Questions & Answers

With so many replacement windows on the market, choosing the right one for your home and budget can be a job in itself.

We’re able to help you select windows, doors, and siding for both practical and aesthetic reasons because our 33 years in business gives us the knowledge to do so.

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Maintenance, insulating value, appearance, fit, ease of cleaning, and durability are only a few of the many important considerations.

Answered below are many of the most commonly asked questions about replacement windows to help you choose the one that’s best for you. Click each section to expand and read.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I buy custom replacement windows?
Because custom windows fit perfectly. Stock windows, like those used by builders or sold in lumber yards, are available only in certain sizes. Since many window openings are not the same ‘standard’ sizes as stock windows, you’ll be left with several inches of open space around the entire window. Carpenters generally fill this space with gypsum board or molding. This not only reduces your viewing area and detracts from your home’s beauty, but leaves you with extra wall space to patch, paint, and decorate. Soft-Lite’s® windows are designed, engineered, and manufactured to fit your home’s size, style, and appearance without reducing your viewing area.

Can I install custom-made windows myself?
Yes, but the better question might be, “Should I install custom-made windows myself?” Professional installers have all the necessary equipment and installation techniques based on established industry standards to do the job right, such as bending exterior trim coil to increase visual appeal. Measuring the size of the window is extremely important as well. If your measurements are off by as little as .25″, a custom-made window may not fit. We strongly recommend that you let a professional do the job for you.

What's the difference between vinyl, wood, and aluminum windows?
Today, the majority of replacement windows are vinyl. Wood or aluminum cannot match the performance of a vinyl window. Vinyl windows never need painting and won’t show scratches unlike aluminum or wood windows. Vinyl is also a better insulator. It doesn’t conduct heat or cold like aluminum-a major source of lost heating/cooling energy.  It also doesn’t swell and shrink like wood when temperatures change, so vinyl maintains its shape, saves you heating/cooling dollars, and stays warmer to the touch.

I've heard window corners can separate and leak air. What's the best way to put windows together?
Windows (and doors) are the #1 source of a home’s energy loss, and a lot of heated or cooled air can be lost through the frame and sashes. Most wood windows are put together with staples; most vinyl and aluminum windows are screwed together and then caulked. The day they leave the factory, most windows are perfect. But construction methods can make a big difference five years, even twenty-five years after your windows are manufactured.

Look for windows in which frame and sash corners are fabricated using world-class robotic equipment to assemble and weld them together. This equipment assures windows’ fabrication is free of workmanship errors and results in consistent finished windows that feature industry-leading tolerances.

What is a welded window?
Welding is the latest technology in window construction. It utilizes intense heat and specialized equipment to bond the corners of all four sides of the window’s sash and frame into a single unit. To ensure “perfection”, Element ™ window sashes are welded simultaneously. Computer-controlled equipment quickly determines tolerances of ±1/32”. If they are not perfect, they are rejected.

My old windows used putty to hold the glass in place. Is there a better way?
Obsolete putty-glazed windows were typically used in wood windows years ago to help hide the little metal “glazing points” that hold single-pane glass in place. Because putty degrades over time and blocks or holds water, it is no longer used by any reputable window manufacturer. Instead, interior high-track PSA closed-cell neoprene bedding tape holds today’s best insulating glass units in place. The insulating glass “sandwich” is further protected by carefully-placed rubber setting blocks that cushion the perimeter of the glass edges and also allow water to weep around the glass and outside the sash through the snap-on trim part called the glazing bead. This glazing system is proven to be a top performer and is warrantied for a lifetime.

What are Stealth Locks, ILTIS™ hardware and Dura-Latch™ limit locks?
Elements™ Stealth lock system is a cam-action lock with an invisible cam keeper that compresses weather gaskets together for a tight seal. Our stealth locks are forced-entry resistant and Certified by AAMA. ILTIS™ hardware is a concealed tilt mechanism. This eliminates unsightly “boxy” tilt lock styles and gives the lock rail and sash a clean look.Dura-Latch™ limit locks are stops in the sash, which permit windows to be opened partially while retaining security. They can be an added safety advantage in homes with small children. Our Dura-Latch™ passes AAMA forced entry resistance test.

What is AAMA and why is it important?
The American Architectural Manufacturer’s Association is an institution that certifies products after they are confirmed by third-party testing labs to meet industry standards. Much like vehicles bear industry standards like MPG and horsepower, windows bear industry standards defined by AAMA. Among the most important of these measurements are air infiltration, water leakage, and structural wind-load. Look for AAMA-Certified Products and ask your window supplier to furnish these results so you can compare one window against another legitimately. The AAMA Gold Label Certification Program is AAMA’s highest standard. AAMA also certifies window installers.

What is a U-factor? Can it help me choose a better window?
The U-factor measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping. The U-factor tells you how much heat would escape through the entire window unit in winter, and how much air-conditioning would leak out in the summer. The lower the U-factor the greater a window’s resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value. The methods for measuring U-factor ratings were developed by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Federal Trade Commission.

