Q: What is the optimal way to replace old windows? My house has outdated aluminum windows that I want to replace with new vinyl ones. Some installers want to remove the nailing fins from the new windows and install them by attaching through the sides of the windows into the studs. That way they won’t disturb my vinyl siding. Others want to cut back siding and install the new window with flashing. Is this overkill? –Mark E.
A: As far as optimal is concerned, the preferred method for installing a vinyl window is to flash the opening and then install the window with the fins over the flashing. This is done to help create a seal around the window so that any moisture — wind-driven rain, for example — that might penetrate through the joint between the window and the siding will not get all the way into the house.
That being said, retrofit windows are certainly an acceptable alternative. Properly fit and installed, and properly caulked and sealed into place, they should form a weather-tight seal that will be safe and effective. Unfortunately, with the ridiculous proliferation of construction-related lawsuits that builders and consumers alike are having to pay for, some contractors have begun to shy away from retrofits because of the potential liability.
If the cost difference between the finned window (including all the work on the siding and trim) and the retrofit window is not too great, I would suggest going with the finned window. However, if it’s a substantial jump in price or there is a risk of damage to the siding, you should be fine with the retrofit alternative.
If you do go with retrofits, I would ask the contractor for a couple of references, and go check out one or two of their installations for yourself. Make sure you like the way the windows fit and operate, and like the appearance of the installation. After the windows are installed, you’ll need to check them once a year to make sure the caulking between the window and the siding is in good condition, and recaulk the joints as needed.
Q: I just bought a house with a gas fireplace. I would love to use it, but I can’t get the thing lit. The previous owners didn’t leave any instructions, and the home inspector said lighting a fireplace doesn’t fall into his scope of inspections, although he did check to see that the fireplace seemed to be in good condition. My neighbor pointed out a valve I should turn, but I’m wondering if I should just have a technician come out and look at it? –Wyndye F.
A: You definitely want to have the fireplace checked and receive proper instructions on its use prior to turning on any valves or attempting to light it. If you and your home inspector are not suspecting that there are any problems with the fireplace and no problems were disclosed to you at the time you bought the house, I would begin by contacting the gas company (the local utility that you purchase your gas from) and ask them to come out and light it for you. This should be a free service from the utility company. Your other alternative would be to contact a local fireplace shop or heating contractor – preferably one that’s a dealer for the brand of stove that you have – and pay them a service call to come out to the house and get things going for you.
Either way, I once again want to caution you to wait and have the stove checked and lit by a competent person.
Q: I have a metal roof, and I’m curious to know if they are considered a lightening hazard. Is there some kind of treatment that’s done on installation to reduce the likelihood of a strike? –Marsha R.
A: I’m not aware of any significant increase in lightening danger arising from having a metal roof on a house. I checked with the Metal Construction Association’s Technical Bulletin 1040, Lightening and Metal Roofing, and I agree with the findings in their report, which says, in part:
“The probabilities of a strike to a metal roofed structure are no more or less than any other kind of structure, as these probabilities have to do with height and size of the structure and its surroundings, rather than its construction materials.”
In any area that is prone to lightening, it’s always a good idea to consider a lightening protection system that will safely conduct the lightening strike to the ground, but that would be true of homes with any type of roofing.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.