Updating Windows – Lots of Lessons

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There are so many manufacturers and many window types. Some manufacturers are well known brands, and some of those brands are considerably more expensive. We checked with a builder who is a client, looked at their nearby model homes, talked to their construction staff, and selected the same style and materials they used. We also were able to purchase through the same reputable local source. Yet, that source does not carry every brand. Then we also learned from our own general contractor that he selected a different brand, acquired elsewhere. Windows require making many decisions, but it’s worth it.

After narrowing down manufacturer and source, we found the next step is to look at styles. With styles, we also discovered low-E which is coating to protect against ultra-violet light. Then, we learned low-E comes in, at least, two choices, depending upon how intense and direct sunlight might be. A client in a very high end community ended up adding protective coating to his windows after the completion of new construction. All other things being equal, having the manufacturer do it seems a superior decision, but that’s purely speculative.

Now comes style. Do you want casement? Screens are positioned differently than for other styles. Because the panes open out, there needs to be clear space on the outside, although it may be possible to find casements that open in. And some styles, like casement, may not be compatible with existing alarm wiring. Those details are significant in deciding style.

Or, do you want single hung or double hung? That means whether the top and bottom move up and down to open the window, or only the bottom section moves up to open. There also is a variety of window in which the bottom pane also can be tilted out of the frame to enable cleaning both inside and out without having to go outside at least for the lower part of the window.

Then, do you want double pane? That’s basically a sandwich of glass, and between the panes there may be some form of gas, like argon, or mullions – also described as grids. Double pane is supposed to be more efficient, but manufacturing differences and installations may affect efficiencies.

Next, there are different framing materials. Wood, vinyl, and aluminum are three choices. Wood is most expensive, also may require painting or other maintenance. Vinyl comes is a few choices of color, depending upon manufacturer and even depending upon style.

Before going another step it’s critical to measure. Who knew there is a standard maximum width in Florida, related to hurricane risks. But manufacturers can make wider sizes, and then there are ways to strengthen the mechanisms that actually enable the windows to be opened, closed, or tilted.

And wait – there’s more. The building codes address standards for tempered glass. Add something to price for that feature. Add substantially more for impact glass. We were told that it did not make sense to have impact glass anywhere unless we did it everywhere. For the number of windows we have and the amount of glass involved, we could build something for the cost of impact glass everywhere.

BUT, for the style and size and windows, tempered glass was required in several places, including for a relatively small window which was in closest proximity to a door, even though opening the door did not cause it to bump into the window.

Permits and inspections also are part of this process. Permits will last for a certain number of months, then will expire. Inspections will be related to the number of screws used to attach the windows as well as compliance with the tempered glass requirements. Number of screws includes tightness of the fit, however taping before the window is fit into the space, then taping over the screws helps block air, and caulking inside and out does too.

The job was finished after on site inspection occurred, and two different inspectors looked at different details. The job, in total, was done in two phases. The first inspector looked at installation after the outside taping was completed. The second inspector looked at the outside taping too, THEN came back to look at how the trim was done. It took a few weeks before a formal Certificate of Completion was sent to our contractor who forwarded it. That document is going into the property file for insurance purposes.

Price is really interesting. By shopping around we found a 35% difference among suppliers in the same community for the same windows and the same manufacturer. We found other differences as well. Although we prefer to deal with the supplier we selected initially, it remains helpful to keep checking other sources for prices.

Material prices include the windows, but also tape, caulking, framing, and screws. Caulking comes in different colors and also different quality. Some suppliers may take back unused materials and provide refunds or credits. Some suppliers will not take back anything. In addition, some suppliers may accept credit cards for payment while other suppliers will not accept credit cards. Moreover, some suppliers may not want to deal with individual property owners.

The interesting part of tracking prices can relate to whether the installation is turn-key or whether the property owner buys the materials and pays separately for installation. Whoever buys materials may get refunds for unused materials. On a turn-key job, we’d want to have a contractual agreement that we’d get back any refunds. We’d also want to make sure the price paid initially was the lowest – all other details being equal.

Finally, there are differences in installation prices. We found two difference labor prices proffered by one supplier who also would install. There was another price for labor from someone recommended by the same supplier. That difference alone was 20%.

After all that comes painting trim – who does it, what paint are they using, who buys the paint, and at what price? It’s all about learning lessons in the Real (estate) World!

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