A big difference between stone structure homes and wood frame homes is that the latter will change shape over time. It might bend and flex nicely in a mild earthquake, but a wood frame house brings with it different challenges. One of those is the simple fact that wood changes shape over time. Today’s preservatives and supports can mitigate that somewhat, but wood simply changes shape with time. And in a house that was built a hundred years ago, that’s a certainty. Way back then, wood was plentiful, and houses were build simply. Over the many decades that followed, a given homeowner might have made improvements, perhaps adding supports to the framework of their home, but there’s no getting round Mother Nature. From the moment each piece of wood was cut into shape – actually, from long before that point – that piece of wood continues to change its shape ever so slightly over time. The thing is, every piece of wood in the word is unique. Down at the wood cell level, the pattern deep inside the wood is as unique as a human fingerprint. For that reason, time affects each piece in a unique way. Even though you nail and screw all of it together in your house, a rectangular ‘hole’ into which a window fits is prone to some warping over a century. As an old window weakens with age, its ability to remain a true rectangular shape also weakens. Imperceptibly, that frame reduces in its ability to support the frame work of the house, which is often exactly why a set of windows needs to be replaced.
A modern window serves many more functions than simply being a window
In a wood frame house – where the problem of warping is found – a modern window manufactured with today’s state-of-the-art methods and designs serves a number of functions:
A way to let light into the home: Well, this is the obvious one, but simply letting daylight into your home is the primary purpose of a window. Big windows let more light in, but present bigger challenges and stresses on the window frame, the pane of glass, and all of the infrastructure supporting it.
Insulation from the cold and heat: Before such things as central heating, the inside of a home was often to far different from the outside of the home, temperature wise at least. Today, it can be minus fifty degrees outside, and and balmy seventy degrees inside your home. Children run around in comfort in their pajamas. It might as well be a midsummer’s day outside for all the children know, and it’s all due to heating and insulation. Heat insulation has made modern life far more comfortable than what it was like say two hundred years ago. Only the super wealthy in those days experienced comfortable winters, but today we take the insulation properties of our windows entirely for granted. What’s more, double- and triple-glazing means less condensation.
Insulation from external noise pollution: The first thing I noticed in my home after I got a set of new windows installed was the incredible quiet. I hadn’t even realized how much noise got into the house from the street. It was so quiet I could heart my own heart beat. If you live on a busy street, consider triple-glazing, where it’s even more noticeable.
Ultraviolet light protection: This is something many people don’t consider, but not all glass is equal when it comes to blocking dangerous ultraviolet light. A modern multi-glazed window can block more than 95% of ultraviolet light. That not only protects the contents of your home from UV light damage, but it’s also better for you, your loved ones and your pets. We all get enough ultraviolet light already, so you likely don’t need any more.
Privacy: Have you ever walked past a house only to see a family all sitting down in their living room, as if they were animals in a cage at the zoo? Some of us are less shy about strangers staring into our home as we eat, but for me, I do not like strangers outside to be able to see directly into my home. Triple glazing tends to have a darker tint to it – you’ve probably noticed the ‘green’ hue that appears through some glass – so during daylight hours, it might be all that is required to completely block viewing from the outside of your home. Still, in the evening, it will look like a cage again, exposing everyone inside for all outsiders to see, so you’ll still need drapes for privacy.
Air insulation: Aside from the need to regulate temperatures, another purpose of a window is to block air from coming in or going out. A tight fit means airtightness, which means bugs, pollen, pollution perhaps, and other stuff you don’t want in the house is kept outside.
There is always some play in a window frame. An experienced windows installer, if the window ‘hole’ is out of shape, may suggest a re-framing of the woodwork around part or all of the hole. This is to make a perfect rectangle into which the new window will fit, and to support the house infrastructure so that pressure is not brought to bear on the new window. In most cases, though, this will not be required.
An experienced window installer will want to know exactly what he or she is up against before the project begins. In fact, they will want to know before any bid for the work is offered. The fewer surprises during the project execution phase, the easier it is for everyone. For that reason, a window installer will want to both inspect the window area personally, and also, include some provisos in the offer letter covering any possible house structural problems that might need to be fixed, but which are only discovered when the job is half way through. Be sure to get that complete inspection done for your own sake, as a simple windows installation project can surface problems with your home that need to be addressed.
See you next week!