How to Keep Moisture and Ice from Forming on my Windows and Doors in the Winter


On really cold days, you may notice condensation forming on the inside of your windows. This can be caused by one or a combination of factors: excess humidity, inadequate ventilation, or poor windows. To understand and correct a particular issue in your home, you need to know some basic properties of moisture.

Condensation occurs when water vapor (a gas) turns into water droplets as it comes into contact with a cold surface. The point at which this happens (called the “dew point”) depends on the temperature and humidity of the inside air. The warmer the indoor air, the more water vapor it can “hold,” and moisture can better remain in the vapor state. When air moves next to a cold window, the temperature drops and it can’t “hold” as much vapor. That’s when you start to see condensation forming. For example, if the indoor temperature is 70 degrees and the outdoor temperature is 0, then moisture will begin to condense on a single-pane window when there is roughly 15 percent relative humidity in the house. A double-pane window will cause condensation at around 25-40 percent relative humidity, and a triple-pane window at between 30-50 percent. These are rough numbers are based on average window insulation values.

The recommended indoor humidity levels for occupant health and comfort range from 30-50 percent. The general rule in a cold climate, however, is to target the lower end of this spectrum because of the risk of condensation within walls and ceilings. If your house has adequate mechanical ventilation, humidity is less of a concern.

Three keys to controlling condensation: make sure your home is properly ventilated, aim for less than 40 percent relative humidity to keep both you and your home healthy, and consider replacing your windows or adding external removable window insulation during cold months.

If you already use mechanical ventilation and have low interior humidity, but are still having problems, you may need to examine your ventilation setting. If you have a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), it may be recirculating too often, which can contribute to increased moisture build up in the air. Re-circulation mode closes the connection to the outside and brings exhaust air back into the rooms.

Re-circulation mode keeps the HRV core defrosted and saves energy, but sometimes it can run too long. Some experimentation with the HRV settings may be necessary. For example, in 20/40 mode the HRV brings in fresh air for 20 minutes and then recirculates for 40 minutes, and likewise for 30/30. If you’re getting condensation in your current mode, try decreasing the amount of time the unit recirculates.

Also make sure air is allowed to circulate — either passively or mechanically — throughout the entire house. If you close the door to the bedroom, the air can become cold and moist enough to condense on windows.

Older, poorer performing windows can create problems no matter what you do to your interior air. Bad seals around operable windows, metal spacers between the panes, and inadequate insulating value can cause the window surface to get cold enough for condensation to occur.

                                                 For a professional consultation, contact us and we’ll send a window and door specialist out to see you.

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Window City Plant Tour

Window City has a massive plant in Vaughan, Ontario. The details are provided in the video below. Pay special

attention to the  specific window manufacturing practices that only Window City can provide.

After you’re done watching, call us and book a free assessment. These windows are built last!!



Casement or Double-Hung Windows For Your Home





















Deciding whether to install casement windows or double-hung windows is like deciding between a 4 wheel drive truck and a sleek sedan–both are good, but for vastly different reasons.  In fact, once you understand the differences between the two windows, your decision should be easy.

What Is It?

  • Double Hung:  A window that has an upper and a lower sash.  Usually, the upper sash (i.e., window pane unit) stays in place, while the lower sash slides up and down.  If needed, the upper sash can be moved up and down, as well.
  • Casement:  A window that opens a door.  A crank on the house interior opens and closes the casement window.


  • Double Hung:  Double hung windows indicate a traditional, classic style.  They work well with older cottage-style houses or with new houses that want that look.
  • Casement:  Casements impart a contemporary style and work well with modern or ranch-style homes.

Mechanical Failure

  • Double Hung:  Double hung windows have a lower failure rate than casements because there are fewer mechanical parts that can go wrong.  “Dropped windows” is common with double hung windows, a condition where the lower sash refuses to stay up.  This can usually be fixed by the homeowner.
  • Casement:  Casement windows are prone to mechanical failure waiting to happen.  The crank unit is usually the first mechanical part to fail.  Even if casement windows do not all of a sudden stop working, they will slowly loosen over time so that you get more air seepage into your house.

