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Abe Degnan

Feb 17, 2014

A New Construction window includes nailing fins used to fasten the window in place and to flash it, helping to make it airtight and waterproof. This usually requires installation of new interior woodwork, and sometimes touch-up painting of the interior drywall. It also can require removal of the siding around the window, or new wide trim installation, depending on circumstances.

A replacement window fits inside of the current window frame, leaving the original exterior & interior window frame & trim in place. This is a quicker and less expensive method of replacing windows. But it can also leave existing problems in place. IE, if there is air leakage between the existing window jamb and rough opening, a replacement window will not solve it. If there is rotted wood, the rotted wood often gets covered by aluminum cladding but is not necessarily removed/repaired.

There are some good companies who do a good job of replacement winodws and I'm not putting down the good ones. There are also some really bad ones, who sell throw-away window products that are a good stop-gap measure. IE, replace 2 worst windows while you wait to replace the entire house full of windows and do new siding and energy improvements all at once.

For this reason, my company almost always installs New Construction windows and usually does so at the same time as a whole-house improvement with better insulation, air sealing, and new siding-soffit-fascia as well. It's the best practice if its what your home needs and you can afford to do it right. I suggest saving up to do it right, even if you need to live with a deteriorating product a little longer. It's better for your home in the long run, and better for our nation's housing stock as well!

The photos below show before, during, and after-- a new construction window, without installing new siding. 

Showing some rough-construction photos too of the type of damage that we often discover and fix. How we install peel-n-stick flashing to make a window replacement be "as-good" as a new home construction. If we're replacing the siding, we can literally do so. WIthout replacing siding, we're limited to the amount of surface we have exposed.

Alex Graham asked:

Jan 13, 2015

With a lump sum contract, all the risk is placed on your contractor. If you want assurance, a lump sump contract with a professional remodeler will give you a guaranteed price... but be sure you have a clear understanding of change orders and hidden condition clauses in the contract, as well as finding out if any allowances are realistic. Cost plus, you take on all the risk. Everything is billable, and the contractor has no risk for this. In return, you might be charged a lower markup. So if you are willing to take on some risk or if you have a highly evolving project, a cost plus contract might help you. You must have a clear discussion of maximum price and be prepared for price escalation, though. Any other question on the subject?

Nov 15, 2016

How will they integrate design, selections, and construction?

What is their track record for being able to design a project that meets a target construction budget, and actually complete the construction project?

How do they help to ensure that the project ends up on time, on budget, and as beautiful as imagined?

John Ramey asked:

Feb 18, 2014

Investigate a bunch of contractors. Interview several of them. Narrow your list down to the ones you actually would be willing to do business with.

Be truthful with them about the amount of money you want to spend, and, are willing to spend if necessary to create the perfect project. Find a company that has a process that fits you, someone you trust, someone who communicates with you the way you want.

If you aren't truthful with them, do you think you can trust them to sense that and be truthful with you? Are you someone who likes to bargain? If so then maybe you give them a lowball number, they give you a high number, you negotiate and meet in the middle and then, do either of you feel like you trust each other?

Rather, find someone you can be confident with. Someone who is willing to speak frankly with you about prices. Call their referrals, and ask the questions that you are most afraid of! Find out how they dealt with it. Find out what things when wrong (they always do) and how the remodeler handled it. With a temper? With reluctance? In a way that was fair to all involved?

Good luck!

May 25, 2017

The biggest issue we run into is not having enough black dirt (quality soil) on on hand. Trucking in more soil can add thousands of dollars, and it's not often evident at the start of construction or remodeling.

John Ford asked:

Jun 10, 2014

My professional fireplace company has two options, of which we've implemented one for our clients in the past. If you want to essentially permanently block it off, there is something like an "air pillow" which will blow up inside the flue to block it.

The solution we've used is a spring-loaded chimney cap. It sits on top of your masonry chimney flue above the roof. It has a long chain which comes into your fireplace. You use the chain to release it when you want to burn a fire. You pull the chain down to seal it when you are not having a fire.

Added advantage: better energy efficiency and indoor air quality! Keeps air from blowing out the chimney or being sucked backward through the chimney into the house!

Oct 7, 2014

Agreed. Solve the moisture/humidity/condensation problem first, then afterward, choose the flooring. What are your goals? Hard surfaces that are unaffected by moisture are ideal, but possibly cold. There are floating floors that could be an option which will be slightly warmer in feeling. A good basement with proper drain tile, no moisture problems, proper dehumidification, and good HVAC can use carpet with little risk of problems.

