When building or purchasing a log home it is common for people to not put enough thought into selecting their windows. This can be a big mistake, because selecting the wrong window can have very expensive consequences. With a little knowledge and planning, you can make the best choice — saving yourself both money and grief.
Typically the we recommend that you plan your first log home for at least two years prior to building so that you have time to find good deals on things like doors, windows, tools, etc. If you have storage space available for doors and windows it is a good idea to buy them as you find good deals. Often you can get perfectly good manufacturer seconds that are 1/32″ off, or the color is one shade off.
Regardless of when you buy your windows, there are some major choices you’ll need to make. There are currently four primary styles of windows on the market and all have pros and cons:
Wood frames — Wood framed windows do not conduct heat very well, which is excellent because that means that when you pay to heat your home the heat will stay where you want it – on the inside! Unfortunately wood frames often have issues with swelling / shrinking, warping, and water damage / rot.
Clad-wood frames – Clad-wood frames have a regular wood frame that is protected by a exterior layer of a weather resistant material (i.e. vinyl or aluminum). Clad-wood is an excellent product; they last a long time and have a very low thermal conductivity. The down side is that wood clad frames are fairly expensive.
Aluminum frames – These have greater durability than plain wood. They also weigh less, are thinner in thickness and thus are easier work with in some respects. While aluminum frames are inexpensive and extremely durable, they also tend to transfer heat out of your home at a high rate (unless you get a high quality aluminum frame with an incorporated thermal break).
Vinyl clad frames – Vinyl frames are becoming more and more popular. Although quality may vary, the right vinyl frame can be an excellent purchase. They do not conduct heat in the same way that aluminum frames do, and they do not have the maintenance problems of wood frames (they are also a lot less expensive than clad wood frames). Look for good welded corners to know you’re getting a quality frame.
The principle of heat transfer is an important one, because installing a window that transfers heat can be almost like cutting a hole in your wall and just leaving it empty. If you go with a cheap window that transfers heat it will lead to larger heating bills during the cold season. This may cost you more in the long run than simply buying a good quality window to begin with.
So it is best to select the style of window that affords the most heat retention properties that your budget can afford.
There are two key tips that any frugal consumer should be aware of when it comes to buying windows …
Always try to buy a ‘stock’ window size versus a custom size. Stock sizes are usually a lot less expensive than a custom size. Also, it is easy to find a replacement for a stock sized window when it comes time to replace or update your window. Be aware that stock sizes vary by region, so you will need to ask around to determine what sizes are common where you are building.
There is really no reason to avoid buying a quality used window. You can often find excellent used windows for a fraction of what new windows cost. And if you buying a used window of a stock size it will be easy to upgrade at a future date!
That’s all for now. Remember that you can save a bundle on windows by shopping around surplus building materials stores, want-ads and even flea markets. Keep your eyes open for the good deals. This will make your “window shopping” easier.