Windows should be inspected regularly as part of the regular maintenance of your home.  If your existing windows are in good condition, taking steps to reduce the energy loss through windows can make your home more comfortable and save you money on energy bills.  While windows contribute to the efficiency of your home, that’s not all they do.  If you’re planning on selling your house in the near future, new windows are a huge selling feature.  They’re one of the top five things potential buyers look for, so the investment can add considerable value.  New windows also instantly create curb appeal and can make a dated exterior look fresh and modern.

Options to upgrade or replace

You have two broad options if you want to reduce the amount of energy lost through your windows and/or improve the comfort and aesthetics of your home:

  1. Update your existing windows (Retrofit or Reglaze)
  2. Replace your windows

Not all used window related issues require a full window replacement.  For newer homes, well-maintained homes and those with relatively new windows, window replacement is usually the most expensive and unnecessary option.  When it comes to old or broken windows, you generally have the choice to Reglaze, Retrofit, or Replace.

REPLACE

In a full frame installation, all the window parts get replaced down to the construction frame, (sometimes referred to as brick-to-brick).  The construction frame is also checked for damages, mold, or moisture.  Your custom windows get outfitted with new brickmoulds, jambs, and trim.  These vinyl components inside the window do not deteriorate over time and are easy to maintain and replace. These components are often a substantial part of the price in the full-frame replacement, but they also ensure a more thorough and proper installation.

Note:  If you’re installing a new window where one didn’t previously exist or enlarging an existing window opening, a building permit will be necessary.

RETROFIT

Retrofit replacement, also known as Insert replacement, is a process when a new vinyl window unit is inserted into the existing wooden frame or casing.  No other parts around the window will be replaced performing this type of installation.

REGLAZE

In short, reglazing is window pane replacement.  Reglazing is an option when the rest of the window unit is in good condition.  This means that the window sash is sturdy, moves well, and is still air and watertight.  The frame should also be free of cracks, breaks, and rotted wood.  If this is the case, new glass is all that’s needed.

Help in assessing whether your windows need replacement

To better understand the current state of your existing window, here is a list of some basic things you can do in order to assess its condition.

  • Number of window panes
    If the windows are single pane, then it would be a good idea to replace them. By installing new double or triple pane energy efficient windows, you are probably looking at cutting the heat loss through the windows by half.
  • Window glass
    If the window glass is broken, loose, or has moisture in between the panes, you can address the problem by contacting the original manufacturer to replace the glass.
  • Window material
    If your windows are made of vinyl, there is a good chance that they do not need replacing. A lifetime for vinyl windows is considered to be at least 20 years.
  • Air leakages
    Check for air leaks around your windows. A simple way this can be done is by lighting a candle or lighter and moving it along the edges of your window frame.  You’ll be able to see if the flame wavers with incoming air.  If the window does not have significant air leakage and is in a good reasonable condition, consider new caulking and weather-stripping.
  • Window hardware
    Check for ease of operation, loose or faulty hardware. Sometimes it’s just a matter of replacing these parts and you can postpone a major window replacement.  If they are in a very bad condition and your window frame or sash is damaged, consider replacing your old window.
  • Condensation
    If you have excessive condensation on the interior side of the window, you should firstly try to reduce the amount of moisture in your home. If there’s condensation between the panes, it means that your sealed unit is broken and you’re not getting any energy efficiency benefits because the gas has escaped.  In this case, contact the manufacturer to see if your warranty is still valid and get a quote for a new sealed unit.  Don’t forget to compare the cost of the new sealed unit with a brand new energy-efficient window.  If the price range is about the same, you are best advised to go with a brand new window.  It will give you a 25-year warranty.

A reputable project consultants will do their best to advise you on which windows need to be replaced, and which can still be repaired or salvaged.

Factors to consider when selecting new windows

When purchasing new windows, you can consider the following features to base your decision:

  • Frame types
  • Glazing type
  • Gas fills and spacers
  • Operation types

In addition to choosing the window type, you also need to consider design, energy use and labeling, warranties, and proper installation.

Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying new windows.  It provides a reliable way to determine a window’s energy properties and compare products.  Canada’s Natural Resources website offers information and samples of labelling for windows, doors and skylights.

www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency

Every ENERGY STAR® certified window, door and skylight is required to leave the factory with a removable label that shows:

  • its certified performance ratings (U-factor, Energy Rating, etc.)
  • a description of the product (type, materials, glazing, etc.)
  • its certification information

Common Manufacturers

Investigating the material composition and quality of the products you are considering will help you to compare ‘apples to apples’ when deciding on which windows to purchase.

