Designing Custom Windows Online: A Simplified Process

1. Introduction

Plenty of thought goes into choosing the windows in a home – they add to the character of the house, and they provide a view to the outside world. There is a high demand in constructing homes with more open space and high ceilings. One way to achieve this is through designing and installing custom windows. According to a recent AAMA report titled “Material Trends for Windows,” consumers and builders of homes are demanding windows with more elegance and character. Windows with curves, arches, and uniquely shaped windows are at an all-time popularity. Windows are becoming an architectural centerpiece of many homes and the trend towards custom windows is at an all-time high. The report states that builders are also demanding higher-end windows to improve energy efficiency and to enhance the aesthetics of the buildings. Consumers are also demanding these higher-end windows as an energy cost savings and an improved quality of life. Higher-end windows and custom windows often go hand in hand and designing custom windows is the first step towards higher-end windows. Higher-end windows are expected to increase from the current 54% demand to over 60% within the next 5 years. Designing custom windows is the first step towards achieving these goals. The article then goes into the variety of materials that windows are made out of: wood, metal-clad, vinyl, and fiberglass. At the current time, vinyl windows are the most popular, making up over 60% of all windows installed. However, there are more architects and consumers looking towards alternate materials to add more character to the windows. Materials such as wood and metal-clad are often seen as high-end and contribute greatly to the overall curb appeal of the home. Specialty windows made from alternate materials are commonly custom designed to add a unique look to a home. With an increase in demand for quality windows and a variety of materials to choose from, custom window design is the key to meeting all the needs and desires of the window buyer. Higher-end custom windows add class and elegance to a home or building and are often designed to specifically fit the architectural needs.

1.1. Importance of Custom Windows

Custom windows refer to windows that are different from regular windows in terms of design, style, and size. They are made to measure and offer a variety of designs to choose from, rather than being mass-produced. The first step in selecting the best windows for your home is to decide which type of windows will work best for both your home and your family. Custom windows are purchased and built specifically to focus on maintenance-free and energy efficiency. These windows are built to your specifications, and it is important to have them built based on proper window installation to avoid any future problems or damage. A structurally sound window will prevent air and water seepage, thus preventing further damage to your new custom windows. Custom windows will add to the artistic design of your home. Steps toward a newer home may allow you to make your dream become a reality by adding in the windows you’ve always wanted. Custom windows allow many designs and types to best fit your needs and satisfaction. With many interior and exterior designs to choose from, your windows will be in constant harmony with your new home. Regular windows do not always focus on which type of window would be best for a certain room or house. With custom windows, you have an abundance of choices that will accent that special room. High-quality custom windows can also add to the value of your home. By giving your home a personal touch both design-wise and efficiency-wise, this will give your home an added feature when it comes time to sell.

1.2. Advantages of Designing Windows Online

An additional advantage to designing windows online is that the visualization is incredibly realistic. There have been many advancements in computer graphics and design. Many of these tools can virtually produce windows in a number of different household settings. Homeowners can really get a good idea of what the windows will look like. Often times sales representatives will provide hand-drawn sketches or rough draft computer images. This does not give a good visualization. Often it is difficult to make a purchase with an unclear idea…this will never be a problem with designing windows online.

Another advantage is that it can be done in small increments of time. Often custom window decisions can be time-consuming. Many homeowners have many ideas and are unsure of exactly what they want. This can involve a lot of time and energy. Designing windows online can be done for 15 minutes here and there…often done over the span of a few weeks. This way the process is not rushed and no immediate decisions have to be made.

One advantage to designing custom windows online is that there isn’t a sales pressure. Often when windows are purchased in the home, the sales representative can be very persistent and pushy. Homeowners can feel a lot of pressure under these circumstances. Designing windows online is a simple individual process that can be done without any disruption.

Visualizing custom windows can be difficult. There are many options and designs to consider. A new option available to consumers is the ability to design custom order windows online. This process involves a few simple tools and a lot of creativity.

