Chicagoland's Building Industry Publication

hether for base-priced production homes or the most element, luxurious custom-built estate, windows play an important role in exterior and interior design trends. Most buyers indicate a preference for greater ventilation, and desire natural light in their homes both for its aesthetic beauty and to bring in warm sunlight for winter energy cost savings. They want windows to be an integral part of the exterior design and want them to enhance interior decor as well - (almost!) gone are the days of dark, closed-off-from-the-outside-world libraries and studies. Families of the '90s who spend more time at home want living areas such as great rooms and rec rooms that invite the outdoors in through large expanses of glass.

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Windows add greatly to the curb appeal of even the most simply designed exteriors and, by comparison to other design elements, are a relatively inexpensive way to handsomely modify the home's appearance. Stock window units strategically incorporated in the exterior design can easily turn an ordinary model into one that buyers will take note of - without breaking the budget. Snap-in grilles, simulated divided lights, colors, interior trims and more offer inexpensive window design options.

Sidelights and a transom over the front door are both functional and decorative. Standard 8-over-12 units let in sunlight and open up the interior to panoramic outdoor views. New "light pipes" - tubular skylights - are easy to install and achieve the same effect as more conventional, more expensive skylights.

"Home buyers want to incorporate more custom window shapes and sizes into their homes, something that will set their home apart form the others," says Dave Lambert of the Pozzi Window Center, Ltd. in Grayslake. "One big trend is simulated divided light, a cost-efficient alternative to true divided lights."

Window options today are almost countless - one manufacturer advertises almost 11,000 different types of sizes, styles, glass options, materials and more! With so many choices, how do you decide what windows to put in your new homes?

"Quality and value are very important in today's competitive market," notes Mark Evans of Evco Windows in South Holland. "Consumers are more aware of energy ratings than ever before. They see all kinds of shapes and sizes on other homes; builders are realizing that both design and performance are important factors to consider."

To provide optimum energy savings, window systems today come with a variety of glass options. Double pane windows are almost standard, except in the most basic, least expensive window units, and are twice as energy-efficient as single-pane windows. The greater the space between the two panes, the more energy efficiency: 1/2-, 5/8- or 7/8-inch.

Low-e (for emissivity) glazing blocks heat - keeping it inside in the winter and outside in the summer - with a glass coating or a film suspended between panes. Marvin Windows offers different variations and/or multiple coatings of low-e glazing for use in varying climates, with "Northern" and "Southern" windows.

A step above standard double- or triple-paned windows are gas-filled windows. Instead of air between the panes, Argonne or Krypton gasses fill the space to provide enhanced heat blockage.

A few years ago the window industry formed the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) to develop standard criteria for measuring, and labeling rating windows; insulation performance. The move to form the NFRC was in response to the practice of manufacturers' labeling their windows' U-values based on measurement of insulation only at the center of the window panes, instead of averaging the entire window system. (A window's U-value is determined by dividing 1 by the R-value insulation rating; the lower the resulting U-value, the more energy efficient the window.) With these standardized NFRC ratings, builder, remodelers and home buyers can now effectively and accurately compare various window systems for energy efficiency.

Ask your window suppliers (distributors and manufacturers) about the various glass options available, and opt for the most energy-efficient glass available within the window allowance. Energy efficiency is uppermost in buyers' minds as energy costs continue to escalate.

Budget and customer preference dictate what types of windows are installed in new homes. Finding the right balance is easier today with all the options available in materials, glass types, shapes and sizes.

Wood is still preferred by many home buyers and offers both beauty and energy efficiency. Lambert says, "Consumers and builder are looking for a maintenance-free exterior, energy-efficient wood windows. Another advantage with wood windows is that the millwork is often used as an interior design element." Pozzi Windows offers numerous features in its window system and encourages buyers and builder to share their own ideas and designs. Pozzi representatives can show them how to achieve the desired look in almost any price range. (Note: You can get all kinds of information about Pozzi windows by visiting Pozzi's "virtual showroom" on the Internet at www.pozziwindows.com)

Evco Windows specializes in quality wood, aluminum clad wood and other window systems (as well as several types/styles of interior and exterior doors) by various manufacturers including Lincoln vinyl and aluminum windows. Evans says different window materials offer various advantages and disadvantages.

