Should You Replace Original Mid-Century Windows With Vinyl Windows?

The mid-century modern windows are not in great shape and would need to be fixed.

Original single-pane wood windows would be a hard sell for you.  No matter how nice the windows look, buyers will still look at them as a detriment.  Many buyers will mentally figure replacement costs into their offering price on your house.

Keeping original windows (even ones that aren’t especially energy-wise) can make sense if you have an older, more historically-significant house.  Some buyers will value these.  But not a lot of people place value on 1950s windows, despite the current interest in Mid-Century Everything.  Windows seem to have escaped the nostalgia for Mid-Century things.

Unless you’re had window companies raise red flags, I don’t see where any of them would be concerned about the asbestos siding.  Replacement windows work with the available space.  The installers don’t open up that space (which would mean cutting into that asbestos siding).  Sometimes, they will shrink down the space a bit, but never open it up.  It’s carpentry, and these installers don’t do carpentry.

If you’re in the kind of neighborhood where vinyl windows aren’t out of place, I recommend going this route–and having someone else install them, cheaply.

Replacing them yourself will get old very quickly.  First, you need to find a place that will sell you replacement windows, not new-construction windows.  New-construction windows are the type you see on the racks at Lowe’s and The Home Depot.  They have “fans” that allow you to nail them into the house siding.  Replacement windows don’t have those fans.

But that’s a minor issue, compared to how tedious it gets when you try to replace 25-30 windows.  The first couple of windows are kind of fun.  The next few are nice,  because you know what you’re doing and you feel confident.  After that, it’s assembly line work.

Can You Install Glass Block Windows By Yourself?

You want to replace the leaky, drafty original basement windows with glass block windows.

You can do this.

I assume this fabricator will assemble the window unit, and then you intend to install it as a single unit in the opening.  The point I’m making is that you won’t be laying it block-by-block in the window opening, as if laying brick.

First, please check and see why your present basement window is leaking.  I know that it’s a bad window and is probably cracked and such.  But water should not even get close to a basement window.  So, even with a cracked window, you should not be getting water into your basement.

Often it’s as simple as making sure that a downspout isn’t pouring water around the window area.  Or you might just need to re-grade the ground around the window, sloping it away from the house.

So, yes, you can install a glass block window yourself.  The fact that it’s glass block is inconsequential; installation would be just the same as any other type of window.

Does a Skylight Add to Your Property Value?


Q:  My wife and I are having a, er, disagreement.  We want to put in a skylight.  She says that it will add to our property value, I disagree.  We both want a skylight for the sake of having a freaking skylight.  That much is certain.  It’s just this stupid detail about adding value to the house that we can’t get past.  Help.  What you think, Mr. Expert-Dude?

A:  Hold it there.  Before you two start a wresting match, I’m going to put on my referee stripes.  Sit back in your respective corners and listen up.

Whenever you read sales materials for skylights, they say stuff like “adds value to your property.”  Agreed.  Light:  valued.  Especially if you live in Godforsaken outposts like Seattle, Washington.

Light is a value.  Skylights look great.  They are impressive.

But when we turn “adds value to your property” around and make it “property value,” we’re talking a whole ‘nother thing.  Property value is a real estate idea, in which adding or modifying aspects of your house will cause your property to be valued higher in the event of an appraisal or sale.  It’s a kind of “credit and debit” system that doesn’t yield to subjectivity.  Add an addition, get $120,000 lumped into your “credit” side.  Replace shag with hardwood flooring, get $5,000.  These are imaginary examples, but the core truth remains:  add something, get more property value.

Does it translate to skylights?

If so, only so negligibly as to not be worth it.  You need to make major changes to see any kind of property value uptick.  For example, replacing all of your 27 decades-old aluminum-framed windows with double-paned low-e windows–that will effect a change.

But once you have those 27 new windows, adding a 28th or 29th window will not cause anyone to bat an eye.  And a skylight, guess what?  It’s considered a window.  A nice one, a cool one, but a window nonetheless.

While you’re at it, check out this Velux Daylight Simulator.  It gives you a nice idea of how the transit of the sun affects inside lighting through your windows and skylights.

