Category: Doors & Windows

Storm Windows 101

Brand-new windows are always nice, but they can be a huge expense. You may be able to get much of the energy savings of new windows at a fraction of the cost by installing storm windows.

Installing Storm Windows

A storm window protects the window on the right; the one on the left lacks storm protection. Photo:

If your windows let in anything other than a view, you may be thinking it’s time for replacement windows. But not so fast! You may want to consider storm windows instead, which offer the insulating properties of replacement windows but for a fraction of the cost. Some experts even argue that when laid over existing windows in decent condition, storm windows insulate better than replacements do. One group in particular has favored the use of storm windows over the years—owners of old houses. Why? Because storm windows allow improved insulation without harming the original windows or, by extension, the home’s architectural character.

Exterior vs. Interior
Storm windows install either outside or inside. In choosing between these approaches, aesthetics are perhaps the main consideration. Exterior storm windows alter how your home looks from the curb. Interior storm windows, in contrast, are virtually invisible from the exterior but are plainly evident indoors.

Window operability is another distinguishing factor between exterior and interior storm windows. Exteriors enable the homeowner to open and close windows at will throughout the year. Interiors—intended as a seasonal measure—seal off the windows they cover for as long as they stay in place (usually a period of months).

Installing Storm Windows - Interior


Track Styles
Whereas interior storm windows comprise a single glass or polymer pane, exterior storm windows are more complex. Most feature either two or three tracks. In a two-track window, the outer track holds a half-pane of glass at the top, a half-screen on the bottom. The inner track, meanwhile, holds a half-pane window, which can be raised (to admit fresh air) or lowered (to keep cold air out and warm air in). Triple-track windows are similar but offer greater configurability.

Frame Choices
Storm window frames are typically made of wood, aluminum, or vinyl. Many consider wood the most attractive, but such frames require regular maintenance to remain in good shape. Plus, the effectiveness of wood frames can be compromised when they expand and contract with the changing weather. Aluminum frames are lightweight, durable, and low-maintenance, but they insulate less well than other materials. Vinyl, which is also low-maintenance, comes in a variety of colors, and that makes it a design-savvy choice, at least compared with aluminum. The downside to vinyl, however, is that over time it becomes brittle and requires replacement.

Installing Storm Windows - Installation


Purchasing Tips
No matter what type of storm windows you decide are best for your home, get the most for your dollar by insisting on some or all of the following features:

• Multiple positioning stops that allow you to modulate the amount of air admitted

• Quality weatherstripping to counteract heat loss

• Predrilled holes to facilitate installation

• Easy-to-clean removable half-pane glass and half-screens

Furthermore, you may wish to consider storm windows fitted with low-emissivity (low-E) glass. This energy-efficient technology helps keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition, low-E can extend the life of fabrics and floor coverings that come into contact with direct sunlight. Low-E glass may be more expensive at the outset, but over the long term, you can expect to recoup the initial cost through month-to-month energy savings.

When measuring for storm windows, measure the height and width of the window to be covered, from inside molding to inside molding, in multiple positions. Use the smallest measurements to determine what size storm windows you need. Caulking and weatherstripping may be used later to fill any small gaps.

Exterior storm windows attach with a flange—that is, a metal flap—that screws into the existing window frame. It’s smart to caulk the point where the flange meets the frame, but take care not to caulk the weep holes. These perform the important role of allowing condensation to escape.

Interior storm windows attach in a variety of ways—with magnets or clips, or on tracks. One of the most DIY-friendly models comes with a compressible material (for example, rubber or foam) around its edges: As you work the pane into the opening, the material expands to create a snug, draft-free seal.

Bob Vila Radio: Bay and Bow Windows

Bay and bow windows offer more than just light—they offer extra space and in some cases, extra seating!

If you’re looking to bring more light and air into a room, consider a bay or bow window. Both are angled to project out from the house, creating the illusion of a larger room.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BAY AND BOW WINDOWS or read the text below:



A bay window is a set of three windows, usually with a large picture window in the center flanked by two smaller ones that open to allow in air. A bay window can fit into a relatively small area, so if you have two double-hung windows side by side, you can probably replace them with a bay window. A bay window also creates a deep interior space that can be used as a window seat.

A bow window unit may have from four to six individual windows, set at angles that are less sharp than a bay window’s, creating a gentler curved look. It requires more width and creates less interior space for a window seat, but it lets in more light than a bay and its overall effect is to make any room seem much larger.  Remember that if you’re replacing flat windows with a bay or bow, you’ll need a new roof above them!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How To: Re-Glaze a Single-Pane Window

So long as the frame itself has not been damaged, there's no need to spend on a replacement when you can glaze a window that has broken in one or even a few places.