2. Exploring Window Design Options

Window types and styles offer a great deal of design flexibility. When selecting a style, it is important to consider the architectural style of your home as well as energy requirements, functions, and ease of installation. The style chosen will dictate the operations or the way that the window functions. There are several window types, but the most popular include the double hung and casement windows. A double hung window has two sashes, both operable, where a casement window has one or more sashes that are hinged and open on a vertical axis using a hand crank or lever. Other window types include sliders, which have one or more sashes that slide horizontally, hinged patio doors, awning windows (similar to casements but the window sash is hinged at the top and opens outward), bay windows, bow windows, garden windows, and specialty windows. Each of these windows has their own unique style and design is built based on the frame of said type and configuration of windows. When considering types and styles, it is important to choose durable, low maintenance materials. Wood windows offer great insulating properties but require more maintenance than other materials. For the warmth of wood minus the maintenance, some manufacturers offer a wood grain interior matched with a vinyl exterior. If you are looking to build a specific color scheme for your windows, you may want to consider aluminum windows and stormproof windows. Wood, vinyl, and fiberglass are the most popular window materials, but the types of windows offered in each material can vary. Always inquire if the company offers material upgrades when shopping for specific window types.

2.1. Window Types and Styles

There are many types of window styles to choose from. The window style has to fit in with the architecture of the home. Trying to retrofit a traditional home with anything other than traditional windows will usually look bad. It is also usually most cost effective to stick with the existing window style. A bay window is an angular window usually with 3 sides that sticks out from a wall. A bow window is similar, but is a series of connected windows with a gentle curve. A casement window is a window that is attached to its frame by one or more hinges. They are used singly or in pairs within a common frame, in which case they are hinged on the outside. This type is more popular in Europe than it is in the United States. An awning window is similar to a casement window, but it is hinged at the top. These are quite good for letting air in while keeping rain out. A skylight is a window built into a roof, it opens an aperture in the roof which allows daylight to enter the home. The best known use of a skylight would be the “stairway to heaven”, a series of skylights in the shape of a triangle along a common roof. A double hung window has an upper and lower sash, each of which slides up and down within its own frame. This is the most common window in the United States today. The sash tilt-in for easy cleaning. An unusual and complex type of window is known as a witches window. This term is only used in New England and Vermont and it is said to be so called because it enables witches to escape. The window is a small narrow window slanted in an up-down direction rather than left-right. According to the laws of physics this is really a glass door. This type of window must have resulted from a manufacturing error and today is considered a trademark of old New England houses.

2.2. Material Selections

Clad wood windows are a wood window on the interior with a fiberglass or other type of material on the exterior. The purpose of this is to provide the homeowner with a low maintenance exterior without sacrificing the beauty and elegance of a wood interior. The material on the exterior typically requires very little maintenance and carries a warranty for 10-20 years. This warranty is longer than what most PVC or vinyl window manufacturers offer.

Wood windows have been around since the first windows were built. They are widely used in the construction of homes ranging from simple and functional to architectural masterpieces. Wood is a high maintenance material as it must be repainted or stained every 3-5 years in order to protect it from the harsh elements of mother nature. However, with maintenance aside, the beauty of a wood window is unmatched by any other material. Wood can be painted or stained to match any interior or exterior, giving the homeowner almost limitless design options. Wood is also a natural insulator. Among all fenestration materials, wood has the best insulating abilities.

There are many different materials that are used in manufacturing windows. The material that you choose to have your windows constructed from can have a dramatic impact on the look and feel of both your home’s interior and exterior. The section of the website is designed to provide you with information that will empower you to make an informed decision on what is the best type of window for you. From the beauty and elegance of wood to the strength and low maintenance of metal or vinyl, we will explore the advantages of different materials as well as their comparative costs.

2.3. Color and Finish Options

Typically, aluminum windows have the least choices for color, with most companies offering white, and bronze or clear anodized. If color is painted on the aluminum frames, it will most likely peel or fade over time, requiring another painting. This will make the final lifetime cost of the window increase due to maintenance. Vinyl windows usually only offer the option of white and tan, with some beige available on certain lines. New colored options for vinyl frames are now available with paint technology that is similar to that used for cars. Ultrex fiberglass is a pultruded fiberglass material that has the same durability as GRP, but it can be coated with the same high quality paints used for vinyl windows. With ultrex there is a wider range of color options, and the surface of the frame can be matched to either a smooth or faux wood grain finish. Wood windows offer the greatest number of options for color and finish. They can be painted on the outside and inside, and they can be stained or finished with a clear coat to show off the natural wood grain pattern. Wood clad window companies typically offer at least 5 standard colors, with custom colors available for an extra cost. Custom colored or painted windows usually have a higher cost, but it may be worth it to those homeowners who have an elaborate or specific color scheme in mind for their house.

