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Windows and exterior doors

Framing | >> Windows and Exterior doors | Rough plumbing HVAC & gas lines |Rough electrical | 4-way inspection  

There are several options when choosing exterior doors and windows for your home. Doors and windows are a important design element to your home. They are also important because much of your heat loss can be attributed to doors and windows. Security is also an important issue. Make your selection based on your priorities. Installation is usually done by the framers and this should be specified in the contract.

Wood- Wood is the traditional material for doors. Solid wood doors are beautiful, strong and add character to your home. The disadvantages are that wood needs maintenance. Staining and finish will wear and need recoating every few years depending the climate and use. They can warp over time but if properly sealed that usually isn't a problem. Solid exterior wood doors are usually the most expensive.

Steel- Steel exterior doors are very popular. The doors are skinned with steel and have an insulated interior. They are low maintenance, resist warping, provide good security, and have fairly good insulation values. Steel doors are also a good value for the money. The disadvantages are that steel can rust in humid areas, and can be dented easily although the damage can be repaired with auto body filler.

Fiberglass- Fiberglass doors are a new trend in building, and gaining popularity fast. They have all the advantages of steel but almost none of the drawbacks. They don't rust, they won't dent, and they have a good insulation value. The outer skin can also imitate the texture of wood doors. Fiberglass doors are generally more expensive than steel, and often comparable to the wood doors.

Side lights- When deciding on a front entry, side lights (windows) are a popular combination with the door. The door assembly will come with sidelights attached and the rough framed opening accommodates the whole unit. Choose a front door assembly that will add to the character and design of your home.

Wood- Although wood windows are the most expensive choice. They are often the best too. They have a low U value (better insulation) because wood is a good insulator. They are generally made of pine or hemlock. Wood windows are beautiful but they cost two to three times as much as vinyl.

Vinyl- Generally the best value for the money. Vinyl windows have good insulating value and are inexpensive. They are generally available in white off-white and light brown colors, white is the least expensive.

Aluminum-for about the same price as vinyl you can purchase aluminum framed windows. Aluminum windows are durable, but poor insulators compared to wood or vinyl windows. They are not popular in many areas because aluminum is not a good insulator.

Wood/vinyl combination/aluminum-Most of the combination windows combine wood interior with a vinyl or aluminum exterior. Generally these windows are found on custom homes. Price is similar to wood windows. The exterior is very durable because it is clad with aluminum or vinyl.

When purchasing windows there are upgrades that can be purchased to improve their performance. Here are the most popular upgrades.

Low E- low E windows are windows that have a film sandwiched between the layers of glass. The film reflects heat into the house during the heating season, and block UV rays in the summer, keeping the house cool. Low E film costs about $15-20 extra for an average window but is well worth the money..

Argon Gas- window panes filled with argon gas have a better insulating value than air filled panes. However, some experts argue that the gas will dissipate over time and lose its effectiveness.

Triple pane-modern residential windows are usually double pane, meaning that two layers of glass are bonded together with a 1/2" gap between them. This gap greatly increases the insulation factor of the glass. Triple pane windows have three layers bonded together, resulting in two separate gaps . They are better insulators, but quite a bit more expensive.

Contract and Specs
Contract items:
-State that your framer will install exterior doors and windows.

Specification items:
-If the framer is providing exterior doors and windows, include brand, model and type of windows in the specs.
-Specify the type of membrane to seal or shield around the windows. "Ice and water shield" is a common type.

-Inspect the reveal on the inside of the door. The reveal should be equal along the top and sides of the door.

-Inspect the closure strip from the outside. Inspect the top and the side edge (latch side) from top to bottom, no gap should be present.

-Obtain installation instructions from the window manufacturer. Windows that are improperly installed will void their warranty.

Project Manager
-Windows are easily stolen if left unsecured. Have the windows delivered the day that they will be installed.

-Keep the windows stored in an area that they won't be easily broken.

-Once exterior doors are installed you must protect them. Cover front doors and sidelights with cardboard or foam or they will get damaged.

-Make sure your framer puts a 2x4 for temporary support under the threshold to prevent damage.

-Once the windows arrive, remove the screen and store them in the basement or elsewhere. Screens invariably get damaged during the construction process.

Saving Money
-Low E film is a good option. Gas filled panes are probably not.
-Shop around for the best pricing.
-Often window manufacturers have specials on "seconds" or windows that were made to the wrong size. As long as they are warranted, they might be a bargain.


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