. Allows for more light.

Cons of Replacement Windows

  1. May cause your home’s value to decrease if you have an older or historic home.
  2. May change the look of your home.
  3. Must be installed by an expert and takes more time for installation.
  4. More expensive than storm windows.

Pros of Storm Windows

  1. Allows for the aesthetic of an older or historic property to remain the same.
  2. Less expensive than replacement windows.
  3. Reduces airflow which leads to better insulation.
  4. Since the installation process is simple they can be installed by yourself or a professional.
  5. Protects the primary window from outside damage and helps to reduce outside noise.

Cons of Storm Windows

  1. May be less attractive.
  2. Should be replaced every 2-4 years.
  3. Moisture can become trapped on interior window.
  4. Less light will be able to come through the windows.
  5. Maintenance once every 12 months is required or oxidation and pitting may occur.
  6. Cleaning and maintenance may require removal of the storm windows.
  7. Regular lubrication and cleaning of tracks is required.
  8. Not as energy efficient as replacement windows.

For those on a budget, storm windows are the easiest and cheapest option, this will effectively solve your air leakage and UV ray problems.  That said, if you are not on a tight budget, the best way for energy efficiency improvement is to replace all of your home’s windows with energy efficient windows.  The newer technology is of course the best for your home, but for those that don’t have that option (whether due to budget constraints or historical properties) storm windows are a good alternative.

Should I Replace My Home’s Windows?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered various parts of understanding how to choose windows for your custom home.  Minimizing the cost of cooling and heating is a huge part of the decision for energy-conscious home owners.  For existing older homes, home owners are usually faced with the decision of keeping and repairing the current windows in your home or replacing them with new windows.


Initial Steps

One of the first steps in deciding whether or not to replace your windows is to do the math to figure out the cost-effectiveness of new windows.  This process is not difficult, you can run a home energy audit.  This can be a DIY project or you can hire a professional to assist you.  Either way, this will identify where the major energy-loss areas are located. This audit will help determine if you need to replace all of your windows or simply reapply the weatherstrips or replace some caulk.

Storm Windows

Historical or older homes, where the original windows must or should be kept as an essential part of the character of your home, may just need the addition of a storm window that will protect the original window and elevate the energy performance to that of a modern window.  A storm window is window is that is typically installed on the exterior of the primary house windows (they are also sometimes installed on the interior), they are installed for weather protection of the original window, and normalizing interior temperatures.  They can be custom made to your particular window needs

Replacement Windows

If you believe that your house’s windows should be completely replaced instead of renovated (it’s a good idea to get a second or third opinion about this), you can still keep with the character of the house and win with substantial energy savings while you’re at it.  Another advantage of replacing older windows with new windows is the improvement of durability as well as having a warranty.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Is this a DIY project? Storm windows are relatively simple to install, replacement windows are trickier and you should gauge your skill level carefully.
  2. How old are your windows? Windows that are 30 years old should generally be replaced UNLESS they add historical value to your home.  Keeping the esthetics of a historical home is very important.
  3. What is your budget? Replacing windows can be very costly while adding storm windows is relatively inexpensive.

What is Glass Block?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talking about single, double and triple hung windows, double hung windows, the U-factor, and the R-value.  Continuing in the same vein, today, we’ll talk about glass block windows.

What is glass block?

Glass block windows are a unique option for homeowners in that they offer benefits such as security, design, and privacy that more traditional windows can’t provide.  These are literally blocks of glass that require installation that is more similar to masonry than window installation; they cannot be opened and are permanently closed.   They are available as custom made for whatever size window opening that you may need, or as prefabricated pieces in vinyl frames.  They are typically used in bathrooms or basements, but can be installed anywhere.

Energy Efficient

Glass block windows are equivalent to double pane windows as insulation.  They have little to no air infiltration as they are sealed with mortar and caulk, and as they admit natural light, there is less need for the usage of artificial light during the day.

Security and Privacy

Because of the way glass block windows are designed, they are the perfect solution for areas of your house where you want natural light but do not want people to be able to see into that part of your house.  Ideal for bathrooms, glass block windows are available in many designs that can be made to fit perfectly with your preferred décor.  You can also choose to replace a few of the blocks with a ventilation opening that will help bring in fresh air from outside or expel moisture.

Homeowners generally loved glass block windows as a security precaution in more vulnerable areas such as windows in the basement.  Glass block windows are usually about 3 inches thick and are difficult to remove because of the way in which they are installed.

Where to install glass block

Besides basement and bathroom windows, glass block can also be used as:

  • Showers
  • Water features such as ponds, pools, and water fountains
  • Kitchen islands
  • Walls
  • Deck privacy walls

Have you used glass block in your custom home design?  Where and how did you use it?  Drop us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Casement Windows, Double Hung, R-Value, & U-Factor

As we mentioned in last week’s post about single, double, and triple pane windows, we’re going to spend the next few weeks focusing on explaining the jargon around windows.  By knowing how to talk about windows, you’ll better understand not only how to communicate with your Texas custom home builder, but also what you want for your dream home.  Your window choice does not just affect the ascetics of your home, but also the functionality.

Casement Windows

A casement window is a window that has one or more hinges which attach the window to the window frame.  These can be a single pane or a pair of panes within a single frame.  There are a few particular names that can be used depending on where the hinges are located: hopper windows are windows that are hinged at the bottom, while awning windows are ones that are hinged at the top.