Tightness and Preventing Air Intrusion

  • Double Hung:   The bottom and two sides of the double-hung window fit snugly in the side tracks.  The only part that will allow for air seepage is along the top, but good seals can limit this.
  • Casement:  Casements do a superior job of limiting air intrusion in your home.  The reason is because the window sash presses straight onto all four sides of the window frame and its seals, just like an exterior door fitting into its door frame.

Ease of Use

  • Double Hung:  As long as you have close access, the double hung window is fairly easy to operate.  A spring-loaded balance aids in lifting the window, and gravity helps you close it.  But if you have to stretch to reach the window, it can be exceedingly difficult to operate.
  • Casement:  Easy to open and close.  Turning the crank and operating the lock (a lever) is easier than pushing a sash up and down.  One downside is that it can be time-consuming to open and close a large number of casements at once.

Notable Problems

  • Double Hung:  Even though most double hung windows today have “swing in” style sashes, they are still more difficult to clean (the outside) than casements.
  • Casement:  Normal window unit air conditioners do not fit in casement (and slider) windows.  More expensive specialty units are required.


  • Double Hung:  Since double hung windows are so readily available, they will be cheaper than casements.
  • Casement:  Casement windows are at least 10% more expensive than double hung windows.


Make sure you’re buying quality windows

Once you start getting window quotes, there is a good chance that most companies that you see will say that their windows are the best, and are of the highest quality. And because with replacement windows it is difficult to judge their performance just by looking at them, you may find yourself wondering which product really is better. Thankfully, if you are looking for quality, then all the information is already available to you.

The best way to get energy-efficient windows is to buy products that are Energy Star rated and CSA certified. Energy Star is an international organization that rates household appliances and building materials based on their energy efficiency performance. In Canada, Energy Star outlines three specific climate zones for window performance. Most urban areas in the country fall under Climate Zone 2, and require windows to have an ER rating of 29 or higher.

Energy Star and CSA (Canadian Standards Association) use similar rating parameters when assessing how well a window performs, and whether it’s rated for one area or another. In the majority of cases if a company’s windows are Energy Star rated they will also be CSA certified in Canada. The performance data is collected for all the different window configurations and options and is available publicly, so there is a very concrete way to compare window performance between two companies.

For a searchable list of ENERGY STAR participating window retailers and their ratings check out this Natural Resources Canada page.









You can find the list of the participating CSA companies and the window performance ratings on their Certified Product Listing Page



Another important thing to remember is that these organizations require their products to be labeled with their respective logos. It is part of demonstrating to the customer that the windows are suitable for their climate zone, and that the homeowner is getting exactly the product they paid for. Be sure to ask if a company’s windows are Energy Star rated and CSA certified before purchasing, and look for those symbols on the windows when they arrive at your home.

Winter Blues and Window Sweating

If the constant shoveling wasn’t maddening enough for the typical Canadian, you’ll notice other annoyances around your home during the winter season. Working in the home improvement industry, one of the many calls we receive in the winter are customers concerned about their windows leaking, in the form of accumulating condensation. This is what we refer to in the business as “window sweating”.

Window Sweating is interior condensation forming on your window. It will appear as a fog or a frost on the inside windowpane, but sometimes it can actually pool water on the glass and appear as if you are getting a leak from the outside. This is a result of the warm air in your home condensing on the cold window glass.

If you are having issues with “Sweating Windows”, try these simple tips to fight back on the winter blues!

1. If you use a humidifier, turn it down. Humidifiers are great tools in the winter to combat dry skin and prevent increased static electricity, but the increased moisture may result in increased condensation on your windows. You may have to test several settings to find a good balance.

2. Use Kitchen and Bathroom Exhaust Fans. Cooking and showering releases a lot of extra moisture into the air. Keeping fans on during and after these activities will help remove any excess moisture in the air.

3. Turn on ceiling fans and furnace fans. Make sure your fans are rotating clockwise during the winter season and are set on a low speed. This action pulls the cool air up, and the gentle updraft pushes warm air (which will naturally rise to the ceiling) down along the walls and back down into the room. Not only will this help your room feel warmer, but keeping the air circulating in your home also helps with growing condensation issues.

4. If your home has a fireplace with a flue, make sure to open the damper to help allow moisture to escape. Also make sure all venting from burners and clothes dryers are directed to go outside.

