- Window Selection (2nd in series of articles)
- Contingency Plans - Builder/ contractor delays
- Rugs or hardwood floors
- Thought for the Day
- Subscription Information
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1. Windows Frames
Refresher from last month's newsletter ... 1)
The ER number, or Energy Rating for a window
is based on the entire window package which includes
the glass envelope, sash, the seals, and the
frame, and 2) The higher the positive ER number,
the better. Keeping these two items in mind,
the actual choice of window frame/sash design
and material may seem to be cosmetic only. Unfortunately,
it is not quite that simple. Frame and sash designs
significantly impact the "condensation resistance" of
windows. If you live in a hostile environment
where the temperature goes below freezing at
times, frame choice is especially important.
Frame material also impacts ongoing maintenance
of your new home.
Wood is a traditional material for frames and sashes, and it has good
insulating characteristics but unfortunately it is quite expensive and
must be sealed by paint or some other material or it deteriorates very
rapidly. Wood windows and frames may be clad with vinyl or aluminum,
making a very durable window package but vinyl and aluminum have additional
considerations described below.
All-aluminum frames and sashes are very strong and low maintenance but
expensive, and aluminum conducts heat easily unless a thermal break is
designed into the frame or sash. Aluminum may be left bare or coated
with special paint to ensure long-life and low maintenance.
PVC (poly vinyl chloride) has a pigment permanently embedded in the material
... this color is most commonly white, but is available in other colors
as well. PVC is least expensive, low maintenance, has excellent insulating
properties and can be ribbed or honeycombed for strength and filled with
foam. It is the weakest of the materials and may require aluminum or
steel inserts for large windows and all doors. In most cases PVC is a
very good choice for residential window frames and sashes. PVC may discolour
and may become brittle over a long time, and is difficult to paint over,
although it is possible.
A relatively new material for frames is fiberglass (glass reinforced
polyester). This material is stronger than PVC and has lower maintenance
requirements than wood. As with PVC, the fiberglass can be honeycombed
and filled with foam for even higher insulation rating. It accepts the
same UV protective coatings as aluminum and is generally considered superior
to wood, aluminum, and PVC. It is also possible to paint fibreglass frames.
Tips on Window Frames
When choosing the color(s) of
the exterior façade of your home, whether
wood, brick, stone, siding, stucco or some other
material, be sure to consider the color of your windows,
frames and doors.
Never, never use abrasive cleansers
to clean painted aluminum, PVC or fiberglass window
frames and they will grow old gracefully.
Take the time to research your
In next month's newsletter we will
cover the last of the 3 articles on windows - Low E Coatings
and Other Films on the glass.
2. Contingency Plans
- Builder/ contractor delays
As a potential new homeowner, you owe it to yourself and your family to do
your administrative homework. For most people, the outlay for a new home is
the single largest expenditure of funds that you will encounter in your lifetime.
A new home can also introduce a huge amount of stress in your life, even if
everything goes according to plan.
Whether you are buying an existing newly built home, buying a still-to-be-built
home, or having a home custom built, each of these scenarios carries different
It is important to have a clear contract, which details all the terms and rights
for the buyer and the seller, and provides for various contingencies during
the construction and closing of your new home. The contract will include all
the terms of your purchase, such as price, amount of deposit, financing terms,
closing date, possession date, personal property to be included in the sale,
tax adjustments, right to inspect, and possible contingencies, such as attorney's
approval, financing, or the sale of your present home. Other matters that may
need to be addressed include existing land title, well and septic issues, right-of-way,
right of access, easements. The House
comes with a sample building contract that covers many of
Although the House Building Guide is a great place to start for developing
a contract. The laws in each state are different, and you should definitely
consider hiring a lawyer and getting legal advice. If you must sign a contract
before meeting with your lawyer, always add the following words: "My agreement
to the terms and conditions in this contract are subject to and contingent
upon the review and acceptance by my attorney."
When entering into a contract, you must keep in mind that home construction
is complex and involves many materials and sub trades. You must be reasonable
in your expectations and if there are critical dates and items in your new
home construction, you must identify these up front and in writing. Make sure
they are included in the contract.
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Your builder will include a "force majeure" clause
which talks about war, acts of God and so on. These and
other clauses are often referred to as "boiler plate" implying
that they are routine, and there is nothing you can do
about them. That isn’t necessarily true. You are
entitled to know what happens in the case of a force
majeure, or other delay; and, if your house is not available
on the specified date, for whatever reason, make sure
your contract specifies who will pay for the double move,
storing of furniture, hotel costs, etc.