Single & Double Hung Windows

The major difference between double and single hung windows is that for single hung windows, the top sash is fixed and will not move, while both of the sashes on double hung windows will move up and down and may also tilt in.  Because of this, many people choose single hung windows for the lower story and double hung windows for upper levels as they are easier to clean from the inside.

UV ratings or the U-Factor

UV ratings or U-factor is the measurement of how well something performs when preventing heat from escaping a structure.  The higher the U-factor, the worse a product is performing, the lower it is, the better it is performing.  The typical window U-factor will fall between 0.15 and 1.20.


When talking about insulation, the R-Value is often the most discussed.  The R-Value simply measures the resistance to heat flow, therefore, a higher R-Value means a greater reduction in energy consumption.

Difference between R-value and U-factor

The difference between R-value and U-factor is that while the R-value is to measure heat loss resistance, the U-factor is used to measure the heat transference rate (heat loss).

Single, Double, & Triple Pane Windows

When you’re choosing windows for your home, it might seem that your only concern is which design to choose, but in actuality, the windows that you choose for your custom home can affect your energy bill, interior lighting design, and much more.  When talking to your south Texas home builder, you will probably hear terms such as double or triple pane windows, casement, double hung, UV ratings, R-value, and more.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tackling some of the common window jargon and helping you understand the best choice for your dream home.

What is the difference between a single, double, or triple pane window?

The difference between the three types is very straightforward.  Single pane windows have only one pane of glass and are not widely used anymore as they are not effective as insulation or durable.  Double pane windows have two panes of glass that are separated with a layer of gas.  Triple pane windows have three panes of glass that are each separated by a layer of gas.

What type of window should I choose for my home?

As we said above, single pane windows are not typically used in home construction and are not the best choice for your wallet.  Double pane windows are a great choice when it comes to insulating against sound and weather, they are also very durable and cost efficient.  Triple pane windows further increase all the benefits of a double pane window, but when you compare the higher cost (you will typically pay about 30% more for a triple pane window) and what you are gaining as a sound barrier and insulation, double pane windows are usually the better choice.  The money that you save on double pane windows you can put towards a few added luxuries that you perhaps have not yet considered.

A few extra tips

Though you will save money by not choosing triple pane windows, that doesn’t mean that you should try to save money when buying double pane windows.  A quality window is going to be a bit pricey but it will save you money in the long run.  A good, durable window will not need to be repaired or replaced for years.

Cost Effective Energy Efficiency Part II

Last week we began talking about the misconception that an eco-friendly house automatically equals a more expensive house, we’ll continue the discussion of ways to make your house more eco-friendly while taking into account your budget and even saving money on your custom home construction.

Identifying Design Details

You and your custom home builder can go through your home design together and work to pinpoint areas in which you can focus.  Here are a few to get you started:

Using manufacturer specifications is an area of importance as actual in-field practices and manufacturer’s suggested practices can differ widely.  Installing appliances correctly can go a long way to saving you money.

Framed wall cavities should have all six sides enclosed in order to stop air flow through them.

Another area where a little to no extra effort will save you money is your AC and heating ducts, seal them properly instead of using duct tape.  Doing this doesn’t take more time, and if you tape them then the duct tape will deteriorate over time causing air leaks to occur.

Speaking of air leaks, you should make sure that all penetrations in exterior walls are sealed with caulk.  This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes these things can be forgotten or overlooked.

Insulation around your windows isn’t necessary, instead use low-expanding foam which will fill every crack to ensure that there are no leaks.

Insulation has a few things of which to be aware: Make sure that behind your bathtubs are insulated, it’s usually required but not always carried out in actual construction.  Your fire place’s firebox should also be insulated and checked for any leaks.  Finally, check that your insulation is extended through all exterior walls and that your exterior plates are sealed with caulk.

Though this is certainly not a comprehensive list of all the ways you can save money in your custom home construction while keeping it eco-friendly, it is a start and can spark some important conversation between you and the experts you are consulting.  Your custom home builder can walk you through many more options specific to your needs regarding having a home in south Texas.

Cost Effective Energy Efficiency Part I

An energy efficient home is more important now than ever before, but green walls might not be your thing and breaking the bank to make your custom home energy efficient is not at the top of anyone’s list.  Is it possible to design a dream home that is energy efficient and cost effective?

According to some experts, a home that is energy efficient may actually be easier on your wallet than your average home building cost.  The secret?  The basics.  Gadgets and appliances are great but what you really should focus on is to make a few small but significant changes to your house plan and considering carefully all of the spaces that you are planning.  Do you need such a large living area and a sitting room?

Energy conscious construction should be planned in detail, make sure to talk to your custom home builder about specific products and items that you want installed in your house.  Sometimes choosing the mid-level item is a good cost-effective and perfectly acceptable way to go, other times, your designer can advise you on spending a bit more money to save money in the long run on repairs.  Knowing the cost of materials is important for these conversations so do a little research on your own.

A Few Other Cost Saving Tips

Building over your house’s garage is an excellent way to utilize space in a cost effective way, this space can be as cheap as 1/3 the cost of building in other spaces.

Windows are another area in which you can save some money.  Spaces such as open areas and foyers don’t need operable windows, here’s a good place to utilize fixed glass which will save you money and will also serve to reduce air leakage.  Double-hung windows are beautiful but unnecessary, single-hung windows serve the same purpose and are cheaper to purchase and install, they are also more efficient when it comes to energy ratings.

This is a big topic that we’ll continue covering next week, so be sure to check back then to learn more and drop us a comment with your thoughts.