Here’s how to re-glaze those old, broken window panes. First, remove the old glazing compound with a propane torch and a putty knife. Carefully remove the old glass and clean the groove with a soft wire brush. Apply a thin piece of back glazing. Replace the glass and gently place push points every eight inches to hold the pane in. Apply a generous bead of fresh glazing compound and smooth it out with your putty knife.

For more on windows, consider:

Replacement Windows 101
How To: Replace Storm Windows
Fixing Old Double-Hung Windows (VIDEO)

Quick Tip: Tubular Skylights

Consider installing tubular skylights, uniquely designed to be a versatile option for homeowners sick of living in the dark.

Tubular skylights are a great way to bring sunlight into underlit rooms. The adjustable design of these skylights allows them to fit into tight spaces and around difficult framing. The domed cap uses prisms to maximize the effects of the reflected light along the aluminum shaft. It’s easy to install with just a few common tools.

For more on windows, consider:

So, You Want to… Install Tubular Skylights
Know Your Window Styles: 10 Popular Designs
Seeing the Light: New (and Improved) Skylights

How To: Replace Storm Windows

Consider storm window replacement if your old double-hungs are either drafty or prone to leaks,

It’s easy to replace old storm windows. Here’s how. Loosen all screws and pull the old storm window away from the window frame. Scrape old caulking from the window frame to make sure that it is clean and smooth. Apply a fresh bead of caulking to the frame and press the new storm window into place. Secure it with screws and make sure that all weep holes at the bottom are clear so that rainwater will drain out.

For more on windows, consider:

How To: Select Storm Shutters
Buyer’s Guide to Replacement Windows
Affordable Indoor Window Inserts Promote Energy Efficiency

Buyer’s Guide to Replacement Windows

Replacing old windows with new, energy-efficient models can really pay off in both aesthetic appeal and utility savings. Consult our guide to help you weigh your window options and figure out which styles and materials will work best for your home.

Replacement Windows


It’s difficult to overstate the importance of windows in home design, not least because they have an impact on both the interior and exterior of a home. And this is one upgrade where it’s important to spring for a well-constructed product. Quality windows carry a higher initial cost and are a considerable investment, but over time they can offer significant payback in terms of improved aesthetics and energy savings.

According to AFG Industries, makers of high-performance window glass, energy-efficient windows can reduce the transfer of heat by as much as 65 percent. That means that energy-efficient windows can help your home maintain a comfortable temperature, which translates into a reduction in heating and cooling costs.

When you’re shopping for new windows, therefore, the very first thing to look for is the Energy Star label, which can be found on products from all the top manufacturers, including Andersen, Pella, and Marvin. To earn a green certification, a window must meet rigorous government-defined requirements, and for that reason, an Energy Star rating is one of the most informative barometers a homeowner can use to compare different windows on the market.

Related: Replacement Windows 101

According to Rick Keller of Keller Glass in Jeffersonville, New York, “A major decision in window selection involves choosing the glazing—the window glass—for light transmission and energy efficiency.” A single pane offers minimal insulation, so “today’s replacement windows are typically two- or three-paned.”

Multiple panes alone offer improved insulation, but modern window glass also features a low-emissivity coating (known as a low-e coating), which “reduces total direct sun rays by 13 percent.” Low-e glass should also reduce your month-to-month energy costs, as it minimizes heat gain in the summer and contains heat in the winter.

Keller adds that in multipaned windows, “inert gases often fill the spaces between the panes, providing additional thermal properties.” With each additional pane and layer of gas, the insulation factor notches upward. Better-insulated windows usually come with a higher price tag, but their energy efficiency cuts down monthly utility bills; over the long term, a homeowner can recoup the added expense and may even come out ahead.

Also helpful to anyone shopping for new windows are the ratings provided by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). The council’s ratings differ from Energy Star’s in one important respect: They take into account not only a product’s energy efficiency, but also its ability to withstand extreme weather. Any window that has earned a rating from the NFRC can be expected to perform in temperatures between -20º F to 180º F and in wind speeds up to 155 mph.

While the materials chosen for a window frame do influence its thermal characteristics, they play a much larger role in determining its physical properties, such as thickness, weight, and durability. Here are some of the most popular standard window frame options:

- Wood: Prized for their aesthetic value, wood-framed windows are sold in a variety of shapes and sizes. If properly maintained, they can enjoy a long life, rewarding energy-conscious homeowners with a high R-value (a measure of thermal resistance).