5. If it’s not too cold outside, open your windows from time to time to help release some of the moist air trapped in the house.

6. Blinds, curtains or drapes can be closed to help raise the temperature of the actual window, to reduce condensation on the cold glass. Slightly increasing the temperature on your thermostat can also help.

7. Move your plants. Plants release moisture into the air; if you have a number of plants near your window causing you trouble, try relocating them.

8. Purchasing a dehumidifier can help. It will cost you a couple of bucks but if the windows are pooling that much water it will save you money in the long run if you are concerned about water damage. De-humidifiers also come in mini sizes if only certain areas of your home are giving you grief!

9. If all else fails, you may need to replace the windows. Older windows can be colder and draftier when compared to new energy efficient windows. New windows have a warmer glass area and will have little to no condensation on the glass.


If the above tips haven’t helped, and you live in the Windsor/Essex area and think you may need new windows, Certified Windows & Doors would be happy to assist you. Call us at 519-251-9556 and we will gladly send out one of our professionals to give you a free assessment and answer any questions you have!

Replacing Your Windows

Exterior of a Home With Windows
Replacing windows is a home improvement project that makes sense in many ways. In older homes, window replacement is likely to make your home far more energy efficient. In just about any structure, it can both increase curb appeal and enhance the view from indoors, too! When it comes to installing new windows, homeowners will have a huge variety of options in size and style. If you are looking to improve your home in both form and function, knowing what’s out there and what can be done is a must.

Good Candidates for Window Replacement

If your energy bills are higher than you think they should be or higher than you wish they were, window replacement can considerably lower your bills, not to mention beautify your home. If your current windows don’t operate easily, are painted shut, or are otherwise broken or problematic, there’s a good chance that you could benefit from installing new ones.

Replacing Windows to Increase Efficiency

Older windows are notorious energy wasters. When you compare drafty, single-pane styles with today’s energy efficient models, there’s really no comparison. If you live in an area where heating or cooling costs are a significant concern, replacing windows is a sure way to keep the air you want inside and the air you don’t want outdoors where it belongs.

When shopping for energy efficient windows, pick a frame material and construction for superior thermal performance. Consider glazing layers, low e-coatings, fill gases, and the NFRC rating system. Though the initial expense will be higher, opting for higher quality products is the way to go if you want to really see the savings. Remember, even the best window will only be as good as its installation; take the time to talk to multiple contractors to find one that you feel comfortable with. To be extra certain you’re getting a quality installation, ask for references; you may even be able to go and see some of the contractor’s previous work in person.

Replacing Windows: From Simple to Complex

You’ll have a lot to look at when you’re out window shopping. Obviously, the easiest replacements involve swapping an old, drafty window for a new one of the same dimensions, however, many homes can benefit from moving a little outside the box. Enhancements such as bay or picture windows can go a long way in increasing curb appeal and livening up a living area. Some might even consider replacing bland styles with etched or stained glass. Installing specialty windows is a big job, and an expensive one, too; here, it is even more important to hire a contractor you are comfortable with.

Investing in Window Replacement

In some areas of the country, replacing windows is one of the most lucrative home improvement projects you can enter into. Depending on where you live, installing windows can sometimes recover more than 100% of their construction costs in added resale value for your property. It is important to remember, however, that not every replacement project will have the same return. If you are considering new windows simply as a way to increase your property value, it is a good idea to talk to someone in your area who really knows the housing market. Though researching statistics online is never a bad idea when beginning a home improvement project, discussing your options with a professional in your area will give you a good sense of what tends to work

Tips for Choosing Efficient Windows

Chances are that the main reason you are replacing your old windows is to upgrade to more energy efficient models. Window companies have improved their offerings so they now help save you money on your energy bills all year long.

But it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to figure out which windows are right for your home. Shopping locally is a good idea. Windows vary by region, so you’ll get the best advice from retailers that have experience in your climate. Choosing windows from major manufacturers is also key. They sell a lot of windows and have the muscle behind them to produce quality products.

Remember, as with anything, you get what you pay for. Go cheap and you’ll end up replacing your windows sooner than expected. To help you decipher the keys to energy-saving windows, here are some tips.