Alex Graham asked:

Jun 18, 2014

If an ordinary residential unit won't work for you, then you should consider something such as a Santa Fe, Ultra Aire, or another unit made by Therma-Stor. These are the kind that can be ducted, have air filters, etc. You probably will need to purchase and install through a professional HVAC company. 

Feb 17, 2014

You might want to have a energy assessment done through a program such as Home Performance with ENERGY STAR or a utility-specific program in your area. WIndows often cost a LOT (for a quality product) compared to the amount of energy they can save. So if they are physically falling apart, you definitely need to replace them. If you can't open them, its a problem! If air blows though them, its a problem. A little frost is commen in a northern climate. A qualified energy assessor can help you determine the value in replacing them compared to other things in the house that you might also need to fix and not even know about! Air leakage is the biggest source of heat loss in most cases, and needs to be fixed before insulation can be added.

Feb 17, 2014

I'd expect that you have a warranty longer than just 30 days. Probably at least 1 year, right? I'll base my answer on that premise.

In the first 30 days, you should look for things that are incomplete or not installed to the Standards Manual referenced in your contract. (My contract references the Residential Construction Quality Standards of the Wisconsin Builders Association.) If there were things promised in written or verbal contracts, change orders, etc that are not done.

Over the course of a full year, the lumber will fully dry out and the house will have gone through its seasonal shrinkage and expansion due to humidity & temperature changes. You should expect your contractor to repair screw pops and drywall seams one time in your warranty period. If you notice areas of trim that weren't puttied, expect them to touch it up then.

Any other things you can think of that you have questions about?

Feb 18, 2014

There are many types of custom builders out there, just like there are many types of homeowners. The one qulaity that is the most important is if the builders you talk to take the time to listen and to find out if you are a match for each other.

There are many one-size-fits-all builder types, but that is only acceptable if your goal is to create a one-size-fits-all type of space.

Take your time. Get a feel for how your builder answers your questions, and take notice how many questions he or she asks. At the end of the interview were you excited about your project? Did your builder present ideas and offer options that are budget appropriate? Do you know exactly where you stand, with a clear path forward? Do you feel comfprtable?

These are the most important questions. Truly, if you have found a builder who meets these needs, there are very few complications that can lead to a negative experience, because if you have someone you feel free to communicate with, then you have someone who you can work with.

Bryan Jones of GuildQuality PRO asked:

Jan 8, 2015

It also depends on how high off the ground you are. Be aware that (at least in Wisconsin) if you are more than 24" above ground to the floor of the room, you can't use a vinyl product like PGT Eze-Breeze without a guardrail and balusters. But you can use a glass product such as the Mon-Ray Glass Walls porch enclosure windows, legally, without a guardrail.

Here's two examples of homes where we used the Mon-Ray Glasswalls.

Donna James asked:

Oct 22, 2016

Generally, if there is not a work comp policy in place, you can indeed sue the homeowner. In fact your insurance company might choose to do so, with or without your cooperation! Likewise, if anyone up the chain of command has a work comp policy, that policy could be liable. If you work for a sub who doesn't have work comp, but the general contractor does, then their work comp is probably liable.

So... HOMEOWNERS! This is why it is so important for you to be sure that you hire a contractor who carries a work comp policy. And better yet, that contractor should ensure that it's subcontractors also carry a work comp policy. Otherwise, YOU can be sued by an employee, a subcontractor, the general contractor, or the health insurance company or other insurance company of anyone injured! Good luck on this.

One of my staff made this video to illustrate the situation:

Dec 14, 2016

In my personal home which has high quality windows, we also suffered condensation. We generate moisture by breathing, cooking, and bathing. If you have casement windows with screens on the inside, you might be surprised just how much those screens prevent convection airflow and keep cooler air closer to the window glass. We solved the problem in our home using a combination of 3 actions.

1) We remove our window screens every winter.

2) We open our window shades all the way every morning and leave them open all day long.

3) We have timers on our bathroom fans and run them for about 4 hours per day in addition to the 10 or 20 minutes of bathing time.

4) Bonus: We always run our kitchen vent fan when we are cooking to remove moisture (and odors) from the house.

I hope that helps. In the end, it's all physics. It's about the dew point, which is the surface temperature at which the relative humidity condenses. It can happen with cheap or expensive windows.

By the way: If there is air leakage around the window, this is going to exacerbate the problem. So doing a call-back to the installer or a 3rd party energy-rating company would help if the other solutions don't work.

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