West Seattle has one major difference to, for example, Issaquah which is only about twenty miles away. Issaquah is far enough away from the salt waters of Puget Sound that homeowners do not need to worry about the effects of saltwater corrosion. Some of West Seattle – especially during the winter months – can get a lot of salt water on the exterior of their house and vehicle properties. What’s more, it’s not, in fact, simply water with some sodium chloride in it. Seawater has all manner of biological organism in it, any one of which can do strange things to the paintwork of your fancy new windows of your house. And that brings me to the first question at hand: What will your windows be made of?
Choose the best material for the location of the windows you are installing
If you home faces directly onto the waterfront at Alki beach, you’re probably not going to want to use solid wood window frames. You might do it to maintain the look of your house and the neighborhood, but understand that wood frames will be under constant attack by the sea spray whenever there is a storm. Still, it might be worth it. Wood is certainly beautiful on the right house, but remember that it will take more maintenance than, say, vinyl or metal window frames.
When vinyl window frames were introduced to the market several decades ago, they were … well … a bit of a disaster. Whatever testing that was done by the window manufacturers who took on this material and made it a mainstream component of their products failed to anticipate just how badly the first wave of products would do under real environmental pressures. For one, the frames were not even sturdy enough to begin with. There were cases where the frames were so weak, they relied for support on the window pane sets (meaning the several panes of glass in a ‘box like’ container) and the surrounding house infrastructure. Then there was the test of time and of the elements. Heat from direct sunlight would make the vinyl frame soft and eventually brittle. And in winter, being exposed to deep cold temperatures would put a different kind of pressure on the unit. All in all, it did not take long for this new wave of making windows to backfire on the manufacturers. They made good on the homeowners’ original purchases, and almost went out of business doing it. But they learned a lot of lessons from the act of using what was almost the same material as the old vinyl records were made out of! And if you remember, those of us who are old enough, we were reminded not to leave our Mamas and Papas Greatest Hits in direct sunlight, or they would melt.
In any case, soon after that faux pas, a truly superior wave of new products arrived on the market. This time with an extremely durable version of vinyl that surpassed the quality specs of even the toughest allow framed windows. These were flexible, yet strong; they were lighter, too, and easier for installers to work with. They also added one great new advantage: Insulation. As the decades advanced, more of us got to enjoy central heating. Central heating is used to heat an entire living quarters. So, instead of have a log-burning fireplace in the living room and another perhaps in the kitchen, the whole house could new be heated. Well, if you’ve ever lived in an old house with single-glazed windows, you’ll know how quickly the place cools down when you turn off the central heating. That’s because single glazing – and the metal frame the window panes sat in – were terrible at keeping the heat in. It was somewhat acceptable when fuel prices were low, and people had lots of money, but as both of those factors changed – and people became more environmentally conscious – double and even triple glazing products hit the market. But even with double and triple glazing, a metal window frame conducts a lot of heat quickly. That is, the warm air in your home is heating the window frame and that window frame is heating the outside air. Metal generally conducts heat quickly, so the window frame now became the biggest problem to solve. Vinyl solved this problem brilliantly. It is an exceptional insulation material, and can be painted, sanded, cut and otherwise manipulated to suit its purpose and shape requirements.
Removing the old window, installing the new
In wood frame homes, the shape of the ‘hole’ than contains a window wants to change shape over time. A good window frame will need to be a little flexible and yet, offer a certain amount of resistance. Otherwise the bending and flexing of the average wood house would shatter the glass panes in the windows. What happens is, particularly in those very old wood frame windows, the ‘hole’ has changed shape so much, it must be reconstructed somewhat, in order for the new perfectly rectangular window to snap perfectly into place. The new window should, a little at least, contribute to the strength of the new window hole and to the house framework itself.
When the old window (or windows) are removed, sometimes it is discovered that there are other problems which must be resolved before the new windows are installed. That is why it is a good ideal to complete one window at a time. At least, reduce the absolute time that there is no window present. Completing it in one go reduces the security risk of having a gaping hole in the side of your house, and the risk of water or such getting into where you do not want it to be. Best to complete that part of each window in one swift move. And if there is any structural or other issues discovered during that moment, you can address it before proceeding to the next window.
Always have the new windows and gear ready before you start
I am the world’s worst at such home projects – and I would never take on the task of replacing windows – but I have learned from experts in the field, have your new windows, and all of the tools and related gear, ready fo be installed the moment the window ‘hole’ is cleared of the old stuff.
More next week!