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Home Improvement: The Complete Window Replacement of Rock Father HQ – Part I: The Beginning

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It’s time to start improving our home… and that means I’m going to write about it. That picture up top? That’s Rock Father HQ. Pretty on the outside… but some evil lurks within…

When my wife and I bought this house five years ago, we knew that there were some issues. On the surface and in the listing, the house looked nice – a somewhat “normal,” generally modest 1,300 sq. ft. home in Chicago’s Northern suburbs. The two-level (three, if you count the two steps down to the family room) house was built in 1990 as part of the subdivision boom of the era, and like many homes of the time, probably went up quick and with some corners cut. I would’ve loved “newer” and “bigger” (really wanted a basement), but my wife and I agreed that the house was good, the price was ok and it had the good size yard were hoping for – but most importantly – it had the schools we wanted and we could make it beautiful. As with any home purchase, the inspection found some problems, a few of which we knocked-out right away, and some others that were destined to sit for a bit. Maybe even a bit too long.

What’s really become evident in the past five years is that the house is the right size, and we have no intention of moving. While we could use some extra space now due to the girls’ massive assortment of toys (I’d love to put an addition where the deck is and then place a new, smaller deck adjacent to it), as the kids get older things should become easier, and we’d love to make our home increasingly nicer. I like to do all the landscaping myself (hence the Garden section of this site), and other projects as-needed where skill, time and cost fall into place. But then there’s the projects that creep up and grab you from out-of-nowhere… and that’s what happened with our windows, which recently jumped the master bathroom in the order of overhaul (we have a leaky tub that has created a small water spot on the family room ceiling – that’ll be tackled, too this year). The windows are one of those “issues” we knew about five years ago – but we didn’t really know how big an issue they were until this winter, and the problem seems to stem from a window switch two homeowners ago.

The story I’ve heard from the neighbors is that the guy who once owned the house “got a deal on windows” – specifically some cheap, Climate Guard models that weren’t exactly the right size. However this “deal” happened, it became a real raw deal not just for this house, but a few others on the block. You see, the guy hit up the neighbors for these cheap windows – which he would install himself. What a terrible job he did. If he did the ones in his own home this bad – I can only imagine the ones he did for someone else.

At a glance, they’re ok – but what we knew immediately is that nearly all of the windows had failing seals, hence moisture condensation between the glass. Then we noticed that certain latches didn’t sit right – that there were drafts, oddly cut sills, gaps where there shouldn’t be, etc. We knew an expensive project was looming, and there was never gonna be a “good time” to do it. Well, it chose us.

In the master bedroom, we’d been getting wasps inside every summer, but could never figure out why. Last year I found that they were always centered around one window that had some strange caulk or glue around the edges – material none of the other windows had (same previous homeowner also installed crown moulding with the worst caulk job ever), and that the wasps were coming in from outside through those gaps. What I didn’t realize until this winter is that the “strange glue” was actually all that was holding the window to the house. One Sunday afternoon the whole family is hanging out up there and I noticed the glue had separated at the bottom and that there was a one-inch gap there. That’s when I went over and realized I could push the entire window out of it’s frame as it swung outward from the house held only by the top glue.


Time for windows.

What I found in our initial search is that there’s not a ton of great information out there online (very surprising) – especially when it comes to pricing. Over a series of posts, I’m going to walk you through our window buying experience so that you can go into yours with a little more knowledge when the time comes.

Having personally met with and had in-home consultations with sales representatives from several companies, my wife and I ultimately made our decision after weighing all the available options in considering price, style, quality and timing – and considering doing our project in phases including all windows plus the patio door; top floor only; bottom floor only (if needed); and different options with/without the patio door… even debating between a slider or French doors for that one.

In my next entry, I will detail my in-home consultation experiences with Pella Windows and Doors, The Home Depot, Renewal by Andersen and Feldco. Stay tuned…

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