Image:  (c) Velux

Sticking Windows? Some Tips to Help You Unstick Window

It doesn’t matter what season–spring, summer, or fall–you’ll probably want to open your windows at one point or another—if only to provide an emergency egress route. Or maybe to waft out some family member’s huge bathroom explosion. Whatever the case, freely sliding windows are a great thing. But how to open sticking windows? Here are a few tips you may want to try instead of going whole-hog and buying new windows or a sash replacement kit:

  • If the sash (the moving part) is stuck to the frame with paint, a little flat tool with sharp teeth called a window zipper can help. The zipper is about the only way to zip through paint. Don’t try using a utility knife or putty knife. Invest the two bucks and get a proper window zipper.
  • Lay a 1×1 against the outermost part of the sash and gently tap on the 1×1 with a rubber mallet. This may help unstuck the sash.
  • Try removing any built-up paint in the window tracks. If the paint is loose and flaky, then use a narrow putty knife or chisel. If the paint is hard, try paint remover and scraping.
  • Do you have a spring-loaded balance mechanism? Then get out a screwdriver and look for the little screws in the window tracks. These screws help you adjust the force of the balance mechanism.

Window Zipper Tool

Cut Overlapping Window Film the Easy Way

Window film is the poor man’s version of energy efficient windows. It’s often called heat control window film, and it acts much like this expensive low-E coating that the window companies are always trying to shove down your throat.  Except this is a whole lot cheaper.

Window film isn’t bad stuff at all. But applying window film is a bitch. Have you ever seen some idiot who has self-installed window film on his car? Seen those bubbles and creases? Well, that’s the kind of thing that may happen when applying window film on your house’s windows.

The only saving grace is that your house’s windows are flat. The idiot’s car windows are curved, which makes the install much harder. And makes him less of an idiot than previously thought.
Window Film Overlapping
Trying to get two pieces of window film to meet side by side is nearly impossible. You’ve got enough problems trying to get the film to meet up with the glass’ perimeter, much less trying to mate up two pieces of window film in the middle.

But the easy way to do this is to simply overlap the two pieces of window film. Then use a straight edge (i.e., your metal ruler) and X-Acto knife or very sharp utility and cut right down the middle of the overlap. Then you can easily remove the two waste pieces of window film. Voila—two pieces of window film that meet up perfectly.

Why Garden Windows Are Not Energy Efficient

Interested in a garden window?  Garden windows are far less energy efficient than conventional windows. Why? First, let’s define what a garden window is.

A garden window is essentially a five-sided glass box that protrudes from your house as much as two feet.

The reason why garden windows are not very energy efficient is because they can utilize as much as twice the amount of glass for the same size window opening than would a conventional window. Glass, no matter how well-sealed or filled with gasses, is a notorious energy waster.

Garden Window

How to Cut an Opening in Basement Walls for Windows

Most basements could always use more light, don’t you agree?

So, it’s the fervent wish of many homeowners to punch as many windows in the basement walls as possible. But how do you cut an opening in the basement walls for windows?

While this is not a DIY guide for cutting openings in basement walls, we want to let you know two important details:

  1. If the basement wall is made of concrete block, you can conceivably cut the opening by yourself. The reason why concrete block responds well to a circular saw outfitted with a masonry blade is because you are cutting out the mortar between the blocks, not the blocks themselves.
  2. If the foundation wall is poured concrete, you’ll probably want to have a contractor cut the window opening (and possibly install the window, too).

Basement Window

Prebuilt Bay Window Kits

Bay windows may look complicated to install, but you don’t necessarily have to build them from scratch.

Prefabricated bay window kits are available that supply the roof framing, flashing, seat board, and all other needed elements. There is no need to design your bay window from scratch anymore with prefab bay window units available from most home improvement stores.

Do You Need a Building Permit for a Bay Window?

Here’s a question we hear a lot:  Do you need a building permit for a bay window?

Answer:  Possibly, but usually not.

Generally, a one-for-one window replacement does not require a building permit. But when you start to increase your house’s “footprint,” building codes begin to apply. True, a bay window does not rest on the ground, but it does decrease the distance from your house to the house next door.

Another consideration is whether you need special tempered glass for the bay window. Because bay windows have seats that permit both sitting and (often with children) standing, this stronger tempered glass may be required to prevent people from accidentally falling through.

Installing a bay window is a pretty big deal, so it’s definitely worth making a call to your local building permitting department to make sure you are keeping within code.

Bay Window

How Important is the New Construction Window Nailing Flange?

Well, it’s pretty important…

The nailing flange on a new-construction window is that metal or plastic apron-like piece that extends outward to let you nail the window against the house.

Note that replacement windows will not have a nailing flange; only new-construction windows will have this nailing flange.

The nailing flange is the thing that really ties your new construction window tight against the side of the house. Even though it will eventually get sealed down with silicone caulk, you want to make sure that it stays in good condition.

So, make sure that you do not bend out that nailing flange until the very last minute. Bending it out ahead of time means that you risk creasing it and making it less weather resistant.
Window Nailing Flange