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Question DetailsAsked on 8/13/2014

which should be better value siding or windows

I have to keep my costs as low as possible but need new siding and windows. Should I pay more for siding ( longer length pieces less seams, better insulation) or better windows (three pane or two pane)

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8 Answers

Voted Best Answer

To get the most bang for your buck, I would:

1) if you have to replace door, unless you are going for a specific higher-end look, go with a $500-750 door rather than $1500 - that is a lot for a front door unless including sidelights. I agree with - who was it, Don - go foam core steel door for security, very long life (as long as kept painted), no ultraviolet degradation from sunlight. For garage door I would go insulation-cored fiberglass or metal (metal longer lasting, less maintenance), and not use windows in it unless double-paned acrylic.

2) As long as your windows have a U value that meets your local code, if any, or about 0.7-0.8 or better U value, I would not put a lot of money into higher end ones unless you have very cold winters. For very hot summers, curtains or blinds to limit solar heating are far chaper and more effective than windows that block solar infrared heating, and also limit fading. Insulated drapes also work very well on very cold days to control heat loss through windows, though they can work too well and allow the interior of the window to cool so much that you get heavy condensation or icing on the window panes. I would not go with triple pane unless your ambient temperature sits below freezing most of the day for weeks on end, goes below about 10-15 degrees F pretty frequently in the winter, or you hit below -10F pretty much every winter for more than a couple of days.

3) Dollar for dollar, assuming you have a significant heating or cooling issue (long hot summers with much of the day on A/C) or long cold winters, sheet insulation under your siding is probably the best bank for your buck unless your wall insulation is already well above R13 (standard fiberglass in 2x4 stud wall), merely because of the vastly greater exposure of the siding versus windows. However, commonly your best value for the $, if you have either very hot or cold conditions for several months a year, is boosting your attic airflow prevention from the house, then insulation to R24-30 or more.

Unfortunately, for a specific home, the only way to figure out which is most cost effective, and relative value per dollar can vary by a factor of 10 or more for various measures, is to get an energy audit and infrared camera scan done for from $500-800 typically. If you do that, make sure the scan is recorded and given to you in standard computer-readable format - typically a .wmv or .mpg file.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


If you can only afford one improvement at a time I would do the windows first.

By installing the windows first you will start saving money on heating and cooling cost right away. I have heard recently that studies show it takes a long time to see a return on windows and they may be right if the windows are not that bad on the house but if they sre drafty you will feel more comfortable at a lower temp with better windows. The three pane windows will help with street noise too in most cases if that may be a problem where you live.

Long length or shorter length, with or without insulated panels with the way siding is installed I feel that the only difference is appearance besides cost. Vinyl siding is installed so as to really hang on the exterior of a home. It is meant to slide as it expands and contracts with the changes in seasons. It also has venting holes to alow moisture to escape and is not meant to fit tightly to trim pieces. The siding with the foam does feel more solid if pressed on but to me if you are going to add insulation when siding the home 4X8 solid foams sheets are a better way to go.


Answered 5 years ago by ContractorDon


for faster return on investment windows give you better insulation, alot of heat is lost through windows and doors, not much through walls, sidings bang for the buck is vs. painting costs, if you can wait, save your money for the next job, siding or paint, either way windows should be installed before siding.


Answered 5 years ago by the new window man


As a former energy conservation guru, having sold millions of $ of siding and windows Plus I sell neither now, my opionion.

On windows- The energy savings between a double and triple pane window will NOT pay for the upgrade. The energy savings from upgrading your existing windows to Thermal will not pay for the new windows if you figure your rate of return ie how long it takes to save the money and what the money cost you. So buy cheap unless you have a pricey home for your area.

On siding- About 20 years ago I sold the first Crane Techwall (no longer available) job.

It was a 50mill vinyl panel that was laminated to a white foam with an R value of 3.2 or so. It came in different shapes and was at least 15' or 18' long double high panels ie 18 to 24" high. The panels interlocked to gether and the corners were even insulated. It was a Quantum leap over the old hang a 4' by 8' or more common hang a fan fold insultation panel to not save much money but give a level surface to hang the siding off. Vinyl will mirrar the substructure. Today many manu offer the same and if you believe Consumer Reports the laminated vinyl siding is the best. There are even 25' virtually seamless panels. My choice would be a cementious siding like hardy tho.

So my sugestion is IF you can afford both with todays super low interest rates refi or take a 2nd and do both.