New window frames made of wood are the most popular and very energy efficient. They are easy to repair and maintain and can be painted to your desired color. They are susceptible to rot and insect damage, but better window makers offer them clad in vinyl or aluminum, or treat them with a water-repellant preservative that makes them last longer. They tend to cost more, but they offer the best look for both inside and outside your home.


With their good moisture resistance, vinyl windows are a good choice. They are equally energy efficient to wood windows if they are insulated. They are also low-maintenance but do fade over time, especially in darker colors, which can also become brittle as they age, so choose lighter neutral colors that you can live with for the long term. You can restore the finish with a soft scrub cleanser should the frames become dull. They’re slightly lower priced than wood windows.


These windows are strong but not very energy efficient because they conduct heat. Condensation can form, creating moisture issues, including frosting in winter. Most often, these are the cheapest windows you can buy.


Window frames made of fiberglass are offered by some of the major manufacturers as an alternative to wood or vinyl. They are high maintenance, as they need painting. It’s difficult to find them in energy efficient insulated versions, and they are more expensive than insulated vinyl windows.


Composite windows look like wood and most makers prefinish them in a host of colors. They perform well, but you may not like the look of a full composite window on the inside of your home. To solve this issue, some makers use composite materials on the outside of the window and wood material on the inside. Cost is about the same as vinyl windows.

Tips for Choosing Energy Efficient Windows

  • Look for Low-E coatings on the glass. These coatings reflect heat inside your house and reflect UV rays from the sun outside your home. They have a slight tint that may or may not be visible depending on how dark you want the tint to be. In colder climates, the coating is applied to the inside panes of glass, while in warmer climates, the coating is applied to the outside of the glass.
  • Casement and awning windows are the most energy efficient because they clamp more tightly against the weather stripping on the frame than double-hung windows.
  • Look for windows with multiple panes of glass separated by low-conductive argon or krypton gas filling and warm edge spacers with tightly constructed frames.
  • The best weather stripping on any kind of operative window is a compressible gasket type much like you would find on your car doors. The weather stripping combined with a quality latch will effectively keep out cold air and rain, plus keep warm air in in winter.
  • Look for windows with low U-values or U-factors. These windows have the best insulating properties.

Maximum Value Energy Efficiency Projects: Windows and Doors

Traditional Blue Entryway With Beadboard Ceiling

Just by replacing your windows and doors with more efficient models, you can save energy, improve comfort, minimize condensation, increase natural light, reduce fading and lower HVAC costs.

Think about it; with every entryway to your home comes the risk of also letting other things in and out — such as heat, humidity and light — that can decrease your home’s ability to function in an efficient way. With new products on the market, windows, doors and skylights can reduce your energy bills by up to 15 percent while helping protect the environment.

  • Low-E coating for windows and doors. According to the Department of Energy, low-emissivity (Low-E) coating is a microscopically thin metal or metallic oxide layer deposited on the surface of one or more of the panes of glass. The Low-E coating reduces the infrared radiation from a warm pane of glass to a cooler pane, in turn lowering the U-factor of the window. Although Low-E windows can cost anywhere from 10 to 15 percent more than regular windows, they reduce energy loss by as much as 30 to 50 percent. Low-E coating can come on windows and glass doors, which can be especially nice for homes with French doors, sliding glass doors or anywhere glass is used, because glass on its own is a very poor insulator.

Before taking on a whole-house window and door remodel, it’s important to know how your house stands up in an energy audit. Many times, homeowners will assume that the smartest decision is to replace all windows and doors to maximize energy efficiency throughout the home, but this isn’t always the case. According to appraisal expert, Leslie Sellers, president of the Appraisal Institute, “Checking for cracks and leaks before going through with a whole-house revamp can save a lot of money in the end.” An energy audit can help identify the best strategies for implementing new materials into your home’s design for increased savings. “If you wind up only having to install weather stripping for proper sealing, that alone is worth the energy audit.”

Once an energy audit is completed and areas are targeted to help increase efficiency, the federal government as well as state, local and utility programs may offer financing help or weatherization assistance to bring your home up to optimal standards. It goes to show that the biggest spenders aren’t always the smartest energy savers.


