Window Shopping

I’ve made my decision for the biggest house project to date: replacement windows. Hooray!

As is my method, I started small. I wanted to replace the living room window – ancient, drafty and in serious need of repair. It’s a relatively narrow window but behind the couch, so the draft impacts my comfort. I spend the majority of my conscious at-home time in that room. Last winter, the glass began separating from the wood frame, so I caulked it back together, but that was only a temporary solution. Even with an ill-fitting storm window, copious caulk and a sheet of air-supposedly air-tight window plastic, there was definitely a breeze.

While I was at it, I decided I might as well replace the wall air conditioning unit with a picture window. The previous owner installed central air, but left the wall unit as a huge, hulking shrine to the 70s. It’s ugly. And in a room with relatively little natural light, it surely doesn’t help. So I’ll replace it with a picture window – it’s too high on the wall to merit an opening window, but the light will be great. (Anyone need a giant wall unit in working order? Let me know!) The squirrels will be sad to lose their perch, though – and the cat will miss hearing them scratch around on the outside of the unit.

I priced out those two windows at Home Depot and Menards and looked closely at the current situation. Then I decided that this is one job worth hiring a professional. Windows need to be done right. You can fudge a bit on a paint job – it’s easy to redo or touchup. Yardwork has a huge margin of error. But windows? Screw those up and you’ll pay in energy loss, discomfort and possibly even security. Plus, the one living room window appears to have some rot around it. I was afraid what it will look like when the old window comes out – and with a hole in the side of the house, you’re under pressure to act quickly – no time for additional research.

So I asked around, did lots of research on R and U values and energy efficiency, types of vinyl, and other insomnia-worthy topics. I spent a fair amount of time at the National Fenestration Rating Council website, research brands and their ratings. And after having several conversations with companies and two in-home estimates, I made my decision. Plus, by ordering now – they’re all custom sizes, of course – they’ll be ready in early January, so I’ll get a winter installation discount! I decided if I was having someone do it, I might as well do more than the two I originally planned. If I was already doing two in the living room, I should probably do the third one – which is a giant 4×6 feet! – between the living room and porch. And while I’m at it, the office windows are pretty decrepit. Since I’m working at home more, that will become a more pressing issue in a few weeks when winter really sets in. The previous two winters, I’ve been able to avoid that room, but not so this winter! So I’m doing all five.

I learned a lot. For example, the living room windows are original, circa 1890, according to both estimators. The original pulleys and weights are still intact – and one estimator told me to ask the installers for them, to ensure they insulate the gap they’ll leave behind. The ones in the office are a bit newer – they guessed 1930s or 40s.

So that’s my window shopping story. Admittedly, it’s not as interesting – or cheap – as window shopping in a mall or Michigan Avenue. But come January, when my living room is much cozier, it will be well worth it.


One response to “Window Shopping

  1. I think your blog has an interesting point of view in how it’s kind of the opposite of me. I’m a 28-year-old single guy who wants to buy a house, but can just barely afford one, and sees marriage as the best way to have enough income for a house. I’m figuring it will be easier to meet and marry a nice girl than it will be for me to pick up a third job.I can afford an older house, but the savings over buying a newer townhouse would disappear when I have to pay people to fix stuff. Like windows. I’m hardly handy. A friend of mine narrowly avoided foreclosure, and her advice to me was not to buy until I’m absolutely sure I can afford a house. I’ll keep saving my pennies and hope to meet Ms. Right so there will be two incomes to put toward the house.

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