Although wood is more susceptible to the elements, most wood windows are now available clad with vinyl or aluminum on the outside to offer easy maintenance and protection from the weather in seasonal climates such as here in the Midwest. Wood still offers the most appealing decorative options, especially on the interior. Wood is one of the strongest window materials on the market and provides exceptional energy efficiency.

Vinyl windows (made from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) have been on the market for more than a decade, and currently represent the fastest-growing segment of the industry (builders and remodelers spent $1.8 billion on vinyl windows in 1995 - 25% of the window market.) The hollow vinyl is a good insulator; more recently formulated PVC is more resistant to heat than earlier versions. Vinyl is virtually maintenance-free. Because of its flexibility, it's easy to cut and assemble into custom shapes and sizes. And the price of vinyl windows lets builders offer custom windows even on production homes.

Aluminum is strong and offers the same maintenance-free characteristics of vinyl; aluminum's durability, in fact, is why wood windows are clad with it. The two materials together make for a tight, strong window unit. Aluminum-only windows are poor energy savers unless they are built with a thermal break which blocks heat transfer; most aluminum windows manufactured today have that thermal break.

Newer materials include fiberglass actually glass fibers combined with plastic resin. The resultant material is strong and durable; because it is so new, only a few window makers use it - for replacement windows - and only in selected geographic areas.

A new composite material of wood and plastic mixed together is being tested for performance and customer preference in a few housing markets throughout the country. One manufacturer is testing new-construction windows in Minneapolis made from the composite. With the combined durability of plastic, and appealing wood appearance, this new composite could be a future popular window material.

One unique new window worth noting is Marvin's innovative new "electric window" that changes from clear to opaque frosted with the flip of a switch. Using liquid crystal technology, the switch turns on an electrical current that passes through a film sandwiched in the glass to align the liquid crystals and make the window clear. When the current is off, the crystals suspend freely and randomly to "frost" the window for privacy, working much the same way as glass block does.

The electric window is ideal for use as a divider between different areas of the home, such as the kitchen and dining room or in bathrooms around bathtubs or whirlpools (much better than curtains or dividers of other non-glass materials because of the heat and humidity emanating from tubs). It can even be used in commercial applications such as glass-walled conference rooms.

Estates Marvin Window Center in Lake Bluff sells and services only Marvin Windows products. Its four sales representatives have a combined 50 years experience in providing windows and doors for consumers and builders alike. They work with architects and contractors from initial budgeting to final field inspection to ensure that the project - big or small - runs smoothly in terms of window installation and customer satisfaction.

Builders, architects and home buyers can visit Estates' 2,000-sq.-ft. showroom to see all of Marvin's latest windows and doors, and learn everything about the various products to find the right ones for each home.

New and exciting window innovations by national manufacturers such as Lincoln, Pozzi and Marvin Windows provide architects and builders with limitless ways to bring elegance, style and sunlight into every new home.

Three generations in the window business gives the people at Evco Windows vast experience and knowledge of the industry. "It's not a sideline - it's our business," says vice president Mark Evans. MCL Construction, WB Olson and Pontarelli Homes have all relied on Evco for windows and doors in building their new homes.

"We like to work with builders and architects in the design stages to help maximize use of attractive, energy-efficient windows and doors. It also avoids problems that can arise after the plans have been drawn."

Builders should help their customers evaluate the long-term quality and value windows can add to a home, says Dave Lambert of the Pozzi Window Center, and provide any warranties and services offered by distributors and manufacturers.

"We recommend that builders and installers thoroughly understand window distributors' services policies and warranties, and get to know the technical support people. Service and warranties benefit both the buyer and builder, by giving the customer greater value and the builder an added selling point. " Pozzi Windows can be found in new homes recently built by Martin Construction in Downers Grove, Wilson Colonial in Lake Zurich and LJK Builders in Lake Forest.

Evans adds: "Don't "window shop" based on price alone. Point out to buyers the advantages of upgrading windows and give them material and glass options to boost energy savings. With all the new products available today, such options don't have to add substantially to the price of a home, and the buyer will appreciate it in the long run."

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