Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I have been waiting for the windows to be completely installed to write this post. I realize that nothing will be completely finished until the whole of the project is complete. That being said, they are 98% complete. We still need to:
- Insulate in the old weight pockets in the front bedroom (just three windows left).
-Finish stripping the trim we are staining, and prep the trim we are painting THEN install it;
-Stain the windows, paint the trim;

Then they'll be complete. Sadly, the painting and trim work will be the last thing we do, so we will be happy with our 98% windows until then. It is a HUGE upgrade so we are content to bask in the rays of light that now flood our home. It is a bit different than the flooding of water in the basement, a welcome change.

Plus, last February was a wee bit chilly with windows that didn't close, broken glass, and a missing transom (a.k.a. trash bag and cardboard) above the back door, which itself was nothing more than a piece of plywood bolted into the opening with a big scary gate and an even scarier pad lock keeping us in.

So let's get down to business. Windows, they cost an arm and a leg, gave me my first, second, and third gray hair, kept me up endless nights worrying and eventually turned me into the anxious drooling dolt of a person that I am today. Yes, a more appropriate title for this post is "Windows; picking, purchasing, surviving and installing the single most expensive item in your renovation".

There are a dizzying array of windows out there on the market. The frames themselves come in vinyl, aluminum, wood, fiberglass, not to mention composites of multiple materials when you start cladding wood windows with aluminum, vinyl and proprietary mumbo-jumbo. I should first say that if we had the original windows, we would have put the effort and money into rehabilitating them, but they were nothing but a wisp of a memory, and what we had instead were metal contraptions from the 70s, some if them even had glass.

The old kitchen window, note the presence of glass.
Since we are on a National Historic block, we were limited to some degree as to the materials we could use if we wanted to take advantage of the Historic Tax Credit. Working with the National Park Service, we realized we had only two options but no specifics. Let me me explain: We could use a wood interior window with a historically clad profile for the exterior, or we could purchase an all wood window. So knowing very little about windows, I began to do all the research, make a choice on a product, get the bid, submit our choice then wait and see if it met approval. When I asked for a short list of approved windows, I was met with silence. There is no such thing. So google and I trolled around the web looking for documents from other state and local historic applications that had approved windows. I loved the idea of all wood but we had to keep in mind that while we live on the first floor of the building, we will have renters on the second and it will ultimately be an investment property. A window with very little upkeep was a big factor in our decision to chose a clad window. The rear of the property gets a lot of sunlight and I'd already rehabed wooden windows in a bungalow in CA. The paint on the South facing side, flecked in a few places after one year, and only took three years to start chipping in earnest. Again, if we had the wood windows to begin with, we would have happily and lovingly maintained them. However, we were dealing with a blank slate; a very daunting and expensive blank slate. The price for new windows, large ones at that, was staggering and every little added cost to one window, was multiplied by 14. Wood windows were our most expensive option. Clad was the second most expensive. We used an aluminum clad on the front. It is also the historic face of the home and what we could use and still have approved. I did the math and it was worth the added cost, since in order to qualify for the tax credit a certain percentage of your repairs has to be on the exterior of the home. Well, looking back, we didn't need to worry about hitting that mark, but at the beginning of the game, way back last spring when we ordered the windows, it was a consideration. Silly us.

That being said, for the rear of the house we pulled the trigger on Andersen 400 Clad double hung windows, bare wood interior, Terratone exterior. The front of our house now sports Marvin Clad Ultimate double hung in Pebble Gray with bare wood interior.  Why two different windows you ask? 1) The Andersen were less expensive 2) We qualify for the credit with the Marvin on the front. It seems simple enough but it gave me an ulcer.


Our contractor has been invaluable in this process, whom we found through the window and door dealer, Naussau Windows and Doors. His initial proposal was for either a full tear out or a replacement insert. I am going to attempt this next bit of window explanation wizardry while trying not to bore you to tears, if you have even made it thus far. A full tear out is super energy efficient and gives you the largest glass size for your opening while integrating the window most effectively into the fabric of your home. They take out everything; from one side of the brick to the other. In our case this included the moldings, the window sills and the paneled wood beneath the window. Entering stage left in this saga is my starry eyed optimism who saw original wood and desired nothing more than to save it from demo and dumpster. Looking back, it wasn't worth saving. *gasp* How can I even think those words. I am supposed to preserve the historic fabric of this home. Well, seems Starry Eyed Optimism missed the part where the trim was previously hacked to shreds and large portions of it were new additions or missing entirely. I can't explain how I didn't see this other than to claim Future Vision. I have this habit of seeing a space as it will be, not as it is. This has been incredibly helpful while living in a construction zone surrounded by boxed possessions and construction materials and debris. It wasn't so helpful in making this decision.  That being said, we opted for the inserts. It will be OK in the end, but I do have my regrets.

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