The Process of Installing New Windows

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A Window Companies description

What happens after you sign a contract for new windows? It's a good question. In this blog I will try to walk you through a window replacement project. There is a lot going on and you need to be prepared. The permit process is slow. Acquiring the windows is even slower. You're spending a lot of money and it can get a bit tense. So, take a deep breath and try to be patient. It's going to be a long haul.

Window Installer Permitting

Every window instillation project requires a permit. Your windows are part of the "building envelope". You don't just look out of them. They also protect your home from rain and wind during storms. To this end, they are a critical component of your house and should be treated that way. Show them the respect they deserve and make sure your contractor / window installer pulls the needed permit.

Window Installer Paperwork

Your window installer is going to have you sign and notarize a permit application and Notice of Commencement (NOC). The need for a permit application is strait forward. The NOC is a little more complicated. Contractors have "lien rights". These rights help insure the window contractor is paid for improving your home. The contractor can lien a property in the event of non-payment. The Notice of commencement is filed at the court house. It is a public record to any interested party, that he is working onsite and if not paid, may try to foreclose on the property.

Window Companies Filing the Paperwork

Your window companies will file these two documents with the window manufactures "product approval". This is referred to as the "permit package". All windows are tested in a wind tunnel to make sure they can withstand high winds. The product approval is an engineering testament that the windows will perform as tested. The permit package is routed to the building departments "plans review" section. If all goes well your permit will be ready is a few weeks. In some cases however, the reviewer may ask for a survey of your property and additional engineering for the site specific instillation of your new windows. Your permit will be held up about an extra month if this happens.

Ordering New Windows

Good window contractors will take a second measurement before placing the order. Precise sizing is imperative. Your new windows sizes are custom ordered. We take measurements at an accuracy of 1/16th of an inch. The turn around time, at the time of this writing, for windows is 8 weeks. I've seen that extend to 16. It can be very frustrating for a homeowner.

Installing New Windows

Removing Window Trim and Casing

Step number one is to remove everything around the window. Inside drywall and a sill may need to be removed. Outside there could be some stucco, wood trim or casing. Everything needs to be removed for access.

Removing the Old Window

We can usually get the old window out by simply removing the screws in the frame. Sometimes the stucco around the window outside has to be removed. That's loud and messy. We cut the stucco with diamond grinder blades. It makes a lot of dust. Occasionally, we can't get the window out and have to break and cut it in to pieces.

Prepare the Window Opening

Concrete openings can be rough and uneven. Especially if stucco was cut out for removal. We use a special grinding pad to plain the surface smooth. This is also load and dusty. Cement is applied as needed.
Rotten wood is a big problem in wood framed houses. Over time water penetrates cracks in the stucco or the window frame itself leaks. There can be a lot of unseen damaged wood. All of it has to be replaced prior to installing the new window.

Installing a New Window Buck

The window buck is a wood strip installed inside of the rough opening. The window frame sits inside of the buck. Window bucks are usually 3/4" thick and as wide as the window frame. The frame can be no more than 1/4" away from the buck. Shims are used to even all four sides. The window buck, however, is our fudge factor. We can cut them (called ripping a new buck) more or less than 3/4" to ensure a perfect fit. New bucks are needed for every window instillation.

Installing the Window Wrap

In the old days a piece of wood was nailed over the buck. It was called a "stop". This was designed to block water from getting in. Today we cover the buck with window wrap. Its like a plastic sheet. The window frame is caulked to the window wrap and the wrap is caulked to the rough opening. All of this is done to stop water migration in to your home.

Inspecting the New Windows

The building department needs to inspect the window wrap and the screws. A field inspector will come to your home to make the inspection. He will need to come inside. The inspector will make sure the gap between the buck and window frame is no larger than 1/4". He will inspect and insure the fasteners are properly placed and the proper number used. When this inspection is passed, the job is pretty much done. The inspector will come for a final inspection when the contractor calls for it, but there is no new criteria he will be looking for.

Finishing the New Window

With the window installed things are closed up. Drywall inside may need to be patched. This can be as simple as adding drywall mud, sanding and painting it. A lot of window contractors do not offer interior work. You may need to hire someone else for this step. Outside there is going to be some stucco work. The gap between the flange and rough opening is filled with stucco. Adding fibers to the stucco can help prevent cracks in the future. Stucco cures through a process know as hydration. It's a chemical reaction. Fresh stucco has high PH and is not immediately ready for paint. Hydrogen molecules are stripped from water as the stucco cures, lowering the PH. In about 45 days the stucco can be painted.

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