windows. etc.

10Mar11

Progress is a wonderful thing.  And I think that progress begets progress, especially with a project like this one that just goes on and on seemingly without end.  I can scarcely remember a time when weekends were not filled with either building projects or guilt about not working on building projects.  And oddly, sometimes both at the same time.  Anyway: windows are a HUGE psychological boost.

And from the outside:

Before: Scary-looking owner-builder nightmare that makes people wonder if anything is ever going to happen. (Even when there have been lots of less-visible things happening).

During: Tyvek covers all sins.

After: The house starts to look like a real construction project again.  Very exciting.

So, we ended up using Serious Windows.  This was a last-minute diversion from our original plan.  We saw the Serious windows that some friends had recently installed, and were impressed with the high-quality mechanisms of the casements.  So we did some research, and ended up going with them over the clad wood windows that we had been planning to use. (The price was fairly similar). A major selling point for us was the fact that Serious Windows acknowledge that people– yes, even people in the United States (where energy is often assumed to be “free”)– sometimes want to install windows with a high SHGC (solar heat gain co-efficient).  In other words, most window manufacturers in the U.S. use special films that block out much of the solar heat, (while also keeping heat/cool inside the house).  This is a good & energy efficient thing to do in many cases, but in some cases, it is very desirable to have passive solar heat gain. (Free heat!)   In our case, we went to extraordinary effort to rip out a rotten wooden floor, pour a radiant concrete floor, and cut in numerous windows on our previously-blank south elevation.  So we have a big thermal mass that can absorb solar heat in the winter when the sun shines in, and we want our windows to admit that heat, not block it out.

When we asked our regular window rep (the guy that we were planning to buy from) about this issue, he gave a confusing and nonsensical answer which basically boiled down to: “you don’t understand how it works, and it really doesn’t matter.” Serious Windows, on the other hand, takes this issue on, and makes it simple.  For each window you buy, you get to specify whether you want low SHGC or high SHGC.  Simple enough– the customer/ designer gets to decide whether or not it will be desirable to have significant solar heat gain through the windows. In our case, we chose low SHGC for all east, west, and north windows, and I specified high SHGC for all the south windows.  (I sort of wonder if I should have specified high SHGC for the east-facing breakfast nook window, but I didn’t– it remains to be seen whether or not I will come to regret that choice.)

So, the other reason we chose Serious Windows:  they also are extremely efficient– much more so than typical energy star windows. This is because they pay a lot of attention to the entire window construction (not just the glass), and avoid thermal breaks by using foam-filled fiberglass frames.  The fiberglass is theoretically extremely stable, won’t rot or warp, and-the best part of all– never needs to be finished! (Which I see as a huge bonus, because the last thing I want to do is spend eons sanding and finishing window frames.  I have the capability to be infinitely anal– trust me, I am capable of spending multiple lifetimes on  simple task like sanding & finishing windows.)  Serious Windows also get very high R-values out of the glass itself by taking a double-pane window, and adding a film (or multiple films) and an extra air gap in between the 2 panes of glass.  So it is essentially a triple-glazed window, without the added weight (& expense) of having 3 panes of glass. Brilliant.

Oh, and last-but-not-least, these windows were made in Colorado, which I think is great.  If I have to spend a butt-load of money on something like windows, I’m glad that all that money is staying in my home state, and that thousands of gallons of fossil fuels aren’t being used to ship these things around the globe.  Actually, window manufacturing is one of those things that  has not been shipped overseas, and that is a really good thing.

Now, for the downside of our Serious Windows. I think that their quality control in the manufacturing process could use a bit of improvement, and there are some details which are just rather poor.  Almost every single window we got had some paint/ surface imperfection issues.  With wood windows, a slight ding in the surface can be sanded and refinished. With fiberglass windows, this isn’t possible. I requested some touch-up paint, which I imagine I’ll get in my mailbox before too long, but still it is annoying to pay Serious Money for windows, and have multiple cosmetic blemishes.  We also have one window in which the two pieces of the frame were not co-planar, and had caulk smeared around in a bit of a mess. (The company said this was within their manufacturing tolerance, and was not their responsibility.) Another window had a small broken piece (which they are going to replace), and their weep hole/ drain detail on the single hung windows is just downright poorly executed and ugly.  All in all, however, I know that once everything is said and done, I’ll quickly forget about a few cosmetic annoyances and love the windows for the next 100 or so years– which is how long I expect they’ll last.

Finally, our rep– Nick Amato at Cornerstone Building Solutions has been great.  And of course, that’s worth a lot.

More pictures coming soon…..

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3 Responses to “windows. etc.”

  1. 1 Sarah Dutton

    Wish I had known about these windows. Our windows are being delivered Tuesday

  2. Whoo Hoo!!!! Windows!!! Can’t wait to see them. Now you have a house instead of a breezeway!

  3. 3 Debra Callahan

    Great blog about the windows. Another huge selling point for us for Serious Windows is the fact that they have a breather tube which allows the windows to go through elevational changes without blowing out the seal between windows. We are at 9,000 feet, so this is essential. We also have two pane windows on our garage doors which are manufactured by someone else and two of the 6 windows cracked and the garage guy says it’s because of the elevation! So this reinforces for us that Serious Windows are the way to go!


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