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What effect do drapes have on the new, replaced aluminum windows in my West Seattle home?

What effect do drapes have on the new, replaced aluminum windows in my West Seattle home?
What effect do drapes have on the new, replaced aluminum windows in my West Seattle home?
By BettyLoucal Aug 10, 2017


Drapes will have no effect on a new window other than the possibility that extremely heavy drapes can interfere with the infrastructure above a window. For example, suppose you nailed or screwed to the wall above the window, the support rail for your drapes. Let’s say it is an iron railing, complete with iron curtain rings and heavy drapes. As time progresses, the opening and closing of the drapes, as well as the constant weight of the whole thing on the support lat, will eventually affect the even alignment of that par of the wall, just above the window. On top of that, homes with young children add an extra bit of stress to, well, everything in the house. Remember, only childless homeowners do not understand the difference between childproof and unbreakable. Small kids, as they run around the house, perhaps playing hide-and-seek or whatever game, might grab at drapes, adding weight and impact stress they were not designed for.

A window serves many functions

Before the development of useful sheets of glass – panes, to be exact – homes did have windows, but they were very small. They were just enough to let in some light, but kept to a minimum size to minimize the loss of heat, the little bit of it there was. People would sit close to the fire in an attempt to avoid freezing to death, and without glass, a big window would only make that problem worse. When glass panes first came into use in a house, it was expensive and rare. Having glass windows was a real sign of affluence, and it was the rich who first enjoyed such things as good indoor heating, and big windows at the same time. As glass panes became cheap, every house was then built to support them. Drapes were installed to provide privacy over these big, new windows at night, when it was warm and well lit inside, and dark outside. Now, windows had a number of functions: Privacy, insulation, lighting, and external viewing.

A good window system offers privacy

Everyone likes a nice view from the living room window. Or for that matter, from any room in the house, ever a bathroom. But that comes with a price. Usually, when you can see out, then others can see in, which means your privacy can be compromised. During the day, though, this is usually not a problem. A simply net type of curtain can be enough to obscure the view from the outside, but give at least some view from the inside, if you don’t mind looking though a decorative net curtain.

Today, you can buy glass panes that look more like those one-way mirrors they use in interrogation rooms or private offices overlooking a factory floor perhaps, but more common is a level of glass tinting that is not as sinister looking as a one-way mirror, but offers almost 100% privacy from curious strangers walking by your house on a public street. Triple-glazed windows, even with the average type of glass, will be noticeably more tinted than a single or double paned window. What’s more, there are additives they can add to glass to block certain frequencies, which brings me to the next consideration: Insulation.

There are various types of insulation available in a window pane

Insulation can be from heat, cold, visible light, ultraviolet light, sound and even fire. Depending on where a window pane is situated, it might need protection from a number of these effects. You might have seen a window where the glass is embedded with what is essentially a wire net. The window can be broken by fire, deliberately or by accident, but it at least holds in place while the crisis is contained. Extreme heat from, for example, an uncontrolled fire will break glass quickly, but the wall gives way complete to the fire, the wire net inside the glass gives the fire department that extra time by slowing down the progress of the fire in a building.

You can buy glass that lets in less that a few percent of the ultraviolet light that reaches the outside of the window. It’s hard to block 100% of the ultraviolet light, but you can block so much that damage to carpets, drapes, furniture, etc., is reduced by two orders of magnitude.

Sound insulation is another great function of a window pane of glass. Of course, the window frame has to be airtight in order for that sound to be mostly kept outside, but good sound insulation is one of my top favorite reasons to swap out warped old windows with new ones.

Finally, most homeowners will want excellent heat insulation. You want the expensive warm air kept inside during the winter, and the cool, air conditioning to be maintained during the hot seasons.

Modern windows form part of the home’s structure

Window frame manufacturing today is far more advanced than what was available two generations ago. In our grandparents’ day, the thought of using two panes of glass instead of one seemed extravagant. Today, the opposite is true. Mind you, most homes now have central heating, so well insulated windows are a must. Two generations ago, a single pane of glass was enough because it was not much warmer inside than it was outside, so there was little to insulate.

Today, double and triple glazing is done in the factory. The gaps between the panes are filled with special gases which allow the window to perform any number of these insulation and ‘barrier’ type functions. The units are sealed in the factory, and installed into their respective window frames as a sealed unit. Once a pane is broken, it is often wisest to replace the multi-glazed unit in its entirety. Still, the window frame itself is now part of the house’s structure. It must be as strong as the walls around it. It must flex a little, too, as wooden houses do not stay perfectly rigid. Wood flexes with the wind – and even an earthquake, to a point – and changes shape over time. A good window frame must maintain a happy medium between strength and flexibility.

Check back next week!

Image by Mark Tegethoff

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