When it comes to home improvement, there’s no doubt homeowners will be pickier with their pocketbooks in 2010 and 2011.

In fact, according to leading sources such as Meredith Publishing, homeowners with limited discretionary funds are weighing their priorities this year, picking and choosing among home improvement projects that will make the cut.

But not all home improvements are created equal when it comes to the best investment choices. Take windows and doors. With hundreds of styles, options and performance combinations, the decisions can be daunting. With that in mind, JELD-WEN, one of the largest manufacturers of windows and doors, offers “insider tips” on where homeowners should look to save, and what features might be worth the extra splurge.

Where to Save

Materials make a difference. When it comes to windows and doors, experts say materials do make a difference. In general, for windows, vinyl will typically cost less compared to wood. Although if you need to replace old wood windows, JELD-WEN offers replacement wood window sash kits that can be installed in existing wood frames and can be very cost-effective.

Good taste can come standard. Custom trim, style and hardware options will typically cost more. It’s always worth asking first whether there might be a standard design option in an alternative material so a particular look can be achieved without sacrificing style. For example, JELD-WEN offers more than 100 panel designs as part of its interior door line, many that mimic classic and traditional solid wood styles, but cost far less. The company’s standard line of  hardware options also gives homeowners variety when it comes to finishes, colors and designs, without having to pay more.

Maintenance requirements can be the “X” factor. Save by looking for pre-primed, prefinished options that can help reduce costs over the long run and protect the initial investment. Choices such as vinyl windows or fiberglass doors mean minimal maintenance requirements year after year.

Efficiency is in the bank. For long-term savings, insist on windows and doors that come standard with energy efficient, Low-E glass. JELD-WEN offers highly efficient models that don’t cost extra, and energy saving models that qualify for tax credits. The U.S. Department of Energy says that homeowners can save an average of $125 to $450 a year on energy costs by replacing worn-out windows with more efficient models.

Where to Splurge

Don’t scrimp on style. Homeowners don’t have to pay big bucks to achieve a great look, but experts agree that if you don’t love the style or if it doesn’t fit with the character or architectural design of the house, it’s not worth the investment, no matter what the price.

“Windows and doors make a huge difference in terms of the overall look of a home—considering there is at least one of each in every single room of the home,” said John Downs, JELD-WEN product marketing manager. “As a homeowner, these are product categories where you can’t afford to have something that detracts from the overall style of the home or your taste in décor. Today there are so many choices that can reflect personal style and theme. Doors and windows give homeowners a major opportunity to get creative and make a décor impact throughout their home, often at a fraction of the cost of other home improvement projects that focus only on certain areas.”

Go for major impact. Don’t sacrifice on main focal points. Homeowners with limited budgets may want to put the majority of their dollars into areas that are going to make the biggest impact such as the entry door, garage doors and the rooms they spend the most time in. And don’t forget about resale value: respondents in a JELD-WEN nationwide survey of real estate agents estimated that a typical 2,500-square-foot home with updated entry and garage doors is worth, on average, an additional $16,000.

Consider performance features as well. For example, spending a few extra dollars on a
JELD-WEN ProCore® The Quiet Door® interior door to reduce sound between the laundry room and the rest of the house may be worth the peace and quiet.

“It’s increasingly common to see homeowners splurge on a custom wood or fiberglass entry door, for example, and save by putting affordable, energy efficient vinyl windows in the rest of the house,” said Downs. “When it comes to balancing the budget, it’s a matter of prioritizing in a way that’ll deliver the most bang for the buck. For literally a few dollars, more homeowners can impact the décor, design and their own peace of mind throughout the entire home.”

Little extras well worth it. It makes sense to invest wisely in areas that’ll provide a strong payback. Cladding, which is essentially a prefinished metal layer for the exterior of wood windows, provides great weather protection and never needs to be painted. As a result, according to JELD-WEN, nearly 90 percent of homeowners choose the clad wood option, recognizing the long-term value and payoff, even though it costs slightly more than primed wood.

Above all, do your homework. There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to windows and doors. Compare features, benefits, warranties and style flexibility, and choose products that will stand up over time.

“It’s worth spending the effort in order to get the maximum return out of your investment,” said home improvement expert Danny Lipford. “In today’s market especially, that’s essential no matter what your budget or your priorities.”

If you want to save or splurge, energy efficient and stylish windows and doors are currently available through The Design Center, a completely new retail concept in the Ballantyne Area outside of Charlotte offering JELD-WEN windows, doors, garage doors as well as professional installation services all in one showroom.
The Design Center is located at 9484 Old Bailes Road, Fort Mill, SC, 29707. The phone number is 800-276-0411.  For further information please visit our website at www.jeld-wen.com.