  • On a Budget: A less expensive option when looking to replace old windows and doors is to use storm windows/doors that can improve the energy efficiency of what you already have. When storm windows/doors are installed in combination with models that are older, the new model can create a barrier between the weather and your home’s interior, enhancing efficiency without breaking the bank.
  • Mid-Range: If you are looking to install Energy Star windows and doors but want to stay on a reasonable budget, consider installing newer models in the rooms that get the most use in the home. Good places to start are the front door and windows for the family room, main bedrooms and the kitchen. In other spaces, storm windows and doors, weather stripping or even using window treatments or coverings can add an extra level of protection from heat loss and air leakage.
  • High-End: If you are building a new home or doing some major remodeling, take advantage of the opportunity to incorporate your window and door selection as an important part of your whole-house design. This is a great approach for constructing a fully energy efficient home. Always work with an architect or designer that understands whole-house efficiency incentives before taking on such a large project. They can help build a successful strategy for implementing the particular windows and doors that work best with your home’s climate and energy efficiency needs.

Choosing the Right Windows


Gone are the days when homeowners’ interest in windows was limited to whether they could find appropriate coverings for the glass. Today’s energy-conscious consumers want to minimize the costs of heating and cooling their homes. Whether you’re building a new home or planning to replace existing windows, the key is to know which choices will give you the biggest bang for your buck without delivering a blow to your bottom line.

If you’re considering replacement windows, do the math to find out just how cost-effective new units would be. One way is by completing a home energy audit. Whether you hire a professional or try the DIY route, this energy efficiency checkup for your home will give you a sense of where the major energy-loss areas are and how serious they are.

It’s essential to get a good read on where the thermal transmission problems are in your home before you embark on a full replacement-window renovation. You don’t want to lay out five figures for a whole-house window makeover when your real problems might have been solved by a tube of caulk, some weatherstripping or a few storm windows.

Replacement windows aren’t the right choice for every home. Bruce Irving, a Cambridge, Mass.-based home-renovation consultant and a former producer of the long-running renovation show This Old House, gets especially passionate about people replacing historical wood windows.

Irving says that especially in older homes, original windows are an integral part of a house’s character, and homeowners who believe they need to upgrade these windows’ energy efficiency should first try to add rather than subtract. “With a good storm window over it, original wood windows can equal the energy performance of a modern window.”

Situations that may warrant window replacement, though, include the following:

• Your windows have single-pane glass or temperature-conductive frames and sashes. Most window and construction experts agree that homes with cheap, poorly-performing windows can almost always benefit from window replacement.

• Your windows are in poor condition. Beyond efficiency concerns, windows in poor condition can contribute to water leaks, humidity problems in the home and even pest infestations. Cracked windowpanes, non-operational windows and rotting frames, sashes or sills on wood windows are all good reasons to consider replacement.

• Your windows pose safety problems. Windows that don’t open or shut completely or that are weak or loose because of improper maintenance or damage are good candidates for replacement. And if your home has upper-floor rooms with windows that don’t open, consider replacing them with operable windows and placing an easy-to-use fire ladder in the room so the windows can serve as exits in case of emergency.

If you decide to replace your windows, there are four factors to consider when choosing energy efficient models: frame, glass, design and installation.

The Frame

Most people know a wood frame is less prone to heat and cold transfer than an aluminum one, since metals conduct temperature much more easily than wood. But that doesn’t mean wood is always the best choice for a utility-bill-friendly window. A variety of materials are available for window frames, and each has positive and negative aspects. Here’s a look:

• Vinyl: Just because vinyl is a less expensive material doesn’t mean it has to be “cheap.” A well-constructed, properly installed vinyl window can be a practical choice budgetwise while still offering excellent energy efficiency measures through insulated glass and tight construction that reduces air leakage. Vinyl windows can be limited in color choices, however, and the fact remains that some people simply don’t like the look of vinyl on their home.

• Wood: Wood windows offer the best insulative value, though they also require more upkeep than vinyl, wood-clad or aluminum frames. Because of the potential for rot, they may not be the best choice for extremely humid or rainy climates. A well-built wood window will stand the test of time, however; many original wood windows in older homes are still in good shape thanks to the high-quality cut and species of wood used.

