Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This kind of deal doesn't come along every day.

A builder friend of mine recently shared with me a large tract of land that he has been nurturing.  It is now up for sale and it is a steal!  Check out the details.  Deals like this just don't come along very often. 

Tell him Teri sent you. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Direct Set Windows versus Sash Set Windows: When Less is More.

One of the questions that I am frequently asked by homeowners and builders alike is " what is the difference between a direct set and a sash set window?"
The short answer is simple; a sash set window is a piece of glass that is placed in a frame, and then that frame is placed in another frame. This outer frame is also the "jamb" of the window. All operating windows are automatically sash set, the sash being the moveable part of the window. Some fixed windows are also sash set. A direct set window is a piece of glass that is stopped into a frame, also known as the jamb. All direct set windows are fixed. No operating window is ever direct set.
Since we have determined that all operating windows must have a sash, the remainder of this discussion will be about non- operating or "fixed" windows.
When considering whether to use sash set or direct set fixed windows, here are a few considerations to help make the best choice.
Cost - under most circumstances, custom sized direct set units will be more economical then sash set for the simple reason that there is less material involved because there is one less frame. However, when using a standard size fixed casement or a standard size picture window, the fact that they are standard and not custom sizes will usually equate to a lower price. This is because the material for standard sizes are usually inventoried in bulk by the manufacturers. Modifying material for a custom size results in more labor, and many times, waste of materials and this will be a cost driver, particularly when multiple custom size windows are used throughout a project. Custom size direct sets when compared to custom size sash set windows however, can be significantly less money.
Siteline alignment - direct set units are not always appropriate particularly if maintaining a vertical or horizontal siteline is desired. If you want all the daylight openings to align on either plane, then you will only achieve that with a sash set window. Below is a photograph of a project currently being built where the decision to spend the extra money (and in this case, it was a pretty substantial upcharge) was obviously a wise investment. Notice how the stiles (the pieces of wood that make up the vertical part of the sash) perfectly align with the stiles of the door below. Because the grill pattern is three lites wide, if they had not had a sash in that frame, the rectangles would have all been different sizes or the bars would not have aligned with the bars in the door below.
This next shot is of a direct sets mounted above other direct sets. Notice that the framing is more narrowline than the previous picture. However, all the rectangles are similar in size and the SDL bars are in alignment with the units below.

There are plenty of times that a direct set works fine, particularly if there are no grills in the windows, or in many cases, a 2 wide grill pattern takes "the sting" out of the different size rectangles because at least the one vertical bar will align with the vertical bar in the window below. Another good use of a direct set window is when the direct set has a grill, but the window below it does not. This is a good illustration of that scenario.

Size - there is a limit to the size that sash set windows can be made and that is because the frame that the piece of glass is glazed into is not substantial enough to handle the weight of larger windows. This is compounded by the fact that larger pieces of glass are many times thicker pieces of glass and are required to be tempered, substantially adding to the weight, so it needs the heavier frame of the "jamb" to carry the load.
A good window professional should help the client explore these options and their ramifications.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

In the blink of an eye.

One of the "just for fun" services I provide my customers (those who are interested) is a time lapse video of their house being constructed. I need to be able to get in on the ground floor when the land is just being graded for this to happen. I have experimented with a couple of different camera's and different settings for picture taking.

The first step is to find a decent time lapse camera. I have several on a job and I used the Brinno TLC100 camera. It's great in that it is waterproof and you can set the frequency of the shots. The negative aspect of this camera is that the battery life has been less than optimal, and that moisture accumulates on the lense and remains there until the sun evaporates the moisture. Otherwise, it takes a good picture and the pictures are stored as an avi file on a flash drive, truly plug and play technology. The camera is about $125 and comes with it's own flash drive. I purchased Duracell lithium batteries hoping for longevity of the recording process.

On a recent job, I tried a new camera. A little less expensive was the Wingscapes Timelapse Cam 8.0. The negative aspect of this camera is that it stores the photographs on the camera's internal memory on an SD card. So, you'll have to download the raw photographs to your computer first. The advantages to this camera is that the battery life appears to be very long, and you have the capability of editing out unwanted photographs when preparing the overall video.


Next, you need to find the ideal location to put the camera. Ideally, it will be high off the ground and in a place where it will not be blocked by equipment or construction for the duration of the project.

On the Hammond job, I found the basketball hoop as the perfect location. I called the builder to make certain that the hoop would remain for the duration of the project and was assured that it definitely would not be taken down until after the house was completed.

This is the point where I need to make clear that The Window Gal does NOT (I repeat, does NOT) do heights. It's not that she is chicken, she actually comes by this quite honestly through her father, who also does NOT (I repeat, does NOT) do heights. It's a family thing, you understand. On this particular day that we placed this camera, it took about an hour and a half to select the location, approve with the builder of the location, get up the nerve to ascend the location and then actually place the camera in this location. It was over labor day of 2012.

