Sunday, November 11, 2007

Windows and doors, who knew

It's been a while since I posted due to me constantly having to attend to my bids on the house. We have been getting some extreme prices on certain subcontractors, so it's a matter of checking 2, 3 or sometimes more bids to see that you get a reasonable price! It's an art in itself.... but anyway, I wanted to post about windows and doors, since I learned more about them. I didn't realize the complexity, but they are a crucial part of the house and affect your energy efficiency, structural integrity, not to mention your personal style.

There are a number of different frame and door materials, and costs vary greatly. Our architect wanted us to get fiberglass windows (vs. wood, aluminum or vinyl) and I wanted to know why and what the differences were. Here's what I have found out:

Dimensionally Stable

Fiberglass expands and contracts at similar rate as glass (1/3rd the rate of aluminum & 1/7th rate of vinyl)
  • Less torsion and stress between glass and frame in cold weather
    • Reduced air leakage
    • Decreased stress on locking mechanism

Graphic: Unrestrained Thermal Bow

Thermally Efficient

  • Fiberglass is an insulating material
  • Does not require a “thermal break” as do aluminum windows
    • Even with thermal break aluminum windows not as in same category as fiberglass
  • Does Not require steel/aluminum STIFFENERS as many vinyl windows do


  • Fiberglass is a structural material that will maintain its strength in every climate
    • Strength allows slim sightlines – especially in the casement and awning
    • Larger glass areas
  • Unlike wood will not rot or warp
    • With today's higher indoor humidities wood windows often rot or at least discolor from the inside
  • Unlike vinyl will not shrink, sag or crack
    • Over time even when not painted a dark color vinyl can shrink, sag and embrittle

Although fiberglass windows and doors are not new and have been on the market for more than 20 years, they have slowly been introduced into the construction industry, due to the industry's notoriety for resisting change. The problem for us was that not all the window styles were available in fiberglass. Our second choice would be aluminum windows, but they aren't as eco-friendly because of the fact that it takes a lot of energy to produce aluminum. Vinyl windows are a lot cheaper, but then you get the warping problems detailed above. So, we have had to compromise by doing mostly fiberglass and then having certain windows in vinyl (for example, the casement windows that open like doors). Since our casements don't see sunlight (under the cantilever of our 2nd story of our house), it doesn't matter too much.

As for our doors, we are opting to do solid wood. Although we will have to probably replace or stain/paint them every so often, we wanted to keep a certain look. It's probably a small concession in the whole scheme of our green home, but I think it will be worth the extra trouble! Anyway, I finally found a cool front door and mudroom exterior door that fits our style. It wasn't easy because the internet and building supply places are FULL of those horrendously ugly beveled doors, but I guess this is a subjective topic. :-)

Here are a few pics of mid-century design doors that are made in Austin at Crestview Doors (but you can also order them online line and they deliver nationwide):

I was so happy to find these doors, as they're not too overly priced (between $1000-1500) and all the modern ones we saw were in the $6K and up range, like this fancy stainless steel door from Neoporte (which I love, but can't afford right now):

And here's a pic of our garage door that we're going to get from BP Glass Garage Doors:


Guy said...

Glad to see you're posting again. Speaking of doors check this out, See the post dated May 8, 2005 about More Doors. And

Jan & Myleen said...

Hey guy, thanks for the link, but it didn't point to anything? Can you resend the link? I have also checked out the, and we're actually getting a quote from them already! Thanks for the post.

Jerry Strybos said...

Hey Guys,
I've just started reading your blog and I'm looking forward to watching your home become a reality. My wife and I are currently living in California but we miss Texas very much and hope to be heading home soon. As for your doors I can honestly say that doors say a lot about what's on the other side. I just had my studio remodeled, and the community that did the work made all the doors by hand out of cherry from Pennsylvania. It looks amazing and feels great to the hand. It's wonderful to see real craftsmanship. Keep up the dream.
Jerry and Jennifer

Jan & Myleen said...

Hi Jerry, I agree with you about the doors, that's why we're going to go with wood even though we will have to stain them and maintain them, because it just adds that extra umph. :-) I understand about missing Texas, it's still a heck of a lot cheaper here, but we are getting an influx of Californians to Austin, so the prices are relatively higher. But at least it's still attainable! Thanks for your post.

Caroline LangerDavis said...

Hi! I just found you via dwell connect! Sending you love for introducing us to, I've been having Neoporte fantasies on a middle-class budget. THANKS!

Jan & Myleen said...

You're welcome, Caroline. Aren't these doors awesome? And you don't want anything fancier than that for a modern home anyway. It's hard to find a chic door in the land of Walmart/Home Depot doors. :-)

Anonymous said...

regarding vinyl about concerns of outgassing d/t the pvc compounds.....might this contribute to poor indoor air quality? is this a practical concern?

Jan & Myleen said...

Regarding offgasing of vinyl, yes, it's a reality, however, you have to see the house as a whole. If you only have a few vinyl windows, mostly fiberglass ones, and lots of indoor plants to "cleanse" your air, then you are still pretty green for your money. I think there will still be some give and take, and you made a good point. At least plants are a very inexpensive way to both solve that problem and beautify your home.

pringstrom said...

Is there a place on your blog where you list the manufacturers (and their contact info, website, etc.) of the products you have picked e.g., windows?

Jan & Myleen said...

Pringstrom, some of the links are on the left side bar. If you want to know about which SIPs manufacturer we are going to use, we haven't decided that yet.

Double Glazing said...

The doors are magnificent! I like all of them and i'm going to buy one for my new home. :)

Room Dividers NY said...

There are sliding doors being serviced I wonder what is your opinion about this

Vernice Yehl said...

Fiberglass is now the top choice material for windows. It's lighter and more durable than wood, and it also resists corrosion and termites. The money invested on fiberglass windows is reasonable since they can last for a very long time. Good decision on your part.

Darcy Webb said...

It would be really cool to get some fiberglass doors for my house. Those are such cool materials.

Manish said...

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Replacement Windows said...

Those doors are indeed cool. I am a window contractor in Chesapeake, VA

Jason shwartz said...

I've really been thinking about choosing vinyl windows for my new house. The quality sounds really good and they are a lot cheaper than the other window options that are available. I can agree that wood would be out of the question. Would the vinyl be a great option for the price?

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