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Window Replacement Trends for Rental Properties

Written by David Roberson, Esq. on . Posted in Landlords, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Property Management, Silicon Valley Real Estate Investing


By Eric Holder – President/CEO Able Glass, Window & DoorAA Windows Back Yard

Able Glass, Window & Door has been installing windows and doors in all types of residential and commercial (apartment) buildings since 1969.  Over the years we have seen many different types of windows, window systems, and installation methods come and go.  Window trends appear with the different types of construction, architecture, and consumer tastes as well as the ever changing rules of the industry standards to ensure that a building is energy efficient.  Window design and construction has gradually improved with technological advances in making a building use less energy, which helps reduce energy costs.  Today, in the San Francisco Bay Area housing market, we are experiencing some new trends in the types of windows being constructed and installed primarily for residential rental and investment properties by professional property management companies.  These trends continue to develop and evolve but here is an outline of what we are seeing in today’s environment.

AA Window Installing-redoneWindows and Doors Being Installed in Today’s Rental Property Portfolio

Recently we are seeing older aluminum single-paned windows and aluminum doors being phased out.  These older systems easily conduct heat and cold through the frames and single glazing making them significantly less energy efficient than systems designed today.   Moreover these older systems do not meet today’s guidelines for California’s Title 24 energy efficiency standards.   Another drawback of aluminum framed windows is their propensity to form condensation and sometimes mold when combined with improper ventilation (many people won’t open their windows in cold bathrooms during cold months which exacerbates this condition).

Retro-Fit Windows

Retro-fit windows (also known as retrofit or z-bar frames) were developed to facilitate ease of installation as they dramatically cut labor and overall costs.  These windows are measured to precisely fit directly into the opening of the original wood frame left behind when double-hung windows are removed.  These windows are designed with an exterior trim and flush fin which attaches to the exterior of the building.  They are nailed secure, caulked, sealed, and trimmed which completes the installation.

Nail-On Framed WindowsAA Window Block Frame window-installation

Nail-On framed windows (new construction) are used when building a new home, doing an addition to a home, or when you want to remove an existing window completely.  Since the studs of the home are exposed the windows can be installed directly on to the frame by use of a nail fin frame (which means it is nailed into the framing).  These types of frames tend to be less vulnerable to leaks.  This type of installation however is more expensive and takes longer to install because of installation procedures.

Flush-Fin or Z-Bar Framed Replacement Windows  

Alternatively, Flush-Fin or Z-Bar framed replacement windows are an excellent option for a quicker and less expensive method when there are budget or time constraints. Replacement windows have been developed so a contractor does not have to remove the exterior materials of the home in order to install the window; they are measured to fit in an existing window opening and will only replace the actual window itself.  This saves time and labor costs with all the benefits of new windows.

AA Window blockframe-before-afterBlock-Frame Windows

Block framed windows are a non-finned window frame (meaning they have neither a z-bar flange or nail-on flange) and they are strictly used to fit between brick (concrete) and or fit within an existing wood window opening that has wood sashes. This is done on a lot of older homes that have existing wood double hung windows currently (see photo).

Construction of Today’s Replacement Windows

The most popular type of window and patio door frame being installed today is vinyl framed windows and patio doors. These types of frames offer the customer the best value for numerous reasons. They are less expensive then Composite, Fiberglass, Wood and Wood Clad windows and have better warranties and have less maintenance because they are incredibly easy to clean.

The Top Window Manufacturers used in Rental PropertiesAA Window Large Back Yard Installing-redone

Milgard has been the top selling brand of ours for over 30 years.  They have the strongest warranties and have been in the industry for over 50 years.  We have installed Milgard in thousands of properties throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  They have numerous manufacturing plants on the west coast which makes it convenient for availability.

Simonton is another best seller of ours.  This manufacturer is best known for having the narrowest vinyl frame in the industry.  People who prefer larger glass areas tend to go with Simonton.  They have been in business for over 55 years and we use their products frequently.

Ply Gem is also a popular manufacturer when we use as well.  They are a very strong company in the industry and have an excellent reputation for quality products.

Cascade has been a very popular brand with us for rental property landlords and professional property managers who are trying to save money.  They are well known on the West Coast and are manufactured up in Washington State.

AA Window 4 Front Yard Installing-redoneProblems Property Owners Make in Contracting Window and Patio Door Installs in Rental Properties

There are several issues that people should focus on when beginning a window change out project.  Get referrals from quality sources.  Check all references before you even interview with the potential contractor.  Check with California State Licensing Board at  Make sure the contractor has commercial general liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, and has a current bond as required by state law.  Without proper planning or reference checking problems can occur.  Several issues are addressed below:

  1. Too many property owners, landlords, and property managers will look for the least expensive alternative to replacing the windows or patio doors on their investment property. The window system selected should be applicable to the situation – the lowest priced window is not always the best choice for rental properties.
  1. Too many property owners, landlords, and property managers don’t check to see if the company installing the windows and doors sub-contracts their work out. Many window contractors will sub-contract the installation work because this allows them to cut costs such as Workers Compensation insurance, but the installation will possibly suffer.
  1. There are numerous types of window and door frames for certain types of installation methods and lesser experienced contractors may be more prone to installation errors and mistakes which can lead to property damage from leaking windows.

We are constantly educating ourselves about the latest window products, installation techniques and procedures, and any developing trends.  We are consistently seeing improvements in window systems and installation methods as the construction industry is an ever-changing environment.

AA Window Eric HolderEric Holder is the President and CEO of Able Glass of Santa Clara, CA.  Able Glass is a family owned and operated business and has been proudly serving the San Francisco Bay Area including San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Atherton, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, Burlingame, Belmont, San Mateo, Newark and Fremont as a complete window, glass and screen company since 1969.



David Roberson, Esq.

David Roberson, Esq.

David is a licensed real estate attorney, a licensed real estate broker, and has been involved in the real estate business since he graduated from college in 1986. David has personally been involved in hundreds of real estate transactions, has personally inspected over 2,500 residential properties, and is an expert in 12 separate building code categories. He has managed a portfolio of real properties in California and Arizona since 1998.
David Roberson, Esq.

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David Roberson, Esq.

David is a licensed real estate attorney, a licensed real estate broker, and has been involved in the real estate business since he graduated from college in 1986. David has personally been involved in hundreds of real estate transactions, has personally inspected over 2,500 residential properties, and is an expert in 12 separate building code categories. He has managed a portfolio of real properties in California and Arizona since 1998.

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