Wood vs vinyl windows

mlauderMay 25, 2006

Hi! I would love to hear from you all that considered using wood vs. vinyl windows. My husband and I are pricing Andersen windows, yet we know that vinyl windows would be considerably less. Any thoughts?

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A good wood window will perform better for longer, in my opinion. Here in the northeast, the severe temperature swings seems to destroy the hollow vinyl windows after only a few years. Vinyl, by itself, is pretty unstable. Most folks don't realize that Andersen experimented with an all vinyl window back in the late 50's and early 60's. They were unable to get one to pass their testing standards.
But both wood and vinyl have their place in the market. The hollow vinyl are inexpensive, and perform much better than the old single pane windows. The quality has improved, but they aren't the prettiest things to look at either.
The Andersen windows will add more value to your home, increasing your resale value, etc. Plus, they've been around for 102 years. A lot of vinyl companies are pretty young by comparison.
But even the big dog knows that vinyl has it's place. Andersen has just announced that they have purchased Silver Line Windows, the largest hollow vinyl window company in the country.
Go figure.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 11:04PM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes

If you're convinced to buy wood, be sure to shop the high quality windows. Andersen is entry level in the window market.

Compare them to Marvin, Legends, Loewen, Pella and more.

You want value in a wood window, not just a common name. :)


    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 7:16AM
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We used (kolbe) wood above grade and vinyl below. But surely depends upon value of the home?? I would not use vinyl on an otherwise expensive home, unless you never intended resale. Also vinyl may discolour.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 9:43AM
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There are lots of very good options out there. Check out as many as you can. Compare options, pricing, warranties, etc. Then get the best units for your budget.
As a side note, Andersen offers some nice high end products as well, so I'd disagree on the entry level label.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2006 at 12:05AM
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We had old aluminum and newer (1997) Milgard Vinyl Windows. The vinyl windows look cheap after 2 years and they warped and squeaked. We replaced all of them with Marvin AL-clad wood.

If you are looking at Andersen, it will be worth looking at Marvin as well. We looked at the clad-wood version of Andersen, Pella, Milgard, Marvin and Marvin Integrity. In showroom after showroom (5 of them), the Marvin woodwork finishes were a world better. Every joint was tight and finely finished. The wood choices were excellent with fine grain pattern. Millwork was done with great care. Andersen was next but had noticeable gaps in its joints. Pella had wood but the choices was just horrible. Finishing was poor with large gaps and wood "tails". We could not believe how a showroom could even show something like that without at least sanding off the "tails". Milgard's wood interior simply looked horribly cheap. If we had to use Milgard's wood interior, we would rather just use vinyl.

Try to visit the showrooms and compare all these brands before making a choice and pay special attention to the woodwork.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 2:11AM
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I'm not sure what you consider a vinyl window. The Andersens we just had installed are a vinyl clad wood exterior and wood interior. They seem to be better quality than y'all are describing. All the joints are tight (they better be), but the grain is not particularly close.

Pella had aluminum clad exterior which was unacceptable to me, although we did have to go with Pella doors to get the interior shade.

The local Andersen rep came to inspect the installation and found a factory flaw in one of the sashes. He quickly ordered a replacement sash - I thought that was doing what's right.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 6:46PM
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I'm trying to figure out vinyl windows. I saw the Anderson casement window that my husband (the Decider) wants. It had prefinished pine on the interior and little thin, flat white vinyl strips on the exterior. We are using a creamy brick and cream trim paint. Can you paint vinyl? Is there another option for exterior vinyl finishes? I can tell you that this is a sore subject in our home right now. We are building our dream home after 40 years of marriage and I want it to look beautiful. Help! Thanks, Pep

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 9:44PM
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Alternative to vinyl is fiberglass, Aluminum clad or just plain wood. In general, assuming no material defects, vinyl theoretically will not last as long as fiberglass and fiberglass may last as long as Aluminum. Wood needs regular maintenance and proper installation to last.

Vinyl cannot be painted easily unless someone has finally figured out a good base coat that will adhere to the vinyl.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 1:32PM
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Check out the thread over in the Building a House Forum about painting vinyl windows. Apparently there is an epoxy paint that can be used.

Here is a link that might be useful: I Just Had My Vinyl Windows Painted

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 9:48PM
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I have a problem with using vinyl for windows, fences, or much else. While it is considerably less expensive, there's a reason for that.

It looks like cheap plastic... and often the glass (if it is glass) looks bowed, not rigid and flat. This is simply an observation of houses w/vinyl windows seen as I drive or walk by, not any study.

If you don't want wood, I'd go with some kind of metal (which usually has many color options and can often be painted later if you want).

Wood is the most attractive to me by far, though. Also most expensive and requires more care down the road. But taken care of, wood windows should last more than your lifetime.

Good luck deciding!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 4:53PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

I think there is some misinformation in this thread.

Wood windows out performing vinyl in the long run....? I don't think so.

Vinyl failing in the temperature extremes of the Northeast....never heard that one.

vinyl discoloring...not true is you are looking at a product of any sort of quality.