3. Customizing Window Features

The heart of this lesson is the decisions about window features and window design. In a normal setting, it can take an untrained person, a window salesman, and a contractor several hours over the span of a few weeks to get this process well in hand. Typically, the consumer must “kick the tires” with the salesman, and then the contractor often has to re-verify these same choices to make sure the order is done correctly! The Custom Window Design Screen, however, makes this a simple one-step process. The features are straightforward, and you can quickly preview what these choices will look like on your window with the dynamic window drawing. This simplified process saves both time and money in designing. All it takes is a few clicks of the mouse to get these choices down in the price quote and to the window order. With time being money, the Custom Window Design Screen might pay for itself that first time you use it.

3.1. Sizing and Dimensions

When you are custom designing a window, one of the most important things to consider is getting the proper size for the opening where the window will be placed. Numerous tools and options are available for helping you choose and measure the appropriate size for your window. First, select the location where the window will be placed. Ensure enough space to accommodate the size and shape of the window. If the window will be replacing an existing window, use a measuring tape to determine the width and height of the window opening. It is important to measure both the width and the height in three different places: top, middle, and bottom for the width, and left, right, and middle for the height. Use the smallest of these measurements when ordering the window. This ensures that the window will fit into the opening. Another effective way of measuring an opening is by making a dimensional drawing. This is simply a bird’s eye view of the opening with the width and height measurements recorded. This method is effective in communicating the size and shape of the window opening when ordering windows from an online retailer. If the window opening is in a very early stage of construction or there is no existing window, you can frame the opening to a specific window size. This means building the rough opening (the framed opening in the wall) to a size that will accommodate a certain window. This method is useful when there is a specific window size requirement and is commonly used in new home construction. Window sellers and installers know there are standard window sizes for each opening type and can often use a dimensional measurement or the size of the rough opening to determine the size of window needed. Standard window sizes are available in pre-constructed windows, which are windows that are built in standard sizes and are readily available for purchase. Pre-constructed windows are often less expensive than custom built windows. Window size can also affect the energy efficiency options available for a window. High performance windows are accredited by the Energy Star rating and achieve energy efficiency through a number of attributes. To be labeled Energy Star, a window must meet specific performance criteria which vary by climate. An energy efficient window may help reduce energy costs by keeping the home cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and conserving energy used by HVAC systems. Windows can sometimes be a weak link in insulation, and upgrading to an energy efficient window may significantly increase the energy efficiency of a home. To receive the maximum benefit of the Energy Star rating, it is best to buy a window that meets the criteria for an energy efficient window in the coldest climate zone. The energy efficiency attributes of a window are available at different cost levels, and the most cost effective way to achieve an energy efficient window is by purchasing a window size that qualifies for a specific energy efficiency attribute. This information is beneficial for someone who is considering a window size change for the purpose of increasing energy efficiency. By understanding how window size can affect the options available for an energy efficient window, one can select a window size to accommodate the desired energy efficiency attributes. Since window size changes are often associated with remodeling or home renovation, it is helpful to know how replacing a window size can affect the size and shape options of a custom built window. Windows purchased for a specific window size are called made-to-order windows, and a replacement window size that does not meet the size and shape requirements for a made-to-order window may require a custom built window. Understanding the effects of window size changes will allow a person to better plan for a window replacement or renovation.

3.2. Glass and Glazing Choices

The first choice for many consumers is the simple choice between single and double paned glass. Windows for new home construction often come with double paned glass as a default, but older homes with single paned windows can greatly benefit from new windows with double paned glass. Double paned glass is made by taking two pieces of glass and separating them with a tiny gap of air or noble gas. This gap acts as an insulator, keeping outside air from getting in to the home and inside air from escaping. This can result in a significant reduction in the cost of heating and cooling a home, and double paned windows also do a much better job of reducing the transfer of outside noise into the home. It is clear that double paned windows are a good idea for energy efficiency with the extra cost being relatively small. However, there are many choices to make if one has decided upon double paned windows for their new custom windows.

