When sizing up a home, either to purchase or to sell it - windows are one feature that can make a dynamic difference. Size and placement of windows affects the character and curb appeal of the home from the outside, and light, views, energy efficiency, air flow, noise and egress from the inside. Done right, windows can make your home everything you would want it to be. Windows that are inadequate can be a headache and an expensive fix.
When examining windows, look at the frames and how they are built into the wall. Understand the materials used and how the window functions. Windows that are designed to open should open and close easily and completely, and have the ability to be secured with a lock. Signs of moisture around the window should be addressed, to ensure that there are no leaks.
Examine the type of material in the window frame. All-vinyl windows generally cannot be painted, and other, older wood framed windows might have so much paint on them that they are difficult to open. While you are looking at the window frames, notice how the windows open, and whether the glass is single, double, or even triple-paned. Depending on your climate, double or triple-glazed windows can make a huge difference on your heating and cooling bill. Gas-filled windows use argon, krypton or other inert gases to fill the areas between the panes, further enhancing the insulating factor. Excellent windows also help to deaden noise from the outside, which can be helpful in urban environments.
Most building codes require each bedroom to have a window, primarily as a means of emergency exit in case of a fire. In the bedrooms, it is important that the windows can open to permit someone to climb out, while also being child-safe to ensure that small children don't fall out. Bathrooms with windows enable better air-flow and ventilation; however they are often glazed with translucent glass for privacy.
Skylights, essentially windows in your ceiling, can be a huge source of light, but might also be sources of leaks. Ensure that the skylights are properly installed, with flashing around them, and that the glass is of high quality. Cracked skylights should be replaced. If a skylight opens to permit airflow, ensure that it opens and closes well, and consider how the UV light and heat of the sun might affect the room at different times of the day. Low-E coating, an ultra-thin, metallic coating that is applied to windows at the factory, can help reflect heat into the home in the winter and keep out heat and UV rays in the summer. Special shades for skylights could also be installed.
While looking at the windows, don't forget to examine the state of any screens. Windows that open in climates that are prone to bugs should have tightly fitting screens that are not full of holes. Doors that open to decks might have screens, and some may be fitted with glass to convert to "storm doors" in the cold and rainy seasons. If ground floor windows need to be secured with bars or other security measures, understand how they function and the condition of this feature. Similarly, if the home is in an area prone to hurricanes, consider storm shutters, or the potential benefit of installing safety measures of this nature.
Windows may be replaced individually, or throughout the home. While doing the whole home might provide better value, it is a big, expensive process and can be very disruptive. It is worth taking the time to do as much research as you can. Get estimates from reputable dealers and installers, and plan to accomplish the work during dry seasons when possible. Ensure that your installer is bonded and insured, and that they will be following the installation instructions for the windows that you buy. The finest windows, poorly installed, will still provide problems, so pay attention to details.
Additionally, windows should match the style of the home. Older homes with fine detailing throughout should have windows that make sense with the other materials and stylistic features in the home. Research window styles and look at comparable homes in your area to see what other homeowners have done. Outfitting a home with the wrong windows can be as big a mistake as hiring a poor installer.
When considering windows, view the home at a variety of times of day and take notes. Understanding window coverings, shades, blinds and drapery or curtains will aid you in deciding if those big windows in the living room require special treatment. How will the sun fill the room, and will sunrise or sunset affect your rooms in ways that will work for your lifestyle.
Windows connect the inside of the home with the outside world, and so these assets help dwellers and visitors to truly connect to the home, the environment, the neighborhood and in some cases the city or area itself. When the outside environment is less desirable, the ability to control that view through shutters, shades, or other means will be essential. In urban environments privacy might be an issue. Places with views should have windows that make the most of those unique features, framing them like art.
Viewing the home from both the inside and out, at various times of the day, and noticing the windows close-up and from afar, their views to the inside and outside, will enable you do understand the home in a new way - shedding light on the home itself.