- Wood clad: If one downside of traditional wood-framed windows is their maintenance requirements, vinyl- or aluminum-clad wood windows offer the best of both worlds—that is, the warm appearance of wood on the interior and improved weather resistance on the exterior.

- Aluminum: Strong, lightweight, and durable, aluminum windows are considerably less expensive than their wood-framed cousins. The tradeoff between the two is not only one of style, but also of performance: Aluminum is prone to condensation, which can in some cases lead to mold.

- Vinyl: A lasting, low-maintenance window material that resists moisture, vinyl costs less than wood, and although it cannot be painted, vinyl windows are available in a wide range of stock colors and a virtually infinite number of custom hues.

Fiberglass composite: Another option for homeowners who want the fine appearance of wood but less of the hassle, fiberglass composite windows excel in extreme conditions. They neither warp nor sag in high heat, neither shrink nor turn brittle in freezing cold.

- Composite: Made from a mingling of plastic and organic materials, composite windows are typically strong and energy efficient. If you wish to achieve a specific look and none of the stock colors strike your fancy, custom orders are indeed possible.


Different types of windows have different operating mechanisms and differently structured designs. Among the most common are:

- Double-hung or single-hung: Both feature two sashes in a single frame, but in a double-hung window, both sashes slide up and down.

- Casement: Hinged like a door, this window usually opens from the side, but top-opening casements (with a cranking knob) are also available.

- Sliding: Sliding windows operate horizontally along a plastic or metal track. They have two sashes; one or both can be opened and closed.

- Awning: Opening outward from a top hinge, awning windows have one panel of glass and typically appear in conjunction with another window style.

- Hopper: Basement ventilation is the most common application of hopper windows, which are bottom-hinged and top-opening.

- Clerestory: Designed to admit abundant natural light, clerestory windows are usually deployed in a series along the top portion of high walls.

- Rotating: Popularly used to frame views, rotating windows boast uninterrupted glass panels that pivot partially open from a central axis.

- Arched: Also known as radius windows, arch-topped windows are typically fixed in place but are also available in operable styles.

- Bow: Composed of several same-size glass panels assembled into a gentle curve, a bow window projects outward from the wall, rather than sitting flush with it.

- Bay: Another protruding window construction, bays combine two angled side windows with one larger central window.


Choose a type of window that suits the architectural style of your home, and opt for a size in proportion with the overall structure. Success means symmetry and balance; failure results in an exterior that never looks quite right. At retail showrooms, professionals are on hand to help you make decisions in keeping with your home’s architecture, your individual style sense, and your project budget.

For a custom look that doesn’t cost a fortune, stick with standard windows throughout, splurging on one or two standout designs for windows visible from the curb. Bear in mind that “standard” windows need not look run-of-the-mill. Extraordinary products—including round, arched, octagonal, Gothic, and elliptical windows—figure among the stock offered by mainstream manufacturers.

Should you hire a pro or do it yourself?
According to Sean Boyes of Boyes & Torrens Construction in Neversink, New York: “When it comes to installing windows, it’s best to hire a reputable company that is fully insured,” he says. “When you hire a professional, you can be sure that the window will fit properly. Plus, a reputable company will service the installation in the future if needed.”

What do replacement windows cost?
According to Boyes, “Choosing quality windows plus expert installation would generally run anywhere from $500 to $1,200 for each unit, depending on the style. Picture windows, bays, and bows would cost more.”

Bob Vila Radio: Redoing the Front Door

Mull over these eye-catching and impactful ways to redo the front door, including decorations, lighting, and painting.

Your front door is the face your home presents to the world. It sets your house’s style and tone. So if your entry isn’t as welcoming as you’d like, maybe it’s time for a change.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REDOING THE FRONT DOOR or read the text below:

Redoing the Front Door


Decorating your door is the easiest upgrade. Possibilities include simply hanging a seasonal wreath, adding a traditional or whimsical knocker, or investing in new door hardware.

A sharp new paint job in a complementary or striking color goes a long way toward brightening an entry. Even just placing planters on either side of the door will draw attention to your entry while adding texture and seasonal color.

Exterior lighting also offers great opportunities for enhancing your entry. Add exterior lights, either sconces flanking the door or a dramatic hanging fixture, to make your home both safer and more welcoming. If you already have exterior lighting, change up the fixtures to give your entry the punch of style it needs.

If your front door can’t be decorated out of its doldrums, replacement may be your best bet. You can just switch it out for a newer model, but don’t miss this opportunity to make a grand statement. Enlarging the entry and adding sidelights or a transom will give you a more imposing entrance and increase the natural light in your front hall.

