One of The Best things about springtime in Louisiana is being able to open the windows and doors on those days when the sun is out, the temps are cool and the breeze delivers the invigorating feel of the outdoors inside the house. On the other hand, one of the worst things about springtime is the classic New Orleans conundrum of April showers coming in through your drafty 100-year-old windows. Windows and doors are key elements of a home that help define our experience within it, and technologies and aesthetic options have changed significantly over the years. This season, we reached out to local experts for advice on choosing, replacing, and dressing windows and doors.
What are the biggest considerations for new windows and doors? According to our experts, quality — including energy efficiency and protection — should rank first. Style can then factor in with maintenance also a consideration depending on your choice of materials.
With new or recent builds, Richard Maia, manufacturing manager at LAS, commonly finds his company replacing windows that are less than 10 years old because the contractors of the original build spent the minimum on windows.
“A description widely used for this in the industry is ‘contractor grade’,” he says. “The windows are a common target when building a house and looking for ways to reduce cost, but they are your one line of protection from outside weather for the many openings in the structure of your house.”
Windows come in all shapes and sizes, and much to the consumer’s surprise, they also come in all variety of materials: aluminum, wood, aluminum clad wood, fiberglass, vinyl and even engineered wood. For our hot, humid, and rainy climate, Maia suggests vinyl as the best option.
“Vinyl is the only substrate that gets thermally fused together with welded corners of the frames,” says Maia, which makes for better protection from air and water. He says that vinyl is the best insulator and can be reinforced to any strength requirement needed, an important consideration in hurricane-prone regions.
Chandler Green, sales manager at Window World, has watched window technology improve exponentially over the years. Today, windows can reach an extremely high level of energy efficiency thanks to high quality rigid vinyl and double-strength glass, low emissivity technology, and the incorporation of argon or krypton gas. According to Green, customers can identify degrees of efficiency through solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) and thermal transmittance (U value) ratings typically included on window labels.
Homeowners love the security and energy efficiency they experience with upgraded vinyl windows, says Green. Additionally, the curb appeal and instant visual gratitude from new windows has a lasting effect, and customers are often surprised when they hear the sound difference in their home. Doors are also more efficient than they once were thanks to fiberglass construction coupled with foam, wood coring and rot-proof framing.
“The cost and savings over the years from maintaining and outfitting your largest investment is truly a great return on investment,” says Green. “This peace of mind is priceless.”
At Renaissance Doors, Managing Member Matthew Durish says that replacing a door doesn’t have to be difficult. Customers who know their end goal can find a product or solution without it being a mystifying process. The style of your home and your door’s level of exposure to weather will help guide the process, but just a walk around a showroom will get your ideas flowing and familiarize you with the options available in materials, glass and colors.
“Once you see all the possibilities, you’ll start noticing the different door styles in your neighborhood. This helps cement your final choice,” he says.
The next step is to take a photo or two of your current door and get basic width and height measurements of just the door that moves. These pieces of information, combined with your desired vision, will cut the choice from thousands of available doors to just a handful.
For front doors, popular options for materials include wood, fiberglass and iron. According to Durish, there are different considerations for each. The natural beauty of stained wood is a major appeal, but maintenance can’t be avoided.
“Fiberglass doors are now offered in many prefinished colors with the look of natural wood but the durability of composite materials, but the cost can be quite high,” he says. “Iron doors are in a class by themselves. Whether it’s an ultra-modern and contemporary style or more traditional iron door with bars and scrollwork, iron doors have a distinctive look.”
For people who want the look of a new door but aren’t ready to take the leap, one option is simply replacing the hardware and updating it with something more modern or sleek. When combined with a color change, Durish offers that your door might be mistaken by others for a completely new one.
At LAS, Maia offers a piece of advice for back doors.
“Be wary of using or specifying swing doors for exposed openings in your house,” he says. “Doors without raised lip sills, which most swing doors will not have, are not the most effective option for stopping water infiltration.” Maia sees sliding doors often replacing French doors that have no overhang, awning or protection from heavy rain.
Part of the fun — and function — of rear doors and windows is the light they provide. Changing up or modernizing your shades and drapes is a great way to update your windows without replacing them. According to Interior Designer Chad Graci, principal of Graci Interiors, well-made window treatments should last 10-15 years before needing refreshing. But once you see signs of wear or fading, have some fun with something new. Consider the type and placement of your windows before customizing treatments.
“For example, a family room that faces a covered loggia or porch could get by with unlined sheers to shield from glare — there really wouldn’t be a need for fully lined window treatments in that scenario,” says Graci. “On the contrary, a bedroom facing the front of a house would usually require fully lined window treatments for privacy and sleeping purposes.”
Motorized shades and curtains that can be controlled from one’s phone are increasing in popularity and add next-level convenience to managing your natural light and privacy.
Whether hanging new curtains or hanging a door, the spring offers a great opportunity for a refresh that allows you to better connect with — and sometimes protect yourself from — the outer world. A solution that looks good while providing efficiency and protection is a sure bet.