You’ve made up your mind: the windows in your house have seen better days, and it’s high time they were replaced. With this major improvement done, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the rewards: a more comfortable home, and a lower energy bill.

Check with your municipality
Once you’ve decided the time has come to get the job done, the plan should be to visit specialized companies to compare products and prices, right? Wrong. The first thing to do is contact the municipal authorities. Otherwise, you may be kicking yourself after the job is done.

The placement of windows in any dwelling is governed by certain provisions of the Civil Code of Québec and by standards in the Québec Construction Code. For example, you may not be allowed to enlarge, add or eliminate an existing opening (that goes for both doors and windows). Similarly, your plan to install a new window with an opening smaller than the original may be rejected because it would provide insufficient ventilation.

That’s not all: your home or neighbourhood may be subject to restrictions meant to ensure the preservation of built heritage.

You will definitely be in for fewer headaches—and, just as important, fewer expenses—if you learn about these restrictions before ordering any windows or beginning work. By consulting the municipal authorities right from the start, you’ll know where you stand (you’ll have to contact them anyway, to obtain the required building permit).

Performance equals quality
With the regulatory aspects out of the way, the next step is to make a budget and determine what features you want for your new windows, specifically their style and design (e.g., single- or double-hung, casement, sliding) and their requirements in terms of maintenance.

Whichever type you choose, keep in mind that a good-quality window will always be worth the investment, over the medium and long term. Don’t hesitate to choose Energy Star®-qualified windows appropriate for the climate where you live.

The overall performance of all windows sold in Canada is measured according to the CSA A440 construction standard. Windows are tested and rated for, among other things, airtightness (A), watertightness (B) and wind load resistance (C). Products rated A1, B1 and C2 meet the minimum performance criteria for windows installed in low-rise buildings. The best-performing windows are rated A3, B7 and C5. You should look for these maximum-performance ratings if you will be putting in very large windows, or if you live in a harsh climate. 
Sure, it’s an expense—but it’s also an investment
Installing quality windows may be expensive, but it tops the list of the most profitable energy-efficiency renovations. In fact, according to the Appraisal Institute of Canada’s most recent RENOVA study, homeowners today can recover 60% of the amount invested in energy-efficiency home improvements when they resell their home. This is an average, of course, since profit margins can vary depending on the location of the property (e.g., province, urban vs. rural market, immediate surroundings) and the quality of the work done (e.g., materials, professional job).

For more detailed information about window features (materials and glazing), energy performance and installation techniques, have a look at the other Tips & Tricks in our series on purchasing windows.

Happy shopping!