In vinyl window I used to say buy Gerrell out of St Lious and Crane SuperSiding by whatever its current name

Jim Casper the most unpopular contractor who installs Gutters & Covers Today


Answered 5 years ago by jccasper


guru is out of touch with the times based on info available through the u.s. department of energy as well as the energy star web, site buying your windows based on price is ok, but you should weigh your descission heavy on u-value, the lower the u-value the better the better the energy savings and with todays rising costs to heat your home, guess what? the right windows will save you money. ( why else would there have been energy star tax credits?)

Answered 5 years ago by the new window man


Windowman and JCCasper both have good points, and certainly what environment you are in makes a tremendous difference too, as does the quality of your existing wall airflow barriers and windows.

I agree the insulation-backed plank or strip siding is pretty much a joke for the most part - just does not add much insulation for the money, plus the siding (assuming you are talking plank rather than sheet) is just hanging there as stated, so there is a lot of airflow behind the siding and hence behind the attached insulation, which negates its value. If you want to insulate your walls, use board insulation as Jim said, with water barrier wrap OVER it right under the siding if you want to improve your insulation. The board insulation will also reduce airflow through your walls. However- IF you live in a very cold winter environment, an architect or engineer should compute where the freezing front will be on the coldest typical days, because it can cause condensation of moisture from warm air leaking through the wall - especially if you do not have effective plastic sheet vapor barrier under your interior drywall. This is typically only an issue at very high elevations in the rockies, and in the northern-tier states where temps commonly go below about 10 below zero (F).

Window replacement can give a lot of bang for your buck in some cases - both due to improved appearance if your exisitng are in bad shape, by reducing air infiltration if they are leaky, and reducing heat loss through the windows and frames if your current ones are single-pane AND you live in a very cold or hot environment.

There are differences in the way insulation R-values are tested and how windows U-value are tested because the window manufacturers loaded up the test standards committees decades ago and came up with a heat transmissivity test that does not truly measure the full effect of windows, but for practical purposes you can consider the equivalent R value of a window to be the inverse of its U vale - so a 0.4 U value (a pretty good window value) would be equivalent to a 2.5 R value, and a 2.0 U value (a quite poor value) roughly equals a 0.5 R value.

Conductive (as opposed to heated airflow losses) heat gains (for A/C) or losses (for heating) are directly related to the area involved, and also directly proportional to the R value. Therefore, assuming your windows take up say 10% of the area of the outside walls for instance, increasing your U value from say 1 with normal single-pane windows to 0.25 with extreme efficiency triple-pane insulated-thermal break frame windows, so changing the R value from 1 to 4, would be equivalent to increasing your overall wall insulation by about 1/10 that much - or adding an average of R0.3 insulation. Not very much - less than putting metal siding over an existing sheet siding or about equivalent to putting a layer of free breathable housewrap under the water barrier to provide an airspace. To look at it the other way, if you add 1 inch of rigid EPS foam board under your siding your insulation gain will be about R5. To equal that in window efficiency would require about R45 because ofthe 9:1 area difference, or a U value of about 0.02 for the windows - or about 7-8 times more energy efficient than the most efficient windows made. Therefore, it should be clear that almost ANY improvement in siding energy efficiency, possibly even insulation-backed boards, would be more efficient than replacing all your windows, from an insulation-only standpoint. And this at a cost typically 1/2-1/3 the cost of whole-house high efficiency window upgrades, so on a bang for your buck basis, residing with underlying insulation can get you very roughly a 15-30 times better return on your improvement dollar.

I would take some level of difference with the statement that you will NEVER recover the value of high-efficiency windows - in very hot or cold climates where there is an extensive use of A/C or heating, changing out single-pane or leaky windows to double or even triple-pane windows can pay of for itself in 10-15 years or even less in extreme climates - I had one job where, with extreme (most people would say unliveable) conditions, quadruple-pane windows at a remote site paid for themselves (over the current single-pane) in less than 2 years. However, on the other hand, upgrading the weatherstripping and sealing airflow around the window frame can commonly achieve at least 50% of that improvement with older windows in decent condition, at about 10-15% of the cost. Many existing windows have zero airflow blockage or insulation around the outside of the frame (between the window and the studs), and many fixed windows are just set in the outer frame with zero seal or caulking, so in many cases just fixing that and replacing any torn or missing weatherstripping can cut heat and air loss on a window by 50% - for a miniscule portion of the cost of a new window.

