Pandemic sparks host of home upgrades

The recent health crisis has changed the way many of us live and work.

More Chicago area residents are now permanently working from home, so they are choosing to upgrade their windows and doors to improve ventilation for better health, upgrade home security and modernize the look of their homes.

European "tilt and turn" windows have crossed the Atlantic in recent years and become popular here, as well, because they allow better ventilation while also minimizing the transfer of dust and dirt from outdoors, said Iver Johnson Sr., owner of American Thermal Window of Chicago and Sahara Window and Doors of Niles.

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.

"People with lots of hi-tech computer equipment in their home offices have been particularly pleased with these windows," he said. "But they are also wonderful in homes with young children and others who may be sensitive to environmental dust. They have been common in Europe for years, but have been relatively difficult to find in the United States."

Ultramodern painted wood or fiberglass exterior doors with large art glass inserts have also been the choice of many who want to replace older doors with glass ovals and rectangles. They come in 40 standard paint colors and custom colors can also be mixed.

Johnson emphasized that eye-catching bay, picture and other specialty windows add personality to a home while also keeping the interior of the home comfortable. They also keep heated or cooled air inside where it is supposed to be, improve a home's indoor air quality and save the owner money in the long run.

"Window manufacturers are continually upgrading their products," he said. "Today's windows, which are generally available in fiberglass, wood, vinyl and aluminum, have much higher energy ratings than those being replaced, of course, so they save on heating and cooling costs. Fiberglas has become especially popular and is taking a lot of market share because it is stronger and more substantial than the other materials."

The front door and accompanying side panels of a home serve a similar function, but they also give both visitors and passersby their first impression of the home and gives one a glimpse of the homeowner's personality.

"Interestingly, black has become the hot new color for exterior window frames and doors, particularly in the city," Johnson said.

When it comes to outside doors, fiberglass is a common modern choice because it is very durable, he continued, but his stores also offer nationally recognized Simpson Doors that are made of solid oak, birch, cherry, poplar and other woods, produced in America. Doors that must be fire-rated, however, (like those between a garage and a home) must be metal and the showrooms also sell those.

American Thermal/Sahara is very discerning when it comes to all product selection, Johnson said, carrying nine 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.

American Thermal Window and Sahara Window and Doors offer 58 door styles with 36 standard paint and stain combinations and more than 200 custom glass options.

Johnson's two companies also offer and install custom patio doors. Custom cuts, designer glass and designer grids are readily available. 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.

He also cautioned that homeowners shopping for replacement windows and doors need to do their homework before choosing someone to supply those new windows and doors (no matter the brand) and then install them. When you contract with a company, it should have a long track record and high standing on rating services like Google and Yelp, he said.

"You can't purchase those ratings. They have to be earned. We have been awarded with excellent reviews from Google and have an exceptional rating on Yelp. Those ratings reflect the way our customers feel about us. We also have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau," Johnson said.

It is important to note that 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 11 years of experience, he said.

It also bears noting that Sahara and American Thermal 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 a former Chicago police officer, Johnson is particularly sensitive to the security of both homes and businesses. So, after seeing the losses sustained by businesses during recent public unrest, he reached out and expanded his product offerings to include a commercial window product called "Riot Glass," made in Huntington Beach, California. This product will not succumb to smash and grab vandalism and robberies, Johnson said.

"At American Thermal and Sahara, we understand what it is to own a home or business, 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!"

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

For an appointment, call (847) 259-9099 or (773) 774-3131, visit or

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