Questions to ask before replacing windows

With summer in full swing (and the air conditioning full blast), you may be thinking of home improvement projects that will look great, but also save energy (and keep that cool air in!). Window replacement is one project that will help increase the energy efficiency of your home and improve curb appeal in the summer and beyond.

Beyond energy efficiency, there are a few tell-tale signs that your windows need a refresh, including:

  • Air leakage
  • Difficulty operating
  • Condensation between glass panes
  • Stylistic issues (like exterior paint peeling)

Take a look at each window in your home—see any of the above? It might be time for an update. Keep reading for some need-to-know tips to ask your contractor before you even pick out a new frame.

  • What do I need to know about lead paint?
    • Due to the risk lead paint poses, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Program to help protect homeowners. This program requires contractors and personnel be trained to use lead-safe work practices. When meeting with a contractor, ask for an EPA certificate. At least one certified contractor needs to be on the job site, with a valid certificate, if a home was built before 1978 and contains lead-based paint.
  • Can I expect energy savings with my new windows?
    • There are two methods of measuring window energy efficiency: the U-factor or Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). A U-factor measures how well a window prevents heat from escaping, while a SHGC, or “shading” factor, measures how well a window prevents sun glare and heat from entering the home. The lower the U-factor, the better the window prevents energy loss, and the lower the SHGC, the better shading properties it has. Look for windows that meet ENERGY STAR requirements in your climate region, available on And don’t forget about glazing. Double- or triple-glazed windows reduce the amount of energy escaping from the home, and help keep the home cool in summer months and warm in winter months.
  • Can I match the design of my windows to my house style?
    • There are numerous window style options that complement the design of any home. Key elements to consider are operating style and grille pattern. Single or double hung operating styles are ideal for most homes, but casement, awning or architectural shapes can provide visual interest, and a non-traditional grille patter can add character. Ask your contractor to make recommendations.
  • I don’t want white or beige windows. What are some other color options?
    • Today’s options go far beyond beige. With a range of light and dark hues for the exterior frame, as well as a variety of solid colors and wood grains to match the interior design, windows like Ply Gem Windows Mira Premium Series offer homeowners a range of color options beyond neutrals, including the new Radiance series, featuring hues such as black cherry, sunset and sapphire ice.
  • What installation method will you be using?
    • Poor installation techniques can reduce the advantages of window replacement and may result in air or water leakage. Ask your contractor if they will be doing a “pocket replacement” or a “full-frame” installation. Pocket replacements involve the contractor removing the operating sash, but leaving the outer frame intact. Full-frame installations require removing the entire window down to the rough opening. For both techniques, proper flashing, sealing and insulation help ensure the best performance. To close any gap between the window and frame, low-expanding window and door foam should be used.

Proactively developing a checklist of questions to ask your contractor and familiarizing yourself with common terms before starting window replacement will help reduce stress and ensure you get the best windows for your home that will last for seasons to come.