Windows are one of the most important selections when building or updating a home, but how do you know what to look for or even where to start?

After all, windows can be purchased practically anywhere these days from big-box stores, to local showrooms and even over-the-phone.

Windows can vary drastically in price and quality, so it’s important to know what you’re getting.

Here are some key things to keep in mind when shopping and choosing windows for your home:

First, determine what style of windows you have, or want to have:

• Casement windows have a crank.

• Double-hung windows lift up and down.

• Single-hung lift up and down, but the top window sash is fixed in place.

• Sliding windows do just that: they slide left or right, and usually only one window moves.

Second, determine which material type of window you want to have:

• Vinyl windows are often the least expensive and can come in various colors. Vinyl windows are not maintenance free, but they require the least amount of maintenance.

• Fiberglass windows (as well as vinyl) are made from alternative materials. They produce very little waste during production and powder-coated fiberglass is mold resistant, making it a popular choice for both residential and commercial use.

• Clad wood windows tend to be more expensive, are made from a renewable resource and offer more options. They can be stained or painted any color.

Third, determine the glazing (glass) you want in your windows:

• Single-pane windows were primarily manufactured before the 1970s and came with a storm window. Though they are still available, technology has evolved and offers products with improved energy efficiency.

• Double- or triple-pane windows are often filled with argon gas between the panes. These windows are much more energy efficient with better insulating and heat loss properties.

• Window manufacturers have a variety of grill/grid patterns for the traditional look of divided light.

Most people have some type of window treatments for their windows and doors. Some window manufactures offer blinds and shades between the glass for ease of cleaning and reduces dust for people with allergies.

Home automation is something only a few window manufacturers offers.

Lastly, check to see what warranty is offered by the manufacturer. Warranties will differ depending on the company. Depending on the warranty, it may only stay with the original owner or it may be transferable. Ask if the company has a service department to call if seal failure occurs or if replacement glass is needed. Most manufacturers will stand behind the contractor if the product is installed as instructed.

Just like any product in your home, for optimum performance, windows need to be maintained. There is no true maintenance-free window. Your window consultant can answer questions as well.

Bill Gautsche has been a sales consultant with Pella Northland for 34 years. House Calls is submitted by members of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. For more information, call 715-835-2526 or email info@cvhomebuilders.com.