And remember, although renovating your entry boosts curb appeal and resale value, it should be about welcoming the people who really count—you, your family, and friends.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How To: Hang Exterior Shutters

Planning to install shutters on the exterior of your home? The key to a lasting, professional-looking result is quality hardware.

When putting up shutters, the key is to have good, sturdy hardware. Look for pressure-treated wood shutters for exterior use. To have operable shutters, the shutter dogs and hinges need to be sturdy. After marking the location for the hinges, drill pilot holes for the screws. Then screw the hinges and other hardware in place. Hang your shutters and test the fit.

For more on windows, consider:

How To: Select Storm Shutters
5 Things to Do with… Old Shutters
Installing New Shutters with an Old Look (VIDEO)

How To: Restore Brass Hardware

If you have an old door that featured metal ornamentation now missing, here's how to restore the brass hardware and bring the door back to its former glory.

Here’s how to restore the missing brass hardware from an antique door. The “ghost” image of original brass hardware is often visible. It can be replicated by tracing the impression. A cardboard template is made to scribe the design. The brass is cut on a band saw and smoothed with a belt sander. The piece is polished and installed on the door.

For more on doors, consider:

How To: Clean Brass
Bob Vila Radio: Locksets
10 Chic New Ideas for Barn Doors

Window Films 101

An affordable option for the average homeowner, installing window film enables you to dress up your windows with a new look or dramatically increase their level of energy efficiency.

Install Window Film - Lace Floral

Photo: Emma Jeffs

Window films are like sunglasses for your house, inexpensively improving the energy efficiency of your home, even as they add privacy and decorative flair. Installed indoors, either by professionals or with a do-it-yourself kit, window films typically consist of a polyester base covered with a scratch-resistant coating.

There are two basic types of window films: decorative and sun-screening. The former may be used in lieu of curtains or blinds to introduce privacy, although in contrast to regular window treatments, they do not impede the path of natural light. Often applied to interior windows, such as transoms and room dividers, decorative window films are available in a wide variety of style, including those that mimic rice paper, etched or frosted glass, stained glass and crystal.

Install Window Film - Pattern

Photo: Emma Jeffs

Remember that a window with decorative film must remain closed in order to perform its role as a privacy screen. If you require both privacy and the free movement of air, you’re better off pursuing a different strategy (privacy landscaping is one alternative that might enable you to meet your twin goals).

Sun-screening window films are either tinted or reflective, their cast ranging from near transparency to darker metallic shades like copper, tin, and gold. Newer ceramic-based films are virtually invisible, but they control room brightness, reduce solar heat gain, and guard home furnishings against fading.

Whether decorative or sun-screening, window films save you money. For starters, decorative films enable you to create the effect of artisan glass for a fraction of what the genuine article would cost. Whereas vintage or reproduction stained-glass panels command a pretty penny, a window film that mimics the look is, for the average homeowner, a budget-friendly option.

Sun-screening window films invite savings by lowering your monthly heating and cooling bills. According to the International Window Film Association (IWFA), installing a window film can provide seven times the energy savings provided by replacement windows (per dollar spent).

Related: 10 Stained Glass Windows We Love

In the summer, window films reflect or absorb the warming rays of the sun. Your home remains cooler as a result, and your air conditioner does not need to work as hard to maintain a comfortable temperature. In the winter, some modern window films provide a layer of insulation that keeps heat from escaping.

Sun-screening window films also block ultraviolet, protecting your furniture, carpets, wall coverings and paint jobs from fading over time. In addition, window films offer shatter resistance. If your window glass were to break, the film would prevent hazardous shards from flying into a thousand different directions.

Install Window Film - Geometric


If your windows are still under warranty, be sure to read the agreement closely, as the addition of window film may void the contract. Do your research, however, as some companies specializing in window film installation offer a warranty that would complement the one from your window manufacturer.

Not under warranty? Then you will most likely discover that installing window film is a straightforward process. Before you begin, make sure that your windows are squeaky clean. Though some easy-install films adhere on the static-cling principle, most require a bit more labor.

Related: Know Your Window Styles: 10 Popular Designs

The steps involved are usually some permutation of the following: Cut the film to size, remove its backing, wet the film or the window (or both), position the film, eliminate all air bubbles and trim any excess film.

Even after their initial application, many films can be repositioned if necessary, relieving you of the pressure to get it right the first time. Certainly, it’s worth the effort to transform a plain old piece of glass into a dazzling pane of color or an energy-saving workhorse!