Doors, windows and skylights can quickly add value

By Laura Glass –

The benefits of retrofitting commercial buildings with new windows are not difficult to sell. “Replacement windows provide increased energy savings, increase the interior comfort of the building and bring in more light,” says Bill Doyle, marketing representative for Pittsburgh-based Thermal Industries, in ticking off the advantages. “Once windows are installed, the amount of the sun’s energy that penetrates through the glass to the interior of the building can be greatly reduced, resulting in energy savings both in summer and winter.”

Palram Americas

Palram Americas skylights - Palram Americas photo

President Todd Carlson of A.J. Manufacturing in Bloomer, Wis., also points out that advances in today’s windows and doors likewise has advantages for builders. “Product features make replacements and upgrades that much easier for the facility owner and contractor.”

Together with windows and doors, skylights offer a third opportunity for rural builders to profit from the commercial retrofit and remodeling market. “Replacing old fiberglass skylights with new ones allows more natural light to come into the building,” affirms John Biehl, national sales and market manager for Palram Americas in Kutztown, Pa. “Electricity used for traditional lighting fixtures is reduced, cutting energy costs as much as 24 percent in one recent study.” At the same time, continues Biehl, studies have shown natural lighting solutions reduce worker absenteeism and boost productivity up to by 25 percent.

Thermal Industries photo

Before new windows - Thermal Industries photo

Improved technology means that today’s windows, doors and skylights not only save more energy but are stronger and more durable than the older products they replace. Builders can reassure commercial building owners that their investments in replacement windows “should last between 10 and 15 years,” advises Doyle. “After that, the next generation of technology will make replacements again beneficial.”

Skylights, on the other hand, are subject to many external factors — from the local environment to the weather — which affect their service life and cause units to leak or transmit less light over time. Still, Palram offers a full 10-year warranty against discoloration, yellowing and hail damage, reports Biehl, though “owners can expect many more years of use from our polycarbonate day-lighting solutions even after the warranted time frame.”

Thermal Industries

After new windows - Thermal Industries photo

Once new products are installed, return on investment can be quick. In the case of skylights, Biehl says building owners can recoup their investments in “only a few short years.” Yet builders who want to quantify the savings for their clients can, suggests Doyle, get some computerized help. “There are many software programs that can be fairly accurate in this kind of calculation,” he notes.

The enhanced aesthetics of new windows, doors and skylights can also bring building owners a return. “Commercial building owners can improve the quality of the work environment and improve the curb appeal of the building,” Carlson explains. “The appearance of the building can mean a lot to employees, customers and suppliers. Retrofitting or remodeling your facility shows them you care about quality.”

AJ Manufacturing EZ-v trim

A.J. Manufacturing EZ-v trim - AJ Mfg. photo

Add in rebates, tax credits and other incentives provided to owners who install new higher-performing products, Carlson continues, “and as a builder you can put together an even more powerful case for replacing worn or low-performing products at a reduced cost.”

At present, Doyle relates, a $200 federal tax credit is offered for replacing windows and skylights and $500 for exterior doors. “But they all expire at the end of 2011,” he laments, “and the maximum credit for all taxable years for qualifying products is $500. And no more than $200 of the credit can be attributable to expenses for windows and skylights.”

Once the decision is made to retrofit or remodel, installation concerns vary for each product and application. When it comes to windows, says Doyle, “A number of measurements are involved and you’ve got to adjust for out-of-plumb or out-of-square openings. But then, color matching is not as much of a problem as it was 10 years ago. Many vinyl manufactures are now making windows in various colors either by laminating or painting.”

Carlson affirms his own company not only can “custom-build every window to fit the opening that exists, but can custom-coat and colorize the base window and trim to match existing building colors. In fact, if the old windows were wood, we can apply wood grains to the replacement windows in various colors and patterns to match a particular look. Doors are very similar. We can even give you a door that’s Mary Kay pink, if requested.”

Ease of installation is enhanced, adds Carlson, by “replacement components that are made in a variety of configurations with installation in mind, while also contributing to improved product performance. Many products are being designed today with features which assume that replacement, not new construction, is the application.” A.J. Manufacturing has developed an EZ-v trim system that allows the company’s vinyl windows to be installed into steel-sided buildings after the steel is up. No fasteners are visible, affording a clean look and leaks associated with J-channel installations are eliminated.

To install a replacement skylight, Biehl points out, “You must examine the substrate and determine the viability for continued use or replacement. There’s a strong possibility that — due to leakage, aging, insects or environmental factors — framing members have deteriorated from the top or underside. Also the metal panels, which are used along with the polycarbonate panels, must be in a stable, usable condition. Rusting or peeling paint may cause issues when installing the caulk or sealant around the panels.”

With any remodeling project, unexpected issues can crop up if only because no one can be certain of a building’s condition until the work actually begins. “That’s why you need to work with a reputable manufacturer that supports you with various resources,” Carlson asserts, “from providing personal advice on product selection, to furnishing online resources such as test data, certifications, literature and specifications, to supporting the product after the sale.” RB



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