• Aluminum: While not the top-performing material in terms of heat transfer and loss, aluminum windows are practical in rainy, humid climates, and they meet stringent coastal building codes in hurricane-prone areas thanks to their strength.

• Wood-clad: Wood-clad windows seemingly offer the best of both worlds: a low-maintenance exterior (usually vinyl or aluminum) and a temperature-transfer-resistant wood interior. But clad windows can be prone to water intrusion, which can cause rotting, especially in the sills and jambs, where water tends to pool. Proper installation of wood-clad windows should include use of waterproof rubber membranes around the cladding as well as a stand-alone flashing assembly called a sill pan. The sill pan drains any water that gathers around the sills and jambs, minimizing moisture intrusion (and resulting wood deterioration).

• Composite: These windows, made from scrap wood shavings and plastic resins, can effectively mimic the look of wood but are virtually maintenance-free. And because the resins used in the window-manufacturing process are often from recycled plastics, they’re an eco-friendly choice.

• Fiberglass: These are technically composite windows, since they’re made of a mixture of glass fibers and polyester resins, but they’re often discussed independently of other composite windows because that term is increasingly being used solely to describe the wood-pulp-and-plastic composite material. Fiberglass windows are more expensive than other similarly equipped window units, but their selling points are many: They’re extremely energy efficient thanks to their low thermal conductivity; they’re the strongest and most durable windows on the market; unlike vinyl windows, they can be repainted several times; and they don’t twist or warp like vinyl or wood frames can.

The Glass

While the material each window is constructed from is important, the reality is that most recent window-related buzzwords are all about what’s inside the frame. But what do all these upgrades mean?

John Lala, president of Rycorp Construction in Virginia Beach, Va., is familiar with the gamut of efficient window options. He’s built houses in all price ranges, from bare-bones-basic structures to million-dollar-plus projects for very eco-conscious clients. And after seeing everything out there and talking to lots of home buyers, he says, he ends up using windows with the same basic energy efficiency features in most of his projects.

“A double-pane window with low-E glass with a vacuum-sealed argon fill — that’s what people ask for,” he says. “It’s an extra $40 or so per window for me to add these features, and they really do make a difference in a home’s utility bills.” Lala says he’s found that doing anything more, such as using triple-pane glass or denser gases with greater insulative properties, “just adds cost and gives diminishing returns in efficiency.”

So what exactly are you getting when you choose a window with the aforementioned options? “Low-E, argon-filled, double-paned windows provide significantly more insulation than a single-pane window,” says Kendra Weinisch, a residential energy efficiency consultant in San Jose, Calif. “These windows protect the inside of the house from the sun’s heat and UV rays in the summer, and they prevent heat from escaping during winter. From the standpoint of energy efficiency and value, these types of windows make a lot of sense.”

Weinisch adds that while triple-pane windows may be notably more efficient in especially harsh winter climates, they can also reduce the window’s visibility and light transmittance.

You shouldn’t have to look much further than a window’s glass to find out what the unit’s efficiency features are. All windows in the voluntary Energy Star program will have stickers on them displaying ratings by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). To qualify for Energy Star status, window manufacturers must meet standards for these two main metrics:

• U-value, which measures a window unit’s resistance to heat loss

• Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which measures how much heat enters a home through the glass

For both U-value and SHGC, the lower the number, the better the window will perform.

Another option for providing UV protection is UV-repellent film that manufacturers use to tint windows. It’s undetectable to the eye, and they preserve paint and textiles in addition to keeping a house cooler. Homeowners in the South, the Southwest and other hot regions can reap energy-saving rewards even with a small degree of tinting.

Transoms above windows provide an inlet for fresh air.

The Design

Transoms are the “eyebrow art” of a window. Rather than providing fixed transoms that exist for aesthetics only, some manufacturers are rolling out “active” transoms that open, providing an inlet for fresh air.

What’s more, the look of these working windows is more appealing because they require deeper casing, Franklin says. “Active transoms have more depth, so they don’t look like a flat piece of glass stuck on the wall with a bit of casing,” he explains.

Homeowners seeking environmental benefits from a window design should move away from configurations like radius-style windows shaped like half-moons, “sunbursts” or circles, which do not open.