Remember, it is generally in everyone’s best interest that your home
is ready for occupancy as scheduled, but there are many things that can and
often do prevent that from happening. Here a just a few examples of some
of the items that could happen and delay your move into your new home:
Your builder goes bankrupt and you
are committed to vacate your old house.
Your general contractor disappears
with the house unfinished, leaving things in a state
The partially completed home (not
yours yet) burns to the ground.
There is a massive carpenters strike
for 3 months.
Regular materials are delayed or
custom ordered materials such as counters, fixtures,
stone, special windows, are not available when needed.
Landscaping is not completed.
Paving is not done and it is a sea
of mud around your completed house, yet everyone wants
you to move in.
There are municipal/state/federal
building code violations
The municipality will not yet grant
an Occupancy Certificate.
The municipality will not grant clear
title to the property because the builder has not met
some condition for the subdivision.
You discover that there are one or
more "mechanics liens" against your home, because
some of the sub-trades were not paid, even though you've
already paid for your home and can prove it.
You lose your job and purchasing
this house is no longer a good idea.
Be sure you understand your Purchase Agreement and contract. Ask your lawyer
to explain all the terms in plain language. Be sure that all your questions
are answered to your satisfaction and your lawyer's satisfaction BEFORE YOU
SIGN OFF. Have clear and strong language about delays and who will pay for
the added cost associated with them.
In next month's newsletter we will cover steps you can take to deal with a
home that has been delayed, aside from ensuring all of the legal issues have
been dealt with.
Some useful links to check out
3. Rugs or hardwood floors
Many new homeowners compare installing carpet vs. hardwood flooring strictly
from the viewpoint of cost. From this perspective wall to wall carpeting will
be the winner in every case, with the exception of very high end expensive
If price is the main issue for you, then the most appropriate approach is to
select the carpet and hardwood floor covering you would prefer and request
a quote from several flooring companies to allow you to compare bids and installation
cost. There are of course low end and high end products in both types of flooring
and you will need to select your grade of flooring from the many products available
when requesting your quotes. You can then decide which floor covering best
fits your budget.
There are many other variables that one should consider in your choice of floor
coverings. Here are just a few:
– Carpets are very quiet
to walk on, absorbing almost 100% of the sound and
they also absorb much of the sound from other noise
sources such as TV or radio that carry through the
home. Hardwood floors on the other hand do not absorb
sound and are a much noisier option.
– Carpets should be vacuumed
regularly to prevent microscopic amounts of dirt to penetrate
into the weave. Rug shampooing should also be done on
a regular basis. Hardwood on the other hand can be vacuumed
easily and damp mopped. In both cases the exhaust from
your vacuum should really be blown outside to avoid microscopic
particles from just being redistributed throughout the
– Liquid spills can have
dramatic effects on carpets especially if they stain.
In most cases with water spills, the water can be easily
absorbed with cloth towels and the rest can dry over
time. Extended dampness may cause the formation of mildew.
Wood flooring on the other hand should have all spills
cleaned up immediately. While wood is very resistant
to stains, prolonged exposure to moisture can cause discoloration
and expansion, even warping of the wood.
– Carpets are very warm
to the touch especially in colder climates, were, hardwood
floors will feel quite cold. The impact of cold hardwood
floors can be minimized by placing area rugs in strategic
– Carpets can last 10
to 15 years or longer in some cases depending on the
care, maintenance and amount of traffic that is placed
on it. Carpet will tend to matt over time and be more
and more difficult to return it to that clean new installed
look. Hardwood floors with appropriate maintenance and
care can last a lifetime unless there is severe damage
from moisture or prolonged heavy traffic. However, depending
on the amount of traffic, you may have to sand and refinish
the floor every 10 to 15 years.
- The final consideration
is one that involves your health. Carpets are perhaps
the worst offender, when it comes to building a healthy
house, (specifically, man-made carpets.) They can contain
a variety of substances that outgas for many years. These
gases are precisely what you are smelling when you enter
a carpet store or a newly carpeted room. The many nice
features you can purchase for carpeting, such as color
fastness, stain proofing, fire resistance, etc., are
achieved by the use of chemicals. These chemicals are
outgased at the highest rate during the first few years
but continue slowly for many years thereafter. The House
Building Guide contains more information about how to
build a healthy house.
The following links discuss several issues associated with types of flooring.
As we indicated at the beginning, the choice is a personal one and will depend
on the variables that are important to the homeowner.
View “success” as the journey
you take on the way to reaching your goals. Success is not
the destination; it is the daily progress you make in small
steps toward that destination.
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