The type of glass used in a window can have a profound impact on the energy efficiency of a window, the amount of incoming light, and even casual things like window maintenance. What is clear to most consumers as they start the process of shopping for new windows is that there is a bewildering array of choices and decisions to be made. The purpose of this section is to give the reader a thorough, clear understanding of the choices they have in the area of glass and glazing for their new custom windows, the consequences of those choices, and the factors that affect those choices.

3.3. Hardware and Accessories

Another possible consideration is added security. Locking systems are available to increase security on your windows. All operable windows and patio doors come standard with an automatic locking system. The lock engages when the window is closed, but is not easily noticeable. For increased security, there is a Secure Home option, which comes with a lock on both the top and bottom of the window for added security and peace of mind.

There are several hardware and accessory options available to help you tailor your windows to better fit your needs and personal tastes. Some of the categories of hardware and accessories are window and patio door handles, locks, lifts, and pulls. There are also several optional items that are available with specific product lines such as fold away handles and easy to use, foot operated locks. Items such as folding handles and removable sash lifts are often chosen to accommodate window treatments. When considering hardware options, always make sure that product operation will not be obstructed before making a purchase.

4. Visualizing Your Window Design

As was discussed in section 1.2, the internet has enabled consumers to conveniently explore more options. In the early days of internet shopping, products were often displayed as a single static image. This is no longer the case. Advancements in internet technology have vastly improved the means by which a consumer can explore a product. The newer technologies are playing a big role in online custom window shopping. Users can now explore more options than ever before, and can do so easily with the click of a mouse. One of the more traditional means of virtual product exploration has been through the use of virtual design tools. These tools function like custom configuration templates, allowing the user to select from various options in order to design a virtual model of their desired product. The user can select different options, such as window style, materials, and colors, and the virtual model will change accordingly. Virtual design tools are usually specific to a particular manufacturer, and are often restricted to that manufacturer’s product offerings. Some tools can be rather simplistic, offering just a small handful of options with only 2D images. Other tools can be quite elaborate, offering very detailed options with 3D renderings. A step beyond virtual design tools are interactive product configurators. A product configurator surrounds a 3D model of the product with an interface that the user can manipulate. This enables the user to change product options using simple controls, and see the product change in real time. Configuration interfaces can be found for general or specific product types, and some are even capable of displaying an actual 3D model of the specific product that the consumer is ordering. Although these tools can require a significant amount of development effort, studies have shown that they have a positive impact on online sales and product understanding. A product configurator developed by Dot-COM a Co for Inline Plastics Corp is credited with increasing online sales and customer product knowledge, and reducing print and mail advertising costs.

4.1. Virtual Design Tools

This feature uses a simple drag-and-drop format to allow you to select from a large variety of outer and interior window styles. From here, you can begin to manipulate the size and style of the window to fit your exact specifications. By changing the shape, divided lite pattern, or grill style of the window, you are able to receive a precise visual representation of any type of window you are looking to purchase. Once the window style has been selected, you may then choose from a large color bank to customize your window color. With this step complete, you can then add any type of custom-shaped window option that you would like to see implemented. At any point in the process, you can modify your window to view a different format, color, or style without affecting the original. These changes can be saved and modified at a later date or used to compare to other styles, giving you the power to make a truly informed window-buying decision.

4.2. 3D Renderings and Simulations

When the comparison of different designs is important, it allows a simplified process to receive valuable customer feedback. This can be done easily by downloading different simulation results and saving or sending them to someone to compare.

As an alternative to static results, interactive simulations allow the manipulation of variables and a dynamic change between different designs. This is valuable to the customer in comparing complex products and choices. An example is a between a casement and double hung window that uses different operation types and has different sizing and lighting characteristics. The ability to compare these two designs and see the difference it makes in the room is much more valuable than seeing 2 separate static images.

This process is totally based on personal preference which gives a great freedom in making decisions. The visual it creates is a realistic representation of an actual room with the specific window design chosen. This helps in setting an expectation for the end result. Oftentimes, 3D renderings can alleviate the need to try multiple products on the same room in order to find desired results. This will minimize effort and cost, reducing frustration.

Since 3D rendering and simulation tools are based on the actual design that has been created, it can add many variables to the input of the building. This outcome offers the capabilities to see how different window styles, types, and configurations can affect the look and lighting of a room. By manipulating the design variables, customers can observe which design best suits their requirements by comparing different renderings or simulation results.