What is Super Spacer®?
To maximize the thermal efficiency of any window, thermal short-circuits must be eliminated. Any metal in a window is a thermal short-circuit. A spacer, desiccant, and hermetic sealant are necessary to create the thermal dead space between two or more panes of glass. Any spacer that is made with metal is a thermal short-circuit between the panes, promoting condensation along the glass edge and reducing the overall thermal performance of the window it’s in. Because Super Spacer® is completely metal-free, it is proven to increase thermal resistance along the entire perimeter of the insulating glass unit. This industry-leading feature significantly reduces condensation and improves the overall thermal performance of the entire window.

Is all window glass the same?
Definitely not. Glass is available in a variety of types including clear, tinted, obscure and Low-emissivity (Low-E). The type of glass, thickness, number of panes, distance between panes, as well as the manner in which panes are connected, all affect performance of the window.

Is all Low-E glass the same?
Definitely not. There are two major types of Low-E glass: hard coat (tin/pyrolytic) and vacuum-deposition (silver/sputter). Both types block radiant heat, keeping summer’s heat outside and winter’s heat inside. And both block the sun’s rays to some degree. But the similarities end there.

We recommend you look for windows with magnetic sputter vacuum-deposition Low-E glass for several reasons. First, silver based Low-E glass has better visual clarity. In fact, silver based Low-E has a “haze” factor of 0.14 – that’s the same as plain glass. The haze factor for pyrolytic Low-E glass can be as high as 1.40- a haze increase of up to 1000%. With silver based Low-E, you get almost the same clarity as clear ‘uncoated’ glass.

Our Low-E glass system has earned us ENERGY-STAR® qualification in all regions of the United States. ENERGY-STAR® is a voluntary partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and window manufacturers. ENERGY-STAR® qualification should be one of the factors you consider when choosing a replacement window.

Why do you use exotic gases in your insulated glass units, and are these gases safe?
We replace the air between the panes of insulating glass with high-density Argon or Krypton gas. This process provides windows with both increased energy-efficiency and increased sound deadening properties. Yes, both Argon and Krypton are safe, odorless, colorless gases that occur naturally in our atmosphere. Air is actually about 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen and 1% Argon Gas. Because of their density, heat and cold do not pass through Argon and Krypton gas as easily as through air. When Argon or Krypton gas is used in an insulated glass system with soft-coat Low-E glass, it’s one of the most energy-efficient windows you can buy.

Will the gas eventually leak out?
We fill our glass with an automatic robotic system. Each insulated glass unit is tested with a sophisticated laser instrument to validate the gas-fill level. Any unit less than 90% Argon or Krypton filled, is rejected; thus far exceeding the industry standard of 75%. Tests conducted on the insulated glass sealants have determined that hot-melt butyl will allow a maximum gas permeation of less than 1% per year.

Can the right glass really reduce furniture and carpet fading?
Absolutely. All Low-E glass protects to some degree against the damaging UV rays that cause fading. Some Low-E glass types block 64% of UV rays; a 42% reduction compared to clear window glass. Beyond Low-E glass, a patented glass coating called UV Guard affords maximum resistance to the most harmful UV-A and UV-B rays and the fading they cause. UV Guard is not Low-E glass, but it is used to protect precious museum artifacts from UV degradation. UV Guard blocks 99.9% of damaging UV light – nearly perfect UV protection. Ask us for an impressive free demonstration.

What is Comfort Foam®? Is it safe for the environment?
Comfort Foam® is made by the BASF Chemical Company….you know the “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.®” That is exactly what Comfort Foam® does for you. Comfort Foam® is a closed-cell polyurethane foam insulation that provides energy efficiency to your windows, reducing air leakage and creating more comfort. Comfort Foam® provides a seamless blanket of insulation in your windows’ frames and sashes. Comfort Foam® will not shrink, sag or settle; it eliminates moisture transfer and improves the overall performance of the window.The polyurethane foam is formaldehyde-free and does not emit any Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or “any volatile compound of carbon.” The product is inert or not chemically active.

What is Ultra-Smart™ Weatherstripping?
Ultra-Smart™ weatherstripping® is an AAMA certified Gold Label Tri-Fin® weatherstripping with built-in Ultra-Fresh® antimicrobial protection. This weatherstripping minimizes drafts, dust, and pollen and fights the growth of mold or bacteria on the weatherstripping material. 600” of Ultra-Smart™ weatherstripping is used in an average sized double hung window!

I want windows that will help eliminate the noise from outside. Is there such a thing?
Certainly. In fact, the same features that make windows more energy efficient also help cut down on noise transmission from outdoors. Windows with soft-coat Low-E glass reduce sound transmission by as much as 300% compared to single pane windows.

Do I have to replace my windows with the same style windows, or can I choose different style?
You can replace windows with any style, shape and color that suits you. Change from double hung windows to casements, stationary windows, or a combination. Give rooms a new look by replacing a group of windows with a bay or bow window. Add a garden window in the kitchen.

