Q: We recently replaced windows that were less than 20 years old, and were told that by law they had to put tempered glass in any window above the front door and above the bathtub. So I assume that glass costs more. We also learned that the windows had to be a certain "size" to open for fire reasons so a fireman could come in through the window with his full gear on. So we have one window that is quite "fancy," which both slides and opens out.
But in my view if there were a fire there’d be no way the fireman would care to figure out how it opens and would just break it with his ax. I wonder if we paid more than we should have and whether it’s really a law. Although it’s too late for us and we are happy enough with the windows, I feel like a sucker at times with high-powered salespeople. Should I have checked with building codes?
A: You didn’t do anything wrong, and it doesn’t sound as though you were suckered by the window company, although they did perhaps misinform you a little.
Tempered glass is indeed required by the building codes in the areas you mention — above or adjacent to a door, and inside a bathtub or shower enclosure. It is also required within the door itself, in stairwells, in patio and French doors, and in certain other locations. This is simply a safety precaution in areas where the glass is subject to a lot of vibration, or where there is a chance that a person could fall against the window and break it.
Windows of a specific minimum height, width and distance off the floor are also required in any sleeping room. Called egress windows, they are a safety precaution to allow a person sleeping in the room to be able to escape in the event of a fire. Egress windows are required only in sleeping rooms, and they are specifically for egress — exiting the room — not to allow a fireman to enter (you are correct in assuming that in the event of a fire, a fireman is not going to work his or her way around the house and look for an open window to crawl through).
So while I think you were fine in making the purchases that you did, you do raise some valid concerns about high-pressure salespeople. I would offer a couple of words of advice to you — and all my readers — regarding future home improvement shopping:
- Don’t ever feel pressured into making a decision. Don’t be misled by "sales that are only on through today," or "special discounts if you buy right now."
- If you do make a decision that you regret after you leave the store, remember that you have a "cooling off" period during which you can rescind the purchase or void the contract. For specifics on the cooling off period, ask the salesperson you’re dealing with. If they can’t or won’t answer the question, then shop somewhere else.
- Any time that you are quoted a specific building code or other law or ordinance that you’re not familiar with, ask to see a copy of it, or ask for the specific reference number so that you can call your local building department or go to your local library’s reference department and read it for yourself. Even well-intentioned salespeople can make a mistake or misunderstand the wording or the intent of the code, so it never hurts to double-check things.
Q: We are currently remolding our house build in 2000 to replace wooden fascia and soffit with vinyl fascia and vented soffit. As part of this upgrade, we are also adding fascia with dentil molding underneath the soffit area. It is very common to see this dentil molding just on the front of homes. We are considering installing it around the entire perimeter of the house. Do you think this would add value and a selling feature to the home or would this be a waster of time and materials?
A: The answer to your question really depends on what is going on in your neighborhood. If you are in an area of older or upgraded homes in which dentil moldings and other exterior ornamentation is the norm, then to not have it on your home could put you at a disadvantage when it comes time to sell. On the other hand, putting additional money into trim — or, in fact, into anything that is substantially different from what the other houses in the neighborhood have — could result in overbuilding for the area, in which case it’s doubtful you would see a return on your investment.
The exception to this is if you plan on staying in the home for awhile and are doing the improvements for your own enjoyment, in which case the resale return is less of a consideration. But if resale value and return on investment is your primary concern, then take your clues from what’s going on around you. Tour the neighborhoods, look at other homes for sale, and talk with your real estate agent, and you’ll quickly start to get a feel for what’s popular and desirable and what isn’t.
In your specific situation, there is another thing to consider. You mention that you are replacing the soffit panels and fascia, which often also requires the installation of trim molding to close up gaps and finish off the installation. If that’s the case with your house, and you’re going to be doing the labor to install trim anyway, then the extra expense of upgrading to a nicer trim material might be worth it.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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