4.3. Viewing Different Angles and Perspectives

When it comes to designing windows for your home, no detail is too small. One of the best ways to determine whether a window is right for a room is to view the window from the inside. This is now possible with modern window design software. By using a virtual walk through, you can assess the look and placement of your new windows from both the inside and outside of your home. This gives you the perfect opportunity to confirm whether the new windows will obstruct any interior furnishings as well as to view how they affect your home’s facade. A good window can completely change the lighting, ambience and the feel of a room. Now there is a way to actually see and compare the new lighting effects with new windows. This can give you a good idea of whether a window will improve the overall feel of a room.

5. Pricing and Cost Estimation

Window cost estimates range from very detailed to a quick cost per square foot. Window contractors and manufacturers will vary significantly in how they provide pricing information. Very small custom window manufacturers without dedicated sales staffs may only provide an estimate based on a conversation or quick site visit. Other large window companies have sophisticated sales quoting software and/or dedicated sales staffs that provide very detailed pricing presentations.

A custom window however is quite different. Custom windows are often very large and require special engineering and installation. They can be made out of rare woods, metal or other exotic materials. They can be extremely complicated architecturally and require site specific tooling and/or custom installation by the manufacturer. On large construction projects, the cost of a custom window is usually budgeted based on engineering designs and specifications. Often times, a process called value engineering is done to try to reduce the overall cost of the windows before they are fabricated. This may involve simpler designs with different materials or eliminating complicated functionality. The cost of a custom window must be estimated very early in a project for it to be included in the project budget.

The pricing of a custom window varies significantly. Standard sized windows can be bought from the local lumberyard or window distributor very inexpensively. These windows are usually white or tan and are made of generic vinyl or metal. Standard sized windows are usually very easy to install, often the homeowner can do it themselves. If the window is easily accessible and current codes allow, it can be a very simple project. Often the price of the standard window includes the installation.

5.1. Determining Window Costs

Window cost is directly related to size, style, material, and features incorporated in the unit. Simple, builder-grade windows are usually priced on the lower end of the scale while premium products such as high-end wood windows or wood-clad windows can be priced significantly higher. Step one in determining window cost is to establish a budget. With so many options available, window prices can vary significantly. Setting a firm budget will help in narrowing down product options. The next step is to do some research. Homeowners should take the time to get an idea of what they want and what they can expect to get for the money. Start by visiting local window suppliers to get an idea of what is available. The internet can also be a valuable tool in researching product options. This can save time in the long run by helping to rule out products that fall short of expectations or are priced too high. The more realistic the expectations, the easier it will be to decide what product is the best fit.

5.2. Customization Impact on Pricing

Cost calculation for custom window features is most practical when done in a modular format. This involves determining each individual feature that can be added to a window and assigning a price value to it. The sum of all feature values will equal the total additional cost for a window with all possible features. Those researching this method found that the simplest way to apply this to an actual quoting or online ordering system is to present the consumer with a series of yes or no questions on each feature. An example would be the selection of wood type for a window. There may be 3-4 wood types available each with a different price. The question would be “What type of wood would you like your window to have?” followed by 3-4 radio buttons, one for each wood type. Note that this is just an example and radio buttons are not the only method that can be used. The value of each feature can be stored and totaled using many methods. The use of this system can clearly determine the cost of customization for the consumer. However, this method only provides good results if the cost of the features is clearly determined and if the consumer selects features based on the actual cost difference. A more advanced method might use a decision algorithm to determine the best set of features based on constraints such as a budget.

When the ability to customize a product is added to e-commerce, it is difficult to determine how this will impact the price of the product and how the price variation will be presented to the consumer. It is no different with custom windows. Typically, the ability to customize a product can range from a trivial increase in price to a substantial increase. The determination of each custom feature to increase the final price must be done using a clear and accurate method so that the consumer is provided with an accurate estimation of the cost variation. This will allow the consumer to make accurate decisions on what features to add or remove based on cost and preference.

5.3. Obtaining Detailed Quotes

Detailed quotes will foster effective communication and ensure that both parties have the same vision in regards to the project. “The best way to buy what you want and get exactly the satisfaction you expect is to have us prepare a detailed quote for your project.” This statement is true of any purchasing situation and is especially true when dealing with custom windows. After discussing your needs over the phone, we will have a correct understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and can follow up with a detailed quote. Since there are so many variables in pricing due to the custom nature of the products, we require that all quotes be done in writing to avoid any miscommunication on the details of the project. With the options available via email and fax, writing is quick and easy. Once you have reviewed and understood the quote, it can simply be signed and returned.