I like the maintenance-free benefits of vinyl, but I really like the look of a wood interior. Can I get a woodgrain look on vinyl windows?
Woodgrain finishes are available with some vinyl windows. Elements™ windows offer four woodgrain colored interiors: Light Oak, Medium Oak, Cherry and Brazilian Cherry. You’ll find, however, that many manufacturers don’t offer woodgrains. The needed equipment is quite expensive. The process involves a tremendous amount of technical precision and complex calculations to custom bond the woodgrain material to each individual vinyl extrusion.

Are interior woodgrain finishes durable and long lasting?
Yes. Today’s better woodgrain finishes are designed for a lifetime of maintenance-free beauty. They’ve proven themselves over time to resist fading, chipping, peeling, and blistering. So your woodgrain finish should be covered in your warranty. Soft-Lite® windows use only the highest quality woodgrain laminate (7 mils thick), and back it with a lifetime warranty.

What about decorative glass? Is it worth the cost, and what kind of choices are available?
The style of glass you choose will play an important role in both the appearance and curb appeal of your home. Look for a window manufacturer that offers you a comfortable range of choices. The more styles you have to choose from, the better you can protect or enhance the value of your home, whatever its architectural style. Styles and selection will vary with each manufacturer. Soft-Lite® windows offers a variety of decorative grid choices. Options include: Colonial, Perimeter, Prairie and Florentine hand-cut glass; Flat and Contoured grids that match interior woodgrains and exterior solid colors; Pencil Brass, Pencil Satin Nickel and Pencil White grids are also available.

Are some windows easier and safer to clean than others?
Absolutely. We recommend windows that can be cleaned easily from inside the house so you can avoid the dangers of ladders. Look for double hung windows with tilt-in top and bottom sashes (this feature is not available with many wood windows). With sliding windows, you should be able to clean both sashes easily. Sashes should tilt and turn in to be cleaned. Casement windows should open fully to allow easy, safer, inside-the-house cleaning.

Why are sliding patio doors so hard to roll?
This is a common problem with conventional-type rollers. Flat spots develop because all the weight of the door rests on a single point of contact. But not all patio doors have that problem. Soft-Lite’s® sliding patio doors have heavy-duty, ball bearing DuraRollers. The DuraRoller with its 1-1/4″ diameter dual wheel keeps your door reliably on track. This weight distribution prevents the wear and tear of single point contact, providing you with long-lasting, trouble-free operation.

Aren't patio doors easy to break into?
A determined burglar will get into your home no matter what. But statistics show that if it takes longer than 60 seconds to break in, a burglar is more likely to move on. Soft-Lite® patio doors offer many options for security.
Our Thermal Glide patio door has three options: 1) A standard wood handle with standard lock or optional key lock. 2) Optional Legacy Brass or Nickel handle that comes with a key lock. 3) Optional Deluxe Brass handle and key lock with a 4-point locking system. Our Bellemeade patio door has a Standard Brass multi-point locking system hardware. Chrome and Nickel hardware are also available.Each door has the option of a heavy duty vent lock/dead bolt which provides the following benefits: In the vent position the bolt keeps the door partially open to let in fresh air, in the closed position the bolt provides a secondary lock. The spring-loaded bolt, located at the top of the door sash to prevent little ones from inadvertently unlocking the door,quickly unlocks with the press of a button .

How do I decide between a sliding, french or hinged patio door?
A French or Hinged patio door requires a larger room. A three-foot-wide hinged door requires about six square feet of open floor space to swing open. If you have an average-size home where space is important, a secure sliding patio door may be the answer.

Aren't patio doors, whether sliding or hinged, a major source of energy loss because of the increased glass surface?
Yes, often times they are. However, Soft-Lite® patio doors are available with the same insulated glass system and Comfort Foam™ as our Element™ windows.

What kind of warranty should I look for when buying windows?
As any lawyer will advise — get it in writing. And ask the following questions:

  • Is it easy to read and understand?
  • Does it state in writing that it covers your windows for a lifetime?
  • Does it cover everything-frame, sash, glass and seal, hardware, screens?
  • Will it be transferable to the next homeowner when you sell?
  • Will it be supported by a manufacturer in good financial standing?

It’s always wise to check on the company’s financial strength. If its assets are insufficient, it may not honor your warranty claim. Or worse, the company may not be around when you need to make a claim. TIP: A reputable company may have manufactured the extrusions (framing material), while the assembly and glass were done by a small fabricator. Look for a large window manufacturer willing to take total responsibility for the products that carry its name.

What is Soft-Lite’s® warranty with glass breakage coverage?
Soft-Lite® Limited Lifetime warranty states that its windows and patio doors will be free from defects in manufacturing or materials. This warranty also includes coverage against seal failure and glass breakage for as long as you own your home. PVC coatings, foil exteriors and hardware on patio doors are warrantied for 10 years. Soft-Lite’s® warranty is transferable to a new owner. What a great way to increase the resale value of your home, if you decide to move!

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