This looks like it was a breeze, trust me when I tell you, that for The Window Gal, this was an experience of overcoming a major phobia (one involving heights).  I am proud of this accomplishment.

This camera allowed me to edit out those photos that were too foggy (due to early morning condensation) or where there were multiple days where nothing occurred. 

Judy Hammonds time lapse

The video is fairly primitive and I have learned a lot.  The basketball hoop location lasted an entire week.  The builder moved the camera to a new location (much lower than the hoop) and we still managed to get a fairly interesting video.

I have a couple of very large projects that have been recording for over a year.  I'll be anxious to see how those turn out as well. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Window brands and brand name windows; a cautionary tale.

You've seen the commercials; sweeping vistas of snow capped mountains or green meadows. Or maybe the crashing of waves against a dramatic rugged cliffside. The camera pulls back and the narrator of a slick window commercial reveals that these stunning views are just another example of the superior performance, energy efficiency and quality and is brought to you by a brand name window that is a household name. Careful.

Many homeowners (and even builders) are not aware that some of the best known brands have multiple grades of windows and the difference in price and quality can be pretty significant. That high-end clad window that attracted you so effectively often shares it's brand name recognition with windows that are manufactured with less or lower quality materials. The only difference may be a series number or name like "1200 or Premium" when in reality it is anything but. These lower end products serve a very useful role for many homeowners who have economy as a high priority, but it is helpful to know exactly what you are getting when you make a large purchase of windows and doors.

While the practice of selling lesser quality products under the higher quality brand name is perfectly legal, it does feel a bit deceptive if you find yourself on the receiving end of a window package that just doesn't seem like the same window you thought you were getting. The biggest offenders of this practice are the very brands that invest the most money in advertising and building brand name recognition.

So how can you protect yourself from an unscrupulous sales person who commits the sin of omitting this very important detail of series name or number?

1. First ask if the product they are pricing for you is the only grade of window that this manufacturer produces?
2. If the answer is no, then have them describe the differences between the different grades and if cut sections are available request to see them so that you can compare the differences.
3. If the brand you are interested in does have multiple grades, ask for a quote for all the different grades (or if there are more than three grades, ask for a bid from the low end, a mid grade and for the top of the line).
4. When it comes time to order, make sure the list of windows all show the same series number or name (multiple grades allows for blending of lesser grade windows in strategic places in the home, not necessarily a bad thing unless it is done deceptively without your knowledge).
5. When obtaining bids from multiple competing suppliers, make sure everyone is on the same page with regard to a multiple grade brand-name window and that the bids are truly apples to apples, not only on the grade of window but features and options.

Below is a snapshot of a brand name window (brand name withheld because this is not meant to be a brand expose'). The window on the right is the brand name window that the reputation was built upon. The window on the left is the dramatically pared down version of the same window. The window on the right is a solid wood window with a heavy gauge aluminum cladding. The window on the left is actually a vinyl window with a wood veneer on the interior and an aluminum extrusion on the exterior. There are other differences as well that make this window a mere shadow of the quality window on the right.
Sometimes it is beneficial to have the option of a less expensive, lower grade window, but it certainly is always beneficial to know up front which grade of window is going into your project and whether or not the cost savings is substantial enough to warrant the sacrifice of the quality the higher grade window promises. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Window planning professional versus big box window products

The question has been asked, "why use the services of a window planning professional?"  Too many times this very important question is answered after something that could have been avoided has gone horribly wrong.

Using a window professional when the initial plan is being developed can assure that code compliance is addressed sooner, rather than later when conflicts may be discovered making costly plan revisions necessary.  Knowing a particular manufacturers limitations (or flexibility with sizing or attributes) can be priceless when preparing a window schedule, particularly when changing one window can disrupt the overall plan design making it necessary to adjust all windows to reclaim the design.

Having an objective analysis of costs, features and benefits from one brand to the next can be invaluable when determining a realistic budget for a project. Too many times the plans are developed with an overall expense being estimated only to learn once the job goes out to bid that the estimate was far too conservative as the plan is drawn.  Knowing the particular cost drivers while the plan is being developed can avoid this disappointing reality. 

Once the plan is complete, and a job is open to bid, the first opportunity to value engineer a window package presents itself, but that too can lead to an uneven playing field from one builder to the next and it is fraught with peril when considering  that generally a VE quote involves some deviation from the specifics of the plan and shouldn't be attempted without the homeowners input.

Sitting down with a knowledgeable window professional, sooner rather than later, can prove to be one of the most efficient ways to spend your time.  It's also been known to save lots of headaches and a few dollars too.