When your home's windows need replacing, you'll need to know where to start in order to complete the job. If you installed the windows yourself, you probably already know where to begin. If you didn't, you'll need to start by identifying the window manufacturer. Although that can seem like an impossible task given the wide variety of window types available, manufacturers often leave clues behind if you know where to look. Many windows carry guarantees with long terms and some are even guaranteed for life. If you can identify the manufacturer, you may be able to get the window repaired or replaced under the warranty's terms, saving you money.
Inspecting for Window Manufacturer Stickers and Codes
Often manufacturers will stamp or etch their brand names somewhere on the window. This can be done on the window glass itself or on the window's hardware, such as the sash or hardware.
As a result, your first step should be to visually inspect the window's surfaces. Conduct this examination in good lighting. Consider using a magnifying glass to identify smaller marks. Look for any stickers, etchings or other markings that indicate the maker's brand name.
Next, visually examine the window glass in each corner, looking for any etched letters or numbers. This string of text may look like a written code. It can be etched on the glass surface itself or in the spacers between double-pane windows.
If you find a text string like this, write it down as well as any other markings or text you might find. This code will represent the date of manufacture and the maker's brand. A Google search should verify this information. If not, take the code to a local window supplier and see if the staff there can assist you in identifying the code.
If there is no code, you may still find an identification mark. Manufacturers of aluminum and vinyl windows often belong to a professional organization called the American Architectural Manufacturer's Association (AAMA). AAMA members place a small certification sticker to the window's frame or sash including a manufacturer code and something like a model number or series name. You'll have to search for these codes on the AAMA website to find out the brand and type of window you're trying to replace or repair.
Alternatively, the window manufacturer may be a member of the National Accreditation and Management Institute (NAMI). If so, it may have placed a NAMI-compliant sticker or code somewhere on the window, usually on the sash, possibly on the underside of the window.
These codes can be checked against NAMI's insulated window manufacturer directory, which is searchable on the organization's website.
Researching by Material and Dimensions
If you can locate no manufacturer codes or stickers, write down a description of your windows. Start by determining the materials in your windows. Usually, this will be wood, vinyl or aluminum.
Also note the type and style of your window as well. Double-hung windows slide up and down inside a frame. Slider windows move side-to-side, while casement windows crank outwards.
Finally, use a tape measure to measure the interior size of the glass panes in your window. Also, measure the window's height and width, and record all measurements.
Take your notes and measurements to any local window retailer or wholesale supplier, and ask if the staff can help you identify the manufacturer and series of your window. If they do not carry the window in stock, they may be able to special order a replacement for you.
You may need to visit different suppliers and check additional manufacturer stock in order to find the correct supplier.
Other Methods to Locate the Manufacturer
If the above methods don't bear fruit for you, consider removing the sash and taking it directly to a window dealer or installer.
Alternatively, you can search Google images for photographs of various window styles. Enlarge several of these window styles and compare with your window. If the photographs are of sufficiently high quality, you may be able to identify the manufacturer through a visual comparison.
If your home is located in a neighborhood that was developed by a specific company, where the home models are similar or the same, you may be able to utilize your neighbors as a resource. Ask nearby homeowners if they've ever had their windows repaired. If so, they should be able to provide additional manufacturer and style information to you.
What to Do if You Can't Identify the Manufacturer
If all else fails and if the nature of the damage allows, consider repairing the window without replacing it. This approach will eliminate the need to identify the specific manufacturer.
Alternatively, consider replacing the window with a style that's similar in size and appearance. You can replace additional windows as your budget allows if you'd like to maintain consistency throughout the structure.