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A Passing Glance at Windows

–Current Styles. What do you look for in windows? With many homes these days, windows seem designed to hardly be seen at all. With narrow muntin bars, large panes, thin frames, and moving glass walls, we are almost proud that they disappear. Clearly from the inside, we desire those unobstructed views to outdoor beauty and light. But are we now striving for the glass curtain walls of office buildings for our homes?

For most classical architectural styles, windows have been a key element in exterior design. Consider the leaded glass in M-Street’s Tudor homes, the multi-paned upper sashes in Munger Place’s Prairie Styles or the classic double-hungs of Colonial Revivals around town. Trends and preferences come and go, but in the current Contemporary and Transitional wave, windows appear merely to be looked through – functional transparent walls. Rather than halting our eyes at the exterior facade, we are now voyeuristically beckoned to look inside to the floating staircases and modern art within.

Investment Value. Regardless of your architectural tastes, how do you ensure that you are getting good value in your windows – all they are cracked up to be? Whether it is a La Cantina multi-slide, Jeld-Wen push-out French casements, sleek Milgard aluminums, or simply double-hung vinyls, windows and exterior doors are a big investment! What’s your ROI? Dividends and appreciation for years to come? Or crushing capital calls and broken and shattered promises?

As with other products that go into your home, we must consider not just the initial cost (purchase price), but the all-in, lifetime cost (including installation, repairs, maintenance, energy bills, ease of use, resale value, etc.). Did you think to read the “prospectus” (the instructions stuck to the glass when delivered)? Admittedly, most of us don’t want to wade through those boring details (or we expect our contractor to), but how do you then protect this investment of yours?

Quality Windows + Proper Installation = Peace of Mind. First of all, start with high quality windows like Jeld-Wen, the world’s largest window manufacturer with the best warranties in the industry. According to Keith Nelson, one of Davis-Hawn’s window experts, the second step is professional installation. In his 40 years in the window industry and as an AAMA certified installer, he’s seen it all with window installs – the good, the bad and the leaky.

Here is Keith’s List of Top Six Installation Mistakes:

1) Not Properly Shimmed (If At All) * Air leakage * Loose or tight operation * Expanding spray foam can squeeze an un-shimmed window

2) Rough Openings Not Plumb or Square, leading to a “Racked Frame” * Hardware will not engage * Uneven reveals on mouldings, jambs and trim * Plumb is critical for smooth operation of casement windows * Square is critical for hinged doors

3) Rough Openings Too Big or Too Small * Excessive amount of shims needed, wobbly, not as stable for screws * Not enough room to properly shim (see above)

4) Sloppy Use of Fasteners * Nails protruding inside the frame causing damage and hindering operation * Screws not long enough to secure the door hinge to the stud

5) Improperly Applied Flashing Systems (like Tyvek) * Overlaps and tapes must waterfall penetrating water and move it to the exterior * Trapped water creates mold and rot

6) Installing Windows Too Early * The roof decking and shingles should be on before the windows and doors are installed, otherwise the added weight will negatively affect even the best installation.

Failure & Impact on Warranty. If a window or door fails after you move in, it can be a tremendous expense and inconvenience to correct. Most experts say that about 90% of window and door failures are due to bad installations! To add insult to injury, the listed mistakes above can have a strong impact on whether the manufacturer’s warranty will be honored or denied (remember that “prospectus” taped to the glass?). A good professional or AAMA certified installer will thoroughly know the product and application and properly use the necessary shims, fasteners, levels, lasers, caulks and flashings.

So when you invest in those beautiful new windows, make sure you also invest in a beautiful installation. Otherwise, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. Here’s looking at you, kid.

Build to Last,

Dave Reichert, Keith Nelson and the Davis-Hawn Team