In theory, aluminum windows should last for a hundred years. The problem is, a window is not just the frame, or even the glass panes. It is the whole supporting structure around the window. If that fails, the window itself may be compromised, so it’s important to think of the window frame as part of a ‘system’.
Because you mentioned the north side of your home, and also that it is situated in West Seattle, I will mention a characteristic of aluminum window frames that is important: Aluminum itself is highly conductive to heat. That means that when it s cold outside, the aluminum frame is highly capable of transferring a portion of your interior heat to the exterior of your house. It’s simply a property of aluminum that you can’t escape. And it’s one of the reasons that vinyl – or even vinyl-wood hybrids – have risen in popularity over the past couple of decades. Vinyl isn’t quite as strong as aluminum, but it makes excellent window frames, and can be easily molded into just about any imaginable shape using modern manufacturing techniques. It has superior insulating properties, and can produce a nice, smooth and accurate opening and closing effect.
Regular maintenance is advised for any type of window frame
It doesn’t take much to keep a window frame in good shape. Regular cleaning can help reduce the build-up of moss and algae, particularly if it is on the north-facing side of your home. Some of the more modern windows today are more sophisticated, and contain a number of moving parts, including bearings, that will benefit from the application of lubrication. You don’t want to drown the machinery in oil, because it may overflow and leak into the structure around the window frame itself, but just enough to take the friction out of any parts that are running up against each other.
A window and door inspection service
Everything wears out eventually, but you can greatly extend the life of your windows by getting an inspection done every few years. Most windows and doors installation companies also offer an inspection service, and that service is usually either free, or the price of it is deducted from any work that has to be done. I find such inspections to be thorough because a business will want to find something wrong if there is something wrong, because they would presumably be first in line for the project if something needed to be done.
Windows and doors installation companies, when they come to a house to bid on a project, will do an inspection anyway. They will want to know if there are any imminent repairs necessary during the windows installation or replacement project.
Consider triple glazing
If you are considering doing a major replacement of windows on that side of your house, consider triple-glazing. It only adds slightly to the cost of the project – considering the fact that a lot of the cost is actual labor – and has several benefits to it. First, it insulates better, keeping more of that expensive heat inside your house – and second, it gives better sound insulation. This is one of my favorite reasons for replacing windows. Many old houses in the Puget Sound area still have single glazed windows. That was perhaps fine when there was no such thing as central heating, and there was very little traffic outside. Today, especially now with the growth in the area, it seems like every is affected by the noise of transportation in particular. What were quiet back streets a decade ago sound more like major shortcuts for trucks as well as cars to avoid the main arterial freeways which seem to be jam-packed a lot of the day. All of this means that ambient road noise creeps into homes, schools, businesses and churches. Everywhere is noisy now. But if you have ever experienced such new windows in a house, you might remember the great quiet that comes into the house. You can easily forget how noisy a home can get from the outside street noise. It is very interesting to “hear the silence”!
If that north-facing side of your home is backing out onto, let’s say a forest, then sound insulation is less of an issue.
Talk to your installer about options for north-facing windows
When vinyl window frames were first introduced to the market several decades ago, there was a problem. They overestimated the structural strength of the window frames they manufactured. They worked great in the lab, but when they were exposed to the constant heating and cooling – and in particular the ‘baking’ – of the vinyl window frames in their natural habitat, the frames often buckled under the pressure. If you’ve ever left one of those old vinyl records sitting under the baking sun, you’ll know that they can easily melt and be destroyed. Although vinyl window frames are not exactly the same, they did suffer after a few years of exposure. It didn’t come to light until they were in service for some years; something a testing lab might have been less able to predict!
Once the problem was discovered, some window manufacturers took a serious hit for the losses, having to make good on a lot of installed windows in the country. Today, after a lot of product upgrades and improvements – mostly in the thickness and strength of the frames – have brought a new generation of vinyl window frames to the market, and their performance surpasses that of wood and aluminum products.
UV protection and tinting
You’d think that in the Pacific Northwest, people would want to pull all the light into their house that’s available, but in actual fact, Seattle has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the country. It’s probably because people don’t bother to use any UV protection on their skin in the mistaken belief that there is no sun danger in this cloudy city, but alas, it is not so!
A certain amount of UV is good for us. Our bodies are made to convert a little sunlight into Vitamin D (I believe), but direct sunlight inside a house can fade carpets, curtains and damage furniture. UV protection inside your new windows can all but prevent that.
More next week!