Window Smarts

CanWest News Service
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Choosing between vinyl or wood, casement or sliders gets complicated

Location may be real estate's best friend, but the view is the home's soulmate. Windows frame our vision of the outside world. As more people are looking for the best possible perspective, they are also hunting for smart ways to increase the value of their homes.



Windows are a good starting point.



Newer, bigger, wider, taller, more efficient windows are a hot upgrade for homeowners. Now there are more options than ever.

Bob Milne, owner of Manotick Windows and Doors, is seen through one of this easy-clean windows in his showroom. Photo by Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen

Location may be real estate's best friend, but the view is the home's soulmate. Windows frame our vision of the outside world. As more people are looking for the best possible perspective, they are also hunting for smart ways to increase the value of their homes.



Windows are a good starting point.



Newer, bigger, wider, taller, more efficient windows are a hot upgrade for homeowners. Now there are more options than ever.



Christopher Simmonds, one of Ottawa's leading architects, works on the premise that, aside from providing shelter, a house is primarily a place to experience nature from within.



"For me, windows are all important. So when we are designing a house, we are always thinking, what are the views trying to capture? Is it a tall tree? Is it a horizon? And how wide should we take the window to capture the view (but) screen out what we don't want to see, like the side of a neighbour's house or the road."



It's common to see triple-glazed windows with low-e coatings and argon gas, says the architect.



"The thermal performance of these windows is significantly better, three or four times better, than windows used to be 25 or 30 years ago."



Manotick Windows and Doors owner Bob Milne has also seen a lot of changes in the past 20 years, with owners of older homes and those building new homes looking for the best windows to stop drafts, resist mould and rot and provide added security.



Typically, they choose from four types of frames: PVC, fibreglass, wood and aluminum.



PVC windows



PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, are well suited for buyers looking for extremely low maintenance. These windows require no painting inside or outside; and are popular for starter homes right up to million-dollar properties.



So why would you want it?



"PVC is the most economical product on the market right now," says Milne. "So say windows are $10,000 in PVC, they may be $14,000 in fibreglass."



Given PVC is extremely cost efficient, they are the current industry standard - which is why most companies that make the cranks and the hardware for window companies are designing them mostly for vinyl windows.



The price: Locally, a Newfoundland-made 60- by 60-inch fixed picture window costs between $700 to $1,000, installed.



Fibreglass



Fibreglass has been around for years, but it's still a relatively small player in the world of windows. Its big advantage is that it expands very little, allowing the caulking that holds the seal to outlast other installations.



"Fibreglass does not expand any differently than glass," says Milne. "It's made of glass. It's glass fibres."



People concerned about having the highest energy efficiency will search out fibreglass products. But they come with a higher price tag, and there are some limitations, such as it's hard to get them made into circular shapes and curves.



Prices not available.



Wood



Wood is the original window frame material, but these days it's usually used for high-end jobs and comes with regular maintenance.



"It's usually someone who appreciates a wood finish on the inside," says Milne. Given Ottawa's weather extremes, it's hard to keep paint on a wood window. Wooden windows usually have aluminum cladding on the outside and wood on the inside.



"Some people forget the wood and then let it go. Then it peels inside and it's not as good a look as the vinyl window. They are not great in this climate."



The price: Wood windows have a bigger price range, just like wood furniture, because there will be different qualities of wood. Prices in Ontario range between $900 and $2,000 for a 60- by 60-inch picture window, installed.



Aluminum



Aluminum has been widely used in high-rises for its strength and longevity, which is of utmost importance when dealing with high winds several floors up.



They are light, strong, low-maintenance and easily formed into complex shapes. However, they conduct the cold, so it will tend to be a chillier window.



"You go on the balcony of a 17th-floor apartment building and feel the wind blowing. You want a window that's stronger to hold that glass," says Milne.



He says aluminum expands a certain amount too. "It's less than vinyl, but more than wood or fibreglass."



The price: Similar to vinyl.

Geographic location: Ottawa, Newfoundland, Ontario

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