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Deciphering Window and Exterior Door Terminology

Over the years windows and doors have evolved using improved methods to make them more energy efficient, easier to maintain, and simpler to operate. Today's products come in many style and sizes, incorporating these various technologies. Perhaps you want to install new windows or doors in your custom home or are considering replacing them during a remodeling project. Choosing a window brand, door type, or overall style can be overwhelming and take a great deal of time, but it does not have to be that way.

While many of us may know we would like to replace residential doors and windows, we may not know how to ask for what we want. Perhaps it will simplify the process if I go over a few terms and useful info that will come in handy during the process.

Window and door frames can be made of wood, composites, vinyl, or aluminum clad. They can also be mixed and matched such as wood interiors with aluminum-clad exteriors. Windows that are vinyl inside and out are maintenance-free but considered to be on the lower end of the spectrum or as described as "builder grade." Higher-end windows usually incorporate a wood interior with a vinyl or aluminum-clad exterior. Windows that are wood inside and outside are generally recommended for matching historical details since they require the most exterior maintenance and are prone to water damage and decay.

Glazing is the term used for the glass on a window or door. All exterior doors and windows today need to meet certain energy requirements and therefore are now double - or triple - paned glass. U-Factor is the rate of heat loss and is used to determine the energy efficiency of glazing (a lower number is better). Today’s glazings can also incorporate insulating gases like argon between the panes of glass to increase energy efficiency. Low-E glazing reduces the heat transfer through the glass while letting visible light pass through.

Muntins are the grills or grid patterns you see on the glazing of windows and doors. True Divided Light (TDL) is an old-fashioned style and is usually found in single pane (uninsulated) windows in which each glass pane in the pattern is an individual piece of glass. Simulated Divided Light -- SDL -- uses one panel of glass (insulated) with a muntin bar adhered to the glass on both the interior and exterior. Snap-in grills are, well, exactly that: Grills that snap into place and achieve the desired muntin pattern. Grids Between Glass -- GBG – is the term for when the muntin bars are located between the inside and outside glass panes in the "air space" to create the muntin design.

Windows and doors are an extremely important part of the building envelope and can also be a very substantial part of a new home or remodeling project’s budget. I urge you to research the various window manufacturers and compare features and specifications. I often tell homeowners to strive for a middle ground between cost, aesthetics, and energy efficiency. If we work together, one of my top priorities is to help you select optimal window and door products while delivering a pleasant and seamless experience.

For your information, here are additional terms that may help during your research:

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