6. Placing Custom Orders

JELD-WEN’s “Designing Custom Windows Online” offers a comprehensive procedure for ordering custom windows over the internet. This senior project essentially involves allowing the customer to design their own custom window on a computer and submit the design to JELD-WEN through their website. A simplified version of the current process involved in ordering custom windows has been created. The simplified process is shown below and can be accessed from the following website: [Link] This senior project involved implementing the internet-based custom window order procedure for JELD-WEN. The process was simplified through the use of a web-based program that guides the user through each step of the order. Before being guided through the order, the user is given a brief tutorial on how to perform the necessary measurement. This tutorial may be found on the start page of the web program or through the tutorial link.

6.1. Order Submission Process

The image will allow us to visualize the design and construct the window with maximum accuracy to the customer’s specifications. The quality of the image will affect the amount of information we can attain from the picture. It is suggested that the image should be less than 15KB in size. In the above example, we will be able to create an identical window to the customer’s drawing.

Image type 1: Step 1.

Example: Designing a custom window frame to hold a block of glass where the customer wants to be able to move the glass before locking it into position. The movement is facilitated by a set of rollers mounted to the bottom of the glass. The frame has a cavity where the glass sits and a track to hold the rollers. The glass blocks the frame from the top, and there is a small gap in the frame at the rear to allow insertion of the glass and removal of the glass. The customer has drawn up a sketch of the frame and the glass and has used a marking system to identify the dimensions of the frame and the dimensions of the glass. This sketch will be scanned and attached to an e-mail to Custom Windows Image. The customers the following MIME types in order to provide a visual reference of the design, you can click on each file type to view more detailed information:

A design request will be submitted to Custom Windows Image, Inc. The submission codes are described in the “File Format for Window Measurements” section. This section references the following example:

6.2. Providing Necessary Measurements

With the custom order details submitted, the next step requires the customer to provide precise measurements of the window space where the custom product will be placed. These measurements are critical for the accuracy of the end product. The website provides detailed information on how to measure many different types of window space. The chart from the Fact File helps to identify the type of window and the type of measurement that is required. Clicking on the window type provides a detailed explanation and shows a visual of how the measurement should be taken. When the customer has the proper measurements, they navigate to the My Account page and select the order number for the product. If the My Account window has been closed, the customer can navigate to this page by clicking on Track an Order under the Shop Online heading. This will bring the customer to the Order History page where they can click on view details of a specific order. Once the order has been selected, there will be a choice of options and the customer must select the Record Window Measurements option. When a measurement form is filled out, it will create a text document that is uploaded to solidify the measurements for the product order. This will save the customer’s measurements in the event that they need to refer back to it at another time. The next step of the measurements process is to fill out the form seen below. This is an alternative way to save the measurements and creates a detailed order for one specific product. This form will automatically fill in the customer’s default shipping and billing addresses, and the customer has the ability to change the address information if the product is to be shipped elsewhere. This form is excellent as it allows the customer to fill out measurements for multiple products and have these measurements saved.

6.3. Reviewing and Confirming Order Details

The next step in the custom order process is reviewing and confirming the details of the order you have just submitted. This is a critical step. Due to the nature of custom orders, it is very difficult to make changes to an order once it has been put into production. Although it can be done, it will often incur the cost of scrapping the parts already made and starting over. It is very important that the customer and representative are in agreement about the design of the product, so very close attention is paid to this step. Typically, you will receive an email containing the order details, and a print will be sent to print on file. A representative will then review the details of the order and compare it to the original quote to make sure it is consistent. If there are any discrepancies, he will make a notation on your copy of the order and fax/mail it back to the office. You will then be contacted, and the discrepancies will be ironed out. This will continue until the order is 100% accurate. Any changes made to the order will result in a new email and print being sent for confirmation. Although this seems like a hassle, it is the best way to ensure that no errors are made. In the event that there are no discrepancies, the rep will leave the copy of the order as is and put a date on it when it is ready to be put into production. This will signal the end of the reviewing process.