Neglecting air infiltration, in areas with severe temperatures, your windows should generally have a U value of 0.5 or less - so an equivalent R value of 2 or better, as opposed to your normal single-pane window values of about 1-2 U value (plain single 1/8" glass pane is about 1.25), or 1 to 0.5 R value. Higher rated windows, in addition to saving heat loss, also reduce the chance of condensation and icing on the windows in the winter, assuming you have true winters in your area.

However, air exfiltration/infiltration from a poor-sealing window commonly exceeds the conductive heat loss through the unit itself, so if your windows are drafty and that cannot be fixed by foam sealing around the outer frames and fixing weather stripping, replacing windows can have a significant improvement disproportionate to the amount of wall space they take up.

When replacing windows, especially in high-cost heating or A/C areas, you should also pay attention to solar heat transmissivity (unwanted in A/C country), retransmission (undesireable in cold climates), and airflow through the unit condensation resistance - all items on the EnergyStar ratings of windows and doors.

Also consider alternatives - solar reflecting film in high A/C use areas, or drapes/curtains over the windows at night or day (heating or A/C conditions) and in unused rooms can frequently save as much energy as replacing your entire window unit,, at a fraction of the cost.

Bottom line - I would eliminate drafts around the frames and replace/supplement weatherstripping and caulking unless your windows are in generally poor shape or form significant ice or heavy, running condensation on the glass in the winter, then put most of your money into either insulation under siding - assuming you need new siding.

Or if you do not actually need new siding or windows at this time, before spending ten-twenty thousand plus on siding or windows, get an energy audit with both inflow and outflow blower door test first to isolate air and heat losses/gains, and spend less money for more bang sealing off significant air exchange issues and upgrading insulation in specific areas where you have higher than usual heat losses, as you get far more bang for your buck stopping conditioned air losses and fixing very poorly insulated areas than by doing a general insulation enchancement. This can be particularly true with uninsulated basements or crawl spaces or attics - I can't count the times I have seen expensive insulation or window jobs sp[ecicially aimed at energy conservation, yet they totally ignored airflow through penetrations into the attic, lack of attic or crawlspace insulation, or the fact they were ignoring 365 day exposure to 40-55 degree uninsulated concrete or block foundations walls and slabs in the basement.

I have worked a large number of residential and commercial jobs where a detailed energy audit, with thermal IR camera taping, resulted in a proven (by after-the-fact tests) 75-90% reduction in energy losses compared to total reinsulation and residing, at 10-15% of the cost. I convinced a couple of neighbors to go through this for about $600-700 each before upgrading insulation or furnace - and each saw a 30-40% decrease in energy bills for the year after the upgrades WITHOUT changing out their 50-60% efficiency furnaces. One went ahead to a 90% efficient furnace and ended up with almost exactly a 50% reduction in total energy costs - and that cost includes coonsumptive uses such as hot water use and lighting and electronics and such which cannot really be reduced much in a normal household.

If you want to do a bit more research, and many other websites like This Old House and utility companies and government agencies have lots of pretty easy to read articles. Just bear in mind, those at sites pushing conservation will tend to be overly optimistic about energy savings and return on investment, so bear in mind they are pushing a concept and tend to cast a very favorable light on it because of that.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


I am getting the windows and the siding installed at the same time. To clarify my question, I am wondering if it makes more sense to pay for the higher end windows and lower end siding or higher end siding and lower end windows? Does this question make more sense?

I could pay as much as $2500 for a really nice fiberglass front door or over $2000 for a fiberglass single bay with no windows garage door but I don't think I can afford those prices.

I'm really looking to get the most value for my money.

Answered 5 years ago by jgr789


I have always felt that a vinyl window provides a better return than buying upscale. My color preference has always been a beige color even tho it usually costs 10% more. Go for the better grade of siding with the laminated insulation. Forgo the windows in the garage doors for greater R value and lower cost. If I had money left would consider expensive front door.

Jim Casper Gutter Cover Contractor with 40+years selling home improvements


Answered 5 years ago by jccasper


For your garage and entry door go with insulated steel it will cost less then fibrglass and give you insulation and durability, strengh. The lower the u-value the better the energy savings on windows vinyl is the least expensive and most maintance free. the thickness/ gauge of siding is more important to its strengh then the length. I like the contoured profile insulation inserts also better to prevent cracks.


Answered 5 years ago by the new window man

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