Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Windows

The house we own and live in was built in 1997 by a now (deservedly) defunct home building company that apparently specialized in doing things on the cheap. The fact that our house was on the market for 6 months prior to our purchase should have been some kind of indication I suppose, but I did the building inspection myself so I really have no one to blame but me. In my defense, however, the areas that were skimped on were pretty hard to spot. For example, it didn't become apparent to us till we started losing shingles every time there was a stiff breeze that the roof had been somewhat shoddily installed (they used siding nails instead of roofing nails - huge cost savings I'm sure.) The interior paint also looked fine till the first time we tried to wash a scuff off. Off came the paint with the light scrubbing with a damp rag - yep, water based builder's special.

But, the home has its good points. The electrical work was excellent in many respects. Everything was to code, well labeled, and neatly wired - a fact I greatly appreciated when it was my turn to wire a new room. One of the biggest problems, though, aside from the roof ($4400 to redo) was the windows. Aluminum clad wood windows with steel spacers and double panes. They looked very nice when we moved in, but 7 years on (making them 10 years old) it became apparent the windows were of poor quality. The seal on three of them went, leaving condensation between the panes. Cold air blows through them vigorously - when closed. And to top it off, the finishing carpenter was old school. Instead of polyurethane, he varnished them with that nice " flakes when perturbed " finish. Ah yes, and they were also begining to show signs of ROT! So, we decided this year to invest in replacement windows.

After talking to a couple of vendors and looking at many demonstration units, we settled on Vinyl. For a while, I really wanted to go fiber glass, but they are pretty expensive and hard to find in the Ohio market. Additionally, their benefits over vinyl are minor. I had wanted them for their ability to take paint and their supposed superior durability and insulative potential. With little available data, however, there seemed to be a weak case for pressing for them.

We chose an Ohio based manufacturer / installer, Thermalguard. Part of the decision was based on the product and part on the cost. The product is really nice. We chose triple pained and quadruple e-glazed almond colored double hungs. The price was good enough that we even opted to expand a couple of windows while we were at it. The cheap-o builder here had used the same size everywhere (except the front of the house) and had gone a bit lean on letting in some exterior light. Presently, all but 6 windows are installed and the dining room went from one to two (giving an much improve view of our trees.) A progressive montage appears below. This operation took an entire day as there was a bit of exploration and thinking needed to avoid a surprise load bearing pivot point in the wall.

After carefully extracting the window, the crew took pains to remove the exterior siding, remove the old header, fabricate and install a new one, relocate an electrical outlet and prep the interior for finishing trim. As yet, the inside is incomplete because one of the other major selling points was the above and beyond modification they were willing to do for our front window.

The front did consist of three double hung units, 6 ft tall, creating a nice picture window. Part of a future renovation plan we have been working on for a couple years with my Dad includes a box bay window in place of these three.

Replacing this window will be a 6ft wide, 7 ft tall box bay which will protrude 16" and tie in with our existing roof. The construction is elaborate by Ohio standards and the window company retained the services of an able framer and his assistant to tackle the job. They worked 4 of 5 days last week (shortened due to weather) and have the thing entirely roughed in. Next week, weather allowing, they will shingle it and side it, complete some exterior framing, and install the window. Hopefully by Friday they'll get to drywalling the inside. Inside, there will be a 6' - 5 1/2" x 19" window seat. I'm presently gluing up three 7', 1/2" thick Red Oak planks to comprise the seat. This will make for a durable, solid feeling bench with an amazing view of our weeping cherry and front yard.

Next time I post, I hope to have the full installation of the box bay unit chronicaled in montage format as well as share some of the more ingenious structural detail my Dad put into it.