At Windows by Jeff, we want to educate potential window clients on what to look for and what to expect in a quality window replacement job. There is definitely a right and proper way to install a replacement window, and two or three very poor ways to "do the job." Why would anyone NOT want to do the job the correct way? Lack of training? Wanting to do the job the cheapest way possible, or the fastest way possible, or the easiest way possible? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. As a homeowner, you know that windows are an investment in your home. Regardless of which window contractor you go with, you are spending a significant amount of money on YOUR house. YOU should have the final decision on not only what type of window you buy, and also on HOW THEY ARE INSTALLED. Even if you buy a high quality window with all the bells and whistles, LowE, argon gas, a lifetime warranty, etc, and you get a poor installation, you will not be happy with the final job. In a way, it seems like you were kind of "ripped off", and in fact if you get a shoddy installation job, you ARE being ripped off.
What is a good installation? What should you look for and what questions should you ask when shopping for a window contractor? New energy efficient windows are 3 1/4" thick, whereas your old aluminum windows are anywhere from 1 3/4" to 2 3/8" thick. When the new windows are installed, WHERE DOES THIS EXTRA THICKNESS GO?? Sometimes, pictures tell the story so well. Below are several different windows installed in a condominium in south Tulsa. The windows pictured are from several different window contractors--we are not saying which company did which job, and while we have a good idea on a few of them, we don't actually know. The home owners should NOT have accepted any of this work.
This window was installed with the extra thickness stuck out past the exterior wall and past the 1x4 facings, so they stacked a 1x2 board to cap the protruding edge of the window. At the top of the window, there is now a 1 1/2" shelf where a leak is sure to happen if the caulking ever breaks down.
This is a similar poor installation. Besides the original 1x4 facing at the top, an additional 1x2 is stacked. This window is three foot in width, yet they spliced the 1x2s rather than furnishing a proper length board. This company also used head expanders at the top. Head expanders are used so standard sized windows can be substituted for custom sized windows, and the expander closes in the gaps. These expanders are often loose fitting, and are never caulked. The more they are spread to "fix" the mis-measured or undersized window, the more uninsulated air space there is at the top. In this installation, even more drafts will come in above the window, where the wide gaps at the sides should have been insulated and caulked.
In this installation, the new 3 1/4" window does not stick out past the siding and facings. The contractors measured the window to sit on TOP of the interior sill (or stool) and on top of the sheet rock. The stool is 3/4" thick, and the sheet rock is 1/2" thick-- and that's how much of a gap there is around the exterior of the windows. On this job, they screwed strips of metal trim around the edges. Remember--this installation leaves big void spaces at the sides, bottom, and top, and rarely do companies insulate this void. This application always looks "patched up", to put it mildly.
This was the same condo, and the same patchwork trim is used. The caulk used here is a low grade latex caulk, which works ok inside, but yellows badly and collects dust outside. We always use SolarSeal 900 Ter-Polymer Caulk, and we use the clear. When it dries, it is nearly invisible. It remains flexible and and is not bad about collecting dust.
Same condo again, and in this opening, the facing should have been replaced at the top, but instead just pumped the rotted part with caulk. Not good.
This company used snap in trim to cover the 1/2" and 3/4" gaps. The bottom trim was glued on, and has pulled away. Now, the bottom trim funnels rain water inside the wall. Again, there is no insulation in the void space, and the trim was not caulked.
This mismeasured window had a good sized gap at the top. The void was not insulated, and the gap was so wide, the caulk fell through. Cold winter wind, and rain can flow freely through this space.
This is the bottom of the same window. Notice the installation screws are in plain sight on the EXTERIOR of the house. This window is installed wrong-side-out. Were this window on a concealed side of a house, a burglar could easily enter the house by removing a few screws.
Here is a 3 1/4" window installed and left untrimmed. The window sticks out 1/2" and again, if the caulking ever separates, and it looks like it has, water leaks are sure to follow.
Patio doors can have messed up installations like just like windows. This door was set and left sticking way out from the exterior wall. This must have been a frustrating job, as they just gave up on trying to trim it out.
This patio door installation is even worse. The flange with the black sheet rock screws is supposed to be used in new construction and should be nailed or screwed to the 2x4 studs, and then the siding and facings nailed over the flange.
Here's another window that sticks out 1 1/2" past the wall. The contractors put a 1x4 facing on the side, but not the top, although a facing at the top still would have not properly finished the job. Notice the trim on the sides. Water will wick into the end of the board, and in a year or two, this facing will be dry rotted.
Another example of a window protruding way past the wall.
It is very important for you, as home owners buying replacement windows, to understand what the CORRECT INSTALLATION PROCEDURE is. We do not install our windows protruding out, and then stair-step layers of facings to trim it out. We also do not undersize the windows and sit them on the stool and sheet rock returns. We carefully mark the interior sheet rock and stool, and trim the returns back to accommodate the thicker 3 1/4" windows. We set the windows like they would have been set when the house was built. Yes, it does take a little more time to do this procedure, but it is the correct way to install. We then insulate the perimeter of the window, filling any void spots or cavities behind any brick or rock. We install flashing above any window not protected by an overhang. We have built our business by taking the time to do things right.
Below are a few more scary window installation examples. (And a correct one as well!) This window is a horizontal slider, and has a weep hole at the bottom for any rain water that gets into the track to drain out. The installers put a 1x2 at the bottom BLOCKING the flapper on the weep hole. Now the track is filled with water, and cannot drain. The 1x2 wood trim also slopes toward the house, so the rain water drains back into the wall--and the trim is not caulked. Water damage has no doubt already happened, and mold and mildew will form.
This window is one that would normally raise up and down, but was set on it's side. Notice the weep hole on the side of the window. It doesn't do any good there. This edge should be caulked as well.
Here's an example of a window that has a head expander to make up for the mis-measurement in height. Also, cheap caulk will almost always separate, as it has here.
Instead of using the head expander on this, the installers used an old 1x2 to fill in the gaps. The trim is rotted where the sag is. This is also another example of messy caulking.
Sometimes a siding material (coil trim) is used for window trim. This is a good option when the material is properly formed, cut, and installed in a precise way. It is amazing that anyone thought this was acceptable.
It is important to take as much time researching the installation processes as you do the quality and features of your windows.
And finally, one of our jobs. We trimmed back the sheet rock and stool to allow for the 3 1/4" window to set properly--not protruding, and not on top of the stool. We replaced the wood facings, although sometimes when the facings are in excellent shape, they can be reused. The arrow at the top points out the flashing which is set behind the siding and turns out over the top of the window, eliminating any possibility of water leaks. Our SolarSeal 900 caulk is neat and nearly invisible. We work tediously to make sure every one of our jobs are A+.
A legitimate window contracting firm should be able to give you plenty of good job references with addresses and phone numbers. We'll give you 8 pages and over 400 references. We encourage you to drive by and look at some of our jobs in your neighborhood. Feel free to call them to ask how their job went, and how their windows are performing. And yes, we would love to add YOU to this list. :-)