The Installation

Even the most expensive window unit won’t perform effectively if it’s not installed correctly. Be wary of any contractor who relies too heavily on expanding foams or sealants to get a window to fit well — these materials aren’t waterproof and can lead to problems down the road. Pre-installation waterproofing, often completed long before windows are installed, is the best option, says Jim DeLaPlaine, director of operations for Building Engineering-Consultants of The Woodlands, Texas.

Flashing and proper caulking may be the cheapest parts of window installation, but if they’re not done with an eye to detail, the ensuing water leaks will cause a barrage of problems for both builder and buyer that could have been easily prevented.

Some window designs are inherently more efficient than others. The most common types are:

• Double-hung windows. These are traditional units in many homes across the country, and they’re especially common in prewar buildings. With double-hung windows, the bottom slides up to open the unit. They can be efficient choices, but in extreme climates, they may not be the best option, because of the potential for air intrusion between the sliders.

• Casement windows. Popular in climates where wind is an issue, these units, which have a crank that swings the window outward to open, actually seal themselves off tighter when wind blows toward the house. They require maintenance on hinges and seals, however, to ensure their continued stability and efficiency.

• Picture windows. These usually don’t open, and they come in many shapes and sizes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be efficient — glass choice and gas-filled interiors are especially important with these larger units.


Choosing the Right Entry Door

When installing a new entry door, you might think the choices are limited to steel, wood or fiberglass. That’s generally true, but within each of those three categories there are some variances that will affect how the door performs and how long it will stay looking great.

“The first thing to look at is how much weather the door will be exposed to,” says Brad Oberg, chief officer for an architectural and engineering consulting firm. “You have to look very closely at the durability of the material and the quality of the weatherstripping system to make sure the door will hold up and keep air and water out.”


Made of an inner frame of wood or steel with a 24-gauge steel skin (or thicker on premium doors), the cavities of most steel doors are filled with a high-density foam insulation. Finishes are usually a baked-on polyester finish, which may need periodic resealing. Premium doors have a vinyl coating for improved weather resistance or sometimes even a wood veneer that can take a stain.

If exposed to direct sunlight, some steel doors can build up so much heat they will be uncomfortable to touch. Also, some manufacturers will void the warranty if an aluminum storm door is paired with a steel door because heat will build up between the two and cause the steel door’s finish to peel. Steel doors are also somewhat less energy efficient than wood or fiberglass; heat or cold can be conducted through to the inside surface unless a thermal break is incorporated into the door’s construction.


A popular choice for aesthetic reasons, wood doors come in a wide variety of species and can take just about any stain or paint color. Some stock wood doors are actually veneer skins over an engineered wood core, which helps them resist shrinking, swelling and warping that is common with solid wood doors.

“Wood doors work best when installed in a protected area,” Oberg says. “Unless they’re under an overhang or located in a shaded area, the homeowner will have to perform a lot of maintenance, and warping will be a problem.”

As a rule, wood doors with intricate moldings, thicker and wider stiles and rails and thicker panels are usually the best quality. High-end wood doors have panels up to 1-3/8″ thick, compared with just 3/4″ thick panels on economy models.

Fiberglass and composite

Tough and virtually maintenance-free (except when placed directly in harsh weather, in which case periodic resealing may be required), these doors can mimic the look and feel of a solid wood door. Typically made of molded skins of fiberglass on a framework of wooden stiles and rails, these doors contain polyurethane-foam insulation.

Fiberglass or composite doors typically carry the longest warranties of any of the three materials, and can run anywhere from $200 for a basic unit without any glazing to up to $4,000 for a complete entry system with sidelights and upscale hardware.

Other Factors

Oberg points out that while each material has minor variances in energy efficiency, the most important thing that will decide how well a door performs in this area is weatherstripping and proper flashing and installation.

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association has published a great set of guidelines and has a list of verified products that ensure a quality weatherstripping system that will perform as expected for years.

He also recommends that builders look closely at the threshold system (adjustable ones are desired) and the glazing system, if present (make sure it is properly supported from within, not just “popped in”).

“Front doors are a major aesthetic portion of any house,” Oberg says. “And in smaller homes it can also be a major part of the ventilation system. Take the time to research the products.”

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