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Paying the Price: Cost Considerations for Windows and Doors

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Materials, manufacturing, logistical and application considerations—all affect the final cost of you pay for the windows and doors you purchase.

In order to help you get a better understanding of where the cost of your windows and doors comes from, why it may fluctuate up and down over time depending on the circumstance, and why one window may be exponentially more expensive than another, we break it down here.

What is the Cost of Glass?

The one common component all windows have is glass. But not all glass is created equal. For example, window glass can be insulated with two or three panes of glass, can have specific coatings that reflect sunlight and heat, and/or can be tempered or heat-strengthened. All of these characteristics require their own processes in manufacturing.

Typically, the more value-added characteristics the glass in your window has—such as improved insulation value or solar control—the more costly the manufacturing process and the more valuable the glass. Ultimately, this results in an increase in your cost. Higher cost, though, almost always brings higher savings somewhere else, such as in energy costs, heating, and cooling, and more.

This spans across virtually all materials and components used in a window. A window frame in which the glass is installed can have varying degrees of performance depending on the material used (vinyl and wood are two common materials), and the manner in which it is manufactured. For example, it may include added insulation within the frame, or could include a coating of its own to improve performance. Consider doors as well. Doors have additional components such has handles and lock systems, and each varies in function and quality.

Again, all of these processes and improvements to the window increase manufacturing costs, value to the consumer, and ultimately cost of the finished product.

Double-Pane Window Detail
Value-added features such as thermal insulation and coatings add cost to a window but ultimately result in higher quality and costs saves elsewhere (heating and cooling costs, for example).

Window and Door Prices

Another thing to consider is the cost of the materials themselves. Just like the gasoline in your car (and more on gasoline later), prices of resources and supplies are dynamic. While manufacturers of windows and doors do their best to maintain the consistency and affordability of their products, they are also at the mercy of their own expenses that can fluctuate. An increase in the cost of glass or vinyl earlier in the supply chain, for example, will have a downstream effect on the window suppliers.

The effect has been seen with lumber. The U.S. imports roughly a third of its lumber, with almost all of that imported lumber coming from Canada. While the two countries normally are friendly, they have been in a dispute about softwood lumber. Domestic U.S. lumber producers have argued that Canada’s subsidizing its own lumber industry has negatively affected U.S. producers, and in 2017, the U.S. imposed tariffs on imported Canadian lumber. These tariffs were opposed by home building and door/window manufacturing associations, which argued this would ultimately lead to higher prices for American consumers.

Supply also affects the price. Take glass: while flat glass prices have stayed relatively even over the last couple of years, there has been speculation in the glass industry that tightened supply in the U.S. is resulting in price increases. Whether or not this has an effect on window prices remains to be seen, but it is the kind of thing that can affect cost in the long run.

Logistics, Manufacturing, Resale, and Labor

We mentioned gasoline earlier. Just as an increase in gasoline prices makes it more expensive for you to get to work, it makes it more expensive for suppliers to get their products (in this case, windows), to you. Shipping and freight also require labor, another expense to the supplier. Similar to virtually every other materials industry out there, these are important considerations window companies have to deal with.

The manufacturing process can add or remove costs depending on the efficiency of the manufacturer. Electricity, for example, can be a huge cost burden for a manufacturer, but it can also be an effective avenue to minimize costs if the manufacturer is efficient in its processes. And no matter who you’re buying from, you’ll also be paying someone to install the windows.

Don’t Forget Quality

Ultimately, the higher quality product, the higher the price tag will be. A window or door that performs very well in energy efficiency, because of the added features and components we discussed, will be more expensive than one that performs poorly in that regard. In other words, a double-paned window with a special coating will cost more than a single-pane window without coating. You’ll have to consider this when picking out your windows. Though keep in mind the added benefit these features provide—higher energy efficiency can mean lower energy bills in the long run, so you should weigh the trade-off.

Quality is also a major consideration for the installation itself. A high-quality installation is critical to the performance of your window or door. You could buy the latest and greatest door with all the bells and whistles, but a poor installation could negate all the benefits you were supposed to get from the door. Your costs can multiply when you factor in what you paid for the product, what you’re losing in energy costs and even what you may pay in the future to have the job fixed and done the right way. You’ll want to use quality installers such as affiliates. It is important to ensure you are getting a quality installation, even if it means paying the premium the window company instead of having your buddy down the road help you put it in on a weekend.

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These are some of the key things to consider as you explore the many different price points in shopping for your doors and windows. Fortunately, there are products available for a range of budgets.

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Copyright © Inc. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed written permission. Questions? Contact attempts to provide accurate information but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. All content is provided on an informational basis only.

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Nick St. Denis

Nick St. Denis currently serves as the director of research for Key Media & Research and is formerly the editor of USGlass magazine. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the State University of New York where he studied journalism and is currently working on earning his Master’s Degree in survey research. Nick has a passion for sports including football, hockey, and golf. He enjoys playing ice hockey in a local men’s league and cheers on the New York Islanders when not on the ice himself. He was actually a sports reporter for a New York newspaper and also worked at a country club in Virginia. Most notably, Nick is husband to his wife Tammy, and father to his son Carter. Find out more about Nick on Linkedin.

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