Window, door upgrades are in season

Technology advances made in the replacement industry

The next time you decide to replace windows and doors in your home, you might want to consider purchasing a relatively new type of product - double-paned windows and doors that have shades between the panes of glass where they remain clean and out of the reach of pets, children and careless adults.

"These products are truly a step forward in terms of privacy, easy maintenance and protection from damage," said Iver Johnson Sr., owner of American Thermal Window of Chicago and Sahara Window and Doors of Niles. For years, Sahara had been located in downtown Mount Prospect but its longtime location is now being redeveloped into a commercial/residential building, so the company relocated to Niles in 2020.

The other product line that has been finding new enthusiasts, according to Johnson, are wood-clad windows and doors.

"They are more expensive than vinyl windows and doors, but after spending so much time inside their homes the past year and a half, they want the aesthetic beauty of more wood in their homes, so they are willing to pay the additional cost. We have windows and doors in oak, birch, cherry and pine," he said.

Johnson is a former Chicago police officer who has provided windows and doors to Chicago-area homeowners for 39 years. Both stores have retained their individual names, but the two showrooms function as the same company with identical offerings and crews that skillfully install a variety of products in single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and commercial properties.

"At American Thermal and Sahara we all understand what it is to own a home, so we are easily able to relate to our customers," Johnson said. "We strive to make sure our customers receive a positive experience from beginning to end, from their initial phone call, to their interaction with the sales rep and the showroom staff, to their experience with the installation crews. We want nothing but positive experiences!"

American Thermal Window and Sahara Window and Doors often open exterior walls or enlarge existing windows (in homes with all types of exteriors) in order to allow the installation of patio door systems. They offer 58 different door styles with 36 standard paint and stain combinations and more than 200 custom glass options. Custom colors are also possible, as are security wrought iron decorated doors with lock-guards and nonremovable hinges for those who like the New Orleans look or are worried about safety. The wrought iron doors come with screens for air flow and mail slots, too.

Johnson said most people think of a front door giving visitors their first impression of the home and providing security. But it, like a home's windows, should also provide a wind break to keep cold breezes outside and heated air inside.

Fiberglass is a common modern choice for outside doors because it is very durable, Johnson said, but his two companies also offer nationally recognized Simpson Doors, which are made of solid oak, birch, cherry, poplar and other woods, produced in America. Doors that must be fire-rated, however, such as those between a garage and a home, must be metal - and the showrooms also sell these.

Steel security storm doors are also part of the inventory for unbeatable protection, as are garden windows for growing plants, windows with blinds between the panes and fashionable doors with decorative glass options.

"The next time we have a chilly day it might behoove you to sit on the floor in various spots around your home - especially the places where your children and grandchildren like to play and/or study - and see if you feel cold breezes infiltrating from outdoors," Johnson suggested.

"If you can feel a chill, consider what that heat loss/cold air invasion will do to your family's heating bills this winter.

"Window manufacturers are continually upgrading their products. Today's windows, which are generally available in wood, vinyl and aluminum, have much higher energy ratings than those being replaced, of course, so they save on heating and cooling costs," he said.

Windows also act as "ambassadors to your home and family." Eye-catching bay, picture and other specialty windows add personality to a home while also keeping the interior of the home comfortable. His companies carry ten window lines, including Marvin, Pella and Andersen.

"We only offer the best. If it isn't up to our standards, we don't carry it," Johnson said.

Johnson advises homeowners shopping for replacement windows and doors to do their homework.

"You want to choose a company that makes sure your improvement project is completed to expectation, from the point of choosing the most suitable items with the help of knowledgeable reps, to the installation," he said. "We only use our own very experienced installation crews and almost all of our manufacturers offer lifetime warranties."

When you contract with a company it should also have a long track record and high standing on rating services like Angi and Yelp.

"You can't purchase those ratings. They have to be earned. We have been awarded Angi's Super Service Award for several years in a row and have exceptional ratings from Yelp, Google and the Better Business Bureau. Those ratings reflect the way our customers feel about us," Johnson said.

Delivery times depend on the order's complexity, Johnson said, and the pandemic's impact on supply chains and logistics are pushing out delivery times on many products. But keep in mind that his crews do work year-round "because we are capable of doing all of the windows in an average house in a day without causing undue temperature fluctuations."

All of Johnson's installation crews are employed directly by American Thermal Window and Sahara Window and Doors and are highly trained and held to exacting standards. They always arrive in company trucks and the average installer has a minimum of 14 years of experience, he said.

Incidentally, Johnson's firms also have a good following with condominium and townhouse associations because they are willing to attend association meetings at no charge. They also offer a wide variety of fire-rated windows and doors for mid- to high-rise residential buildings and commercial properties, as well as gutter guards for residential properties.

The American Thermal Window showroom is at 5304 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago and the new Sahara Window and Doors showroom is at 6619 W. Jarvis in Niles.

"We encourage people to come into one of our showrooms and see our displays," he said. "There is always someone to serve you. We are open in Niles, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In Chicago we are open those same hours, Monday through Friday, as well as 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays."

For more information, call (847) 259-9099 or (773) 774-3131 or visit or

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