It is far too easy to buy and pay for a great window and not achieve the results you expect or desire. We have already talked about steps to assure yourself of getting a good installation team, so this blog will focus on the tech side of the installation and not the who did the install!
Usually the culprit is a poor installation or an unfortunate decision to retrofit instead of to completely replace. Let’s start off with the retrofit issue first. There are definite reasons why homeowners consider a retrofit. A retrofit is where a new window with a minimal frame is installed inside the frame of your previous window.
It is a much simpler and less disruptive installation because your window opening trims are not disrupted. This can be very desirable in homes with expensive or high-quality trims. On order to minimize future maintenance, the exterior of the old window and brickmould is often capped with aluminum flashing material. There is nothing wrong with a retrofit per se, if the new window is plum and square, properly shimmed, foamed and fastened. It is often lower in price because no mouldings are required beyond the possibility of some quarter round on the inside.
So, what is wrong with a retrofit style installation? Even if everything else is perfect, you are putting a window inside a window, so you are going to lose glass area in your opening. This can reduce the amount of light and ventilation obtained through the window. On an energy side, you may have just wasted your own time and money if the original window frame, which has now been left in place, was not properly insulated and sealed.
If the window is original to the construction of the home, it was probably installed by framers and not by a proper window installer. The framer is paid for quantity and not quality, so the window may have been fastened through a nail fin and not shimmed and screwed. It will continue for the rest of its life to be more likely to twist and move, doing the same to your more properly installed window. Even worse, the chances that there is any insulation between the old frame and the frames rough opening is extremely low, even on expensive homes. Use of heat measuring technology in winter has shown that a ring of cold penetrating the window opening often exists between the old window frame and the houses rough opening, defeating the thermal benefits of the new window. It is for this reason that the recent GreenON program did not allow for any retrofit installations to qualify for the grant as offered.
That brings us to a full window replacement. This can involve replacing the exterior brickmould, the window frame, the interior jamb and the interior window casing. This gives the installers the opportunity to totally insulate the original rough opening. While it is a slightly trickery installation, it is sometimes possible to do a full replacement and leave the interior jambs and casing in place and undisturbed. If the window frame can be separated from the interior jamb with major damage, then the new window can be installed completely from the exterior. Of course, this requires good access to the opening from the outside. (It is still generally possible for the new window to be passed from the inside, going through the opening diagonally to an installer on the outside, but it is logistically more difficult.
The window cannot have brickmould attached, because the installer requires access to the cavity between the rough opening and the window frame for shimming and foaming. To finish the window, a non-structural brickmould or capping, the same as used in a retrofit, would have to be applied after the window is installed.
In a normal full replacement, with a structural brickmould as part of the window the shimming and foaming is done from inside, before the new jambs and casings are applied.
So, is there anything you, the homeowner, can do to get a proper installation. Obviously, I’m going to tell you to have GEM install your windows. GEM is a registered subscriber to the Window Wise certified Installation Program. This means that GEM installers are trained in a tested and proven method for installing your window. It means that every window job done by GEM under the program is registered with Window Wise. Random inspections are utilized by the program to assure that all companies and their installers are continuing to perform their work according to this highest standard.
If you actually had any questions about your installation at a later date, the people at Window Wise are an additional layer of support you can utilize. Given that GEM has continued to be in business since 1961 and isn’t going anywhere, the following benefit to your Window Wise installation will never be useful to you as a GEM customer. However for all others, the Window Wise parallel five year warranty can provide a backup if your Window Wise supplier closes shop and you need assistance within the first five years!