Door and window renos provide big savings in the long run
By Jim Peters
Given Winnipeg’s temperature extremes – which can easily span 60 degrees C in the space of a few months – it’s only natural that homeowners think about their doors and windows. A lot.
The climate is just one of the reasons door and window upgrades are among the most common type of renovations in our ever-expanding urban environment, and not just for older homes. Naturally, the age, style and construction of the house will affect the style of window recommended, and different companies recommend different solutions. But the experts can all agree on one thing – new doors and windows should be the best you can afford – whether or not they’re low-e coated, argon-gas filled, or triple-pane insulated.
Of course given the myriad of choices, materials and installation techniques in the marketplace, people often don’t know where to begin. Most people collect information through advertising, word-of-mouth or from website searches.
Ken Peters from Accurate Dorwin, a 27-year veteran of the business says, “Over the years I’ve sold vinyl, fibreglass and aluminum windows and I believe that fibreglass is the very best type you can purchase. Fibreglass windows are completely customizable, paintable, and the strongest in construction. The most stable product for our extreme climate uses material that has the least amount of expansion or contraction during temperature changes – and that’s fibreglass.”
Peters adds, “You should also be looking for material that closely matches the expansion and contraction rate of the glass to minimize any chance of extra pressure and possible seal failures from pinching or extra pressure on the glass from frame shrinkage. With fibreglass manufacturing processes, the environmental impact is also one of the best.”
Especially in today’s world, door and window decisions typically start with questions about energy efficiency. And with the province’s energy rates only expected to climb, maximizing the efficiency of door and window portals is not just an afterthought. Windows are the “weakest link” in a house – energy wise – and should be constructed with the best insulation qualities available.
Peters says, “In terms of window designs and styles, homeowners have multiple options and choices. Many of the designs are based on types of glass, tinting, paint colours, and exterior finishes – and vary from different manufactures. These things don’t change the quality or energy efficiency of the window install significantly, but consumers should simply rely on good contractors or sales experts to cover the things one should know, and all options that are available.”
Mike Marykuca, owner of Pioneer Window and Door says, “We recommend a smart window for Manitoba so in the winter time you have more solar gain and in the summer you have more solar reflection. This allows you to use your windows in the winter to heat and in the summer to cool. We also recommend window materials should consist of either triple-pane (with a 1/2 inch air space to optimize effect), low-e coated, warm-edge technology, and argon-filled for increased R-value. These components typically all work together.”
Installation times vary of course, depending on many things: whom you hire, the time of year, the age and type of house; and the number of door or window replacements. Depending on when and with whom you hire, the process can vary anywhere from four to 14 weeks, from the time of the first site visit.
At some companies, such as Pioneer, all of the windows and doors are also manufactured in-house. Marykuca says, “That means you’re literally buying ‘factory direct’ with estimates and installations coming from the same company. That just makes for a more seamless operation.”
Pioneer prefers European style PVC window products that come equipped with very high UV ratings and good insulating values. “This type of window is also very maintenance friendly,” says Marykuca. “The only thing you have to use is soap and water to clean them and you never have to worry about corners leaking. That’s important when you’re talking windows—joints can fail.”
The experts also agree on another thing: customers should inform themselves beforehand about doors and windows and the multiple options in the marketplace (see Resources below). “So prior to any contracts being signed you’ll have a better understanding of what’s about to take place,” says Peters. “It’s easy for contractors to use jargon – like in any business – so never be afraid to ask lots of questions.”
A helpful resource – and well-known name in the door and windows business – is Durabuilt. Their website provides good information on products, services, customer care and energy efficient products as well, such as CSA-certified materials, Low-E glass and dual versus triple-pane windows.
There are also many other useful websites (check YouTube as well) and government information sources to arm yourself with a few fast facts. Manitoba Hydro is an often overlooked resource – the provincial utility’s website has tons of good info. Just check under Your Home>Windows and Doors and you’ll find a page devoted to some of the many reasons for checking and maintaining windows and doors in our unique climate. The Hydro page suggests a well-executed door and window retrofit can improve the appearance and value of your home, reduce the potential for a condensation problem, reduce outside noise, and reduce fading of furniture and carpets due to UV rays. And in keeping with the utility’s Power Smart mantra, ENERGY STAR qualified products are strongly endorsed. With links to Natural Resources Canada, you’ll also be able to find your particular climate zone and the qualified products appropriate for the zone.
Perhaps the American journalist Sydney J. Harris said it best, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”