Windows and Doors

Windows

Windows are glass panels, usually operable, placed on the exterior walls of the home to allow views and provide ventilation and light. Windows are an important and fundamental part of the infrastructure of your home. The human use of manufactured glass has a long history going back maybe 6000 years. The earliest windows were made from small pieces of glass held together to create

Antique Image showing primitive window making
Early German window maker

a large enough pane to be useable and allow light in. These continue to this day as leaded or stained-glass windows and the best examples are made by highly skilled artists. Flat, or plate glass that we are familiar with today was only available in very small batches from the first makers as early as the middle 1800’s. Mass production of glass did not occur till the Ford Motor Company invented “continuous ribbon” production in the 1920’s. I understand now that glass can be manufactured in just about any size and configuration that is transportable. The Hubble Space Telescope, any of the Apple computer stores and the 
Grand Canyon “Skybridge” are good examples of extreme engineering with glass.

Image of two story home hexagon stucco sided turret with large windows
Big wood windows

There are many different types and styles of windows but the basic residential configurations include: fixed panel (non-moveable), sliding (opens by sliding sideways in a track), double-hung (these are stacked windows that both open by sliding up or down vertically), single hung (stacked pairs of windows where only one is moveable) casement (these crank, or push open and are hinged from one side or the other) and awning (these crank, or push open and are hinged from the top). If I missed some I will add to this list later.

Up until the 1960’s all windows consisted of a single pane (layer) of glass. These let light in fine but provided very little in the way of thermal insulation value. To make up for that, some homes in cold climates were fitted with removable storm windows that provided a second layer of thermal protection. In summer, the storm window would be removed and replaced with a screen. This was both time consuming and inconvenient since the screens or storm windows had to be handled, stored somewhere and protected from damage when not in use, but it served the purpose of adding an insulation layer when needed. As energy conservation became more important, building codes were enacted that required window designs to be more energy efficient. The answer was to make window panels using two panes of glass with a sealed air space sandwiched in between. The trapped air formed a thermal break much like the early storm windows. These were the first insulated glass units or IGU’s. These early insulated glass units were plagued with failures of the air seal between the two sheets of glass. These failures would cause the windows to “fog” up unattractively. IGU’s are now considered reliable and are the norm for nearly every glass window in the US.

Image comparing clear insulated windows with a failed, foggy unit.
Image of a failed IGU insulated glass unit
Insulated windows also eliminated or greatly reduced condensation on the glass during cold weather. It was then discovered after close inspection that on very cold days a new problem of condensation would occur on the metal (steel or aluminum) window frames. This was very annoying because enough water would be produced to stain and ruin any window trim finishes. The solution was to provide an insulated frame which is what we have on almost all windows today. 
Modern windows can be had with frames of wood, aluminum, steel, vinyl or fiberglass in nearly any shape. The glass units or IGUs can be ordered in various thermal configurations as well as with special optical coatings to reduce damaging UV rays or with integrated blinds sandwiched between the glass panels.
Today windows should be considered and selected as permanent parts of the buildings infrastructure and not simply replaceable fixtures.  Windows are now essential parts of the insulated wall system that provide light, visibility and can be operated to allow ventilation and egress.

To-Do

  • Be careful if you add aftermarket, tinting films to dual-glazed windows as all warranties may be voided. The reason is damage can result from condensation or excessive heat build-up between the panes of glass when film is applied. Refer to the manufacturer s literature for additional information.
  • Keep patio door and sliding window tracks clean for weep hole drainage, smooth operation and to prevent damage to the door frame.
  • Label each screen if you intend to remove and store them. Handle them carefully as they can perforate easily and the frames are delicate and bendable./li>

Maintenance

  • 1x per year: Clean and lubricate the sliding or cranking mechanisms. Silicone lubricants work well for these tracks and rollers. Most sliding windows (both vertical and horizontal) are designed for a 10-pound pull. If sticking occurs or excessive pressure is required to open or close a window, apply a food grade silicone lubricant available at hardware stores. Avoid petroleum-based products.
  • 1x per year: Clean the operable window channels. In heavy rains, water may collect in the bottom channel of window frames. The makers provide weep holes to allow water to escape to the outside. Keep these bottom window channels and weep holes free of dirt and debris.
  • 1x per year: Check the hardware and locks as they should operate with reasonable ease and locks should perform as designed.
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