To someone who's never had to select door and window styles, it might seem a job easily done in a matter of minutes and with little inspiration. But there's more to it than that. Doors and windows aren't immune from trends, and manufacturers are giving consumers what they want: An endless supply of choices to fit an array of budgets.

Perhaps one of the most immutable trends in homes today"”the desire to restore or maintain the charm of older homes or add it to newer ones"”has taken hold in doors and windows, as well.

"There's definitely a move toward the authentic and historic look," says Fred Cernetisch, sales manager of Pella Windows and Doors of Cincinnati. This means windows in wood varieties, stains and architecture that match flooring, cabinets and millwork in the home. Window hardware, too, is now available in everything from silver to oil-rubbed bronze to match the color and texture of faucets and appliances.
"They want it all to flow in the home," adds Gary Glass, vice president of operations at Indus Construction Products Inc., in Cincinnati. His company is qualified by the Ohio Historical Society and frequently works with restorations in Over the Rhine and the city of Covington.
The first thing Glass asks customers is what type of windows they have and what problem they're having with them. Do they dislike the look? Do the windows work? Do the have the traditional look of double-hung windows, or are they the more contemporary casement type? Answers to these questions will dictate the scope of the project, including whether a complete replacement is necessary.

Not to spoil the fun, but budget is a key consideration too. Like most home materials, windows and doors are available in a variety of materials across the budget spectrum. At the high-end, wood windows can be custom-made to exacting specifications. In the mid-range, fiberglass windows are increasing in popularity. Vinyl has long been a mainstay in both the replacement and new home market. It's safe to budget about $1,000 to $2,000 per opening, a price that includes installation.

"The nice thing is that you have choices, and you can really work your budget to accommodate your preferences," says Pella's Cernetisch.
The popularity of energy efficiency never wanes, experts say, as consumers want to lower heating and cooling costs. Although manufacturers report the efficiency of their windows differently, they all measure the amount of heat and cold that's transferred between the window (how well it insulates), with a U-Factor. The lower the U value, the better. In recent years, the efficiency of windows has improved dramatically with the advent of Low-E (low emittance) glass coatings, gas fills between panes, and improved framing and weather stripping materials. But it's important to consider the entire window system rather than just the glass. "The frame, sash and weather stripping play a huge part in the overall energy efficiency of the windows," Cernetisch says. Double- and triple-paned windows are the standard now; it's difficult to find single-paned glass anymore.

Decorative glass has long been popular, but consumers can now even choose everything from the number and style of panels, the shape of the glass, and "caming" (the metal banding that joins panels of glass together in a design) that varies from brass to patina to nickel to black chrome. It's a small detail that adds up for a big effect. Of course, getting real brass or nickel will cost more than using an imitation.

Doors

Doors get due attention, as well. Consumers have realized that the front door can significantly impact the overall look and warmth of a home. One study by a manufacturer showed that simply changing the front door on a home made consumers rate the same home's value higher. "Availability of products has changed dramatically in the last few years," says Glass. Rod iron has become fashionable, as have custom-made doors in a variety of rare woods such as Honduran mahogany. Beveled glass has long been popular in doors.

It's often possible, he says, to entirely change the entryway look by altering the door setup. Custom work comes at a cost, though. Door systems can range from $2,500 to more than $10,000. But like windows, there are a variety of materials and configurations to get what you want within your budget. For example, it might be possible to replace a door with sidelights and transom with a single 8-foot door. "There are always ways to work with a customer to make a budget work," Glass says.

For starters, there are fiberglass doors. These doors, made to look like oak, have been around for a decade or longer. But options have expanded into other species, offering the look of mahogany, douglas fir and walnut. These doors give you the beauty of hardwood witout the threat of rotting or warping like real wood could. However, these doors still need treated with finishes like regular wooden doors. Failure to apply finishes correctly or not often enough can lead to a massive restoration project. If that's the case, be sure to find out which strippers are safe for your door. Fiberglass and steel doors can also have thermal breaks (a wood stile completely surrounding the perimeter of the door between the two face panels). This prevents the room from losing too much heat through the door.