Here are some of the more well-known names in windows detailing notable selling points, starting with the top 5 window companies in Ontario as ranked by ONTARIO WINDOW REVIEWS.

Clera Windows (Ranked 1st in Ontario) has 30 sales and installation offices throughout Ontario and is one of Canada’s premier manufacturers and installers of replacement vinyl windows and doors.

Landmark Windows (Ranked 2nd in Ontario), headquartered in Stoney Creek, has trademarked and produced its own exclusive line of custom made, energy efficient replacement windows.

Brock Windows (Ranked 3rd in Ontario), one of the first to bring vinyl windows to Ontario homeowners, has a solid reputation for quality and craftsmanship in the home renovation industry.

Pella Windows & Doors (Ranked 4th in Ontario) is a U.S. based company that produces windows made from wood, vinyl, fibreglass or clad wood.  Pella is known for its integrated, retractable roll-screen design.

Verdun Windows (Ranked 5th in Ontario) which operates mainly the Ottawa-Carlton area has developed ‘Revocell’ technology which boasts top affordability, strength and efficiency while minimizing frame size and optimizing glass size.

Andersen Windows & Doors products consistently rate near the top for quality and performance and are manufactured in wood, vinyl, aluminum, fibreglass and a trademarked composite material (Fibrex) that is twice the strength of vinyl.

Pollard Windows are made in Burlington, Ontario.  They manufacture an affordable line of all-vinyl and vinyl clad wood windows, catering to multi-level, high density buildings as well as traditional residential applications.

Ostaco Windows & Doors is a family-owned company based in Concord, Ontario whose windows offer high-performing efficiency at an affordable price point and are geared to the custom, made-to-order market.

North Star Windows has earned a reputation for manufacturing and distributing attractive, high-quality, energy efficient vinyl windows offering excellent quality and value for your investment.

Gentek Windows offer vinyl and aluminum window products and is known for ALIGN, the world’s first composite cladding incorporating glass-reinforced polymer and graphite-infused polystyrene (GP)2 technology.

These window companies and dozens more are profiled on the Ontario Windows Reviews website https://www.ontariowindowreviews.com/  where you can research products, compare features, and read consumer feedback from actual customers.

Construction Materials with Pros and Cons

VINYL

PROS

Biggest bang for your buck cost-wise

Low-maintenance

Vinyl sash and frame corners are airtight, therefore good U factor

Holds strong year after year, built to last if properly installed

Won’t rust, corrode or separate

Can be manufactured to simulate wood grain

Assorted styles, sizes and exterior colors to choose from

Nearly maintenance-free, easily cleaned with soap and water

* Be careful because not all vinyl windows are the same quality

CONS

Not always the best aesthetically

Cannot be painted to a custom colour

Limited in hardware options

WOOD

PROS

Attractive when first purchased but requires ongoing maintenance

Good-looking, durable and solid

Does not tend to attract condensation

Wood is one of the best materials for insulation if installed properly

Can be clad with vinyl or aluminum exterior to resist water and seal out the elements

CONS

Expensive – can cost 20% to 35% more than vinyl

High Maintenance required – needs touch-ups in paint, stain and weather barrier coatings due to exposure of the natural elements

High tendency to warp, expand, contract and rot if not properly treated

Can be a target for termites if coatings are not maintained

Not recommended for coastline locations due to moisture absorption

COMPOSITE – FIBREGLASS

PROS

Excellent energy efficiency ratings (in line with vinyl windows)

Heavy duty, durable and meant to last (made from materials similar to car bumpers)

Maintenance free – does not need to be painted or stained

Available in wood grain options and custom exterior colors

Can be painted to suit specific tastes

CONS

Expensive – typically on par with wood windows

ALUMINIUM

PROS

Today’s aluminum windows are stronger than older versions and can last if properly taken care of

Not prone to warping

Lower maintenance than vinyl

More expensive than vinyl, less expensive than wood

CONS

Old aluminum windows, particularly those manufactured 1960’s – 1980’s, were of cheap quality and prone to drafts, rust and corrosion

Less energy efficient as the metal is a natural heat conductor making windows prone to condensation (therefore less practical for cold climate)

Can corrode over time, therefore not recommended for coastal environment (to lessen the risk, can be coated with corrosion-resistant paint)

STYLES OF WINDOWS