Do your research. If you want to spend alot of money for a product that has a shorter warranty and will not last as long, go with wood. If you are set on wood and like the appearance, go with wood. If you are going with an Andersen window, you are only getting the wood look on the inside of the window. The exteriors are vinyl clad anyway.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 3:58PM
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Ok - please help me as well! Is it true if you have an all vinyl window in a 2x6 wall, that you will still need to finish off the window sill on the inside - meaning, the window would be vinyl but the trim wood? I know that a wood interior would be more expensive, but is the main reason people pick wood interior b/c of aesthetics (and on the flip side - all vinyl b/c of pricepoint) ?
In terms of thermal value are they both about equal?
We're about to start building a new house and I'm willing to pay more for a wood interior window if it means better insulation value. I'm not necessarily willing to pay for the "beauty" but I am for energy efficiency :)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 6:28PM
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We are also in the process of changing all of our existing Wooden windows to something new. The house is about 13 yrs old and the wood on the back side of the most of the windows that face south side has rotten. We are shopping for a vinyl window as it seems to be the maintenance free window in the market at this time and also price wise its a better option.

I want to hear from the Windows pros here what they think about changing from Wood to a Vinyl window. We dont leave in a huge mansion but its an avg house. We want something that will last for quite some time and in case we end up selling the house, the next owners should enjoy these so called energy efficient with low-e windows as well.

Any advice?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 2:39AM
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I'm a mechanical engineer and owner of a vinyl window manufacturing company. We have been making vinyl windows since 1985. We installed our tan windows on my uncle's house round about that time. The window exterior has faded a little, but the fading has been consistent and is not noticeable by the average on looker. Other than the fading, the windows look brand new. The sashes operate very well after almost 25 years of service.

Ive been on thousands of service calls. In the beginning, I, too, didnÂt know about this "plastic stuff". My thinking has gradually changed to the point that I now believe that PVC is a fantastic window material if the windows are installed correctly. It really does not need much maintenance. I would recommend spraying it down from a distance with a pressure washer. This will knock off all dirt and possible mold or mildew.

Vinyl itself is a good resistor to heat transfer. Most vinyl windows have two or three strips of "finseal" that is designed into the sash. This will reduce air infiltration that is a major source of heat loss. Old stile wood windows have no weather stripping designed into the window and they are notorious for air infiltrationÂresulting in heat loss and drafty windows. Newer style wood windows have a compression style jambliner that help along the air infiltration front, but make the window difficult to tilt in for easy cleaning.

Most modern wood windows are made of new growth pine, not old growth. As a result the wood is softer and not as durable. Also modern manufacturing techniques maximize the yield of the tree. They do this by spicing the wood together by a "finger joint" a technique. This allows much more of the end grain of the wood to be potentially exposed to moisture. End grain will wick the moisture into the wood. When this happens the paint will blister off. When this happens, rot is a certainty. IÂve been in subdivisions in which the sills of all the windows were beginning to rot within two years. If the wood is not treated correctly immediately, then the wood window is certain to rot. IÂve seen it too many times.

A lot of the cheaper clad windows are clad with a roll form aluminum. This is only about 14 thousands of an inch thick (.014 inch). This only caps the wood. Cheaper aluminum clad wood windows are a shoe-in for rot. My empirical service observations prove this to my mind. If you go with aluminum clad, then make sure that you buy a window which incorporates a hollow aluminum extrusion on the exterior. A good clad window is designed such that the water will never touch the wood. This is the key to a good clad window. I would suggest that you look cut away samples in the showroom to verify my ramblings.

One of valid gripes of vinyl windows has, in the past, been the fact that color options have been limited. This is now changed, but is still not generally known. Vinyl windows can be painted. Vinyl windows have been painted in Canada for years. And the same Canadian paint companies have been selling their paint to places such as Arizona and California. The paint has been in the field for many years now and it is performing well. The typical vinyl window manufacture has recommended for years that their vinyl can not be painted. The reason is that vinyl has a distortion temperature of 140 Fahrenheit. If the surface of the vinyl gets above that, then the vinyl will deform. Dark paints bought from a typical hardware store can not be used to paint vinyl windows. Paints that are designed for vinyl have special heat reflecting pigments that will keep the vinyl from getting to this extreme. Anyway this is my 2 cents for the day.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 6:17PM
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After a lot of deliberation, I am using wood windows, primarilly because my interiors will be stained. I agree with several posters that say vinyl windows look cheap. However, there is one vinyl product I checked out which was outstanding. It is called Solaris and made in Canada. In addition, the color I want (black) exterior is available, plus 1000 other colors.

These windows are not thin, cheap looking types normally associated with vinyl. The sashes are as thick (or thicker) than many wood products such as Pella or Anderson. The interior has colonial sticking, making it look great. Structural strength from thickness of the sash and material and far more interior extrusions that allow a window to resist sagging and bowing over time. The glass itself is thicker than most other products, plus the glass is double strength, which is a requirement in Canada.

As for fading color, these windows are painted with a special, exterior UV resistant coating. I put my hand on a black window which had been in the sun and it was not at all hot. Heat destroys vinyl. That is the resaon the majority of viny products in colors (solid) are not available in dark colors. Dark colors absorb heat, causing warping and fading. If you find an Anderson in the territon color more than a few years old, it probably will have faded appreciably.

If I wanted white interior and especially if building in an area where high wind and rain existed like a lakeshore area, Solaris would be my hands down first choice. Speaking of wind, their casement has a DP factor that meets the ratings required for Dade County, Florida.

If you are considering casements, most window companies charge higher for casements than double hungs. Solaris is just the opposite. It is less money because they make more of them in Canada.

With all of the positives about Solaris, there is a catch. When you add color exteriors, they are as expensive or more than the top brand wood products. White are slightly less, but more than any other vinyl window I found.

Although I have decided upon wood windows, I felt this product was worth a recommendation.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 1:17PM
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Exterior colors on vinyl windows should cost the home owner about $80-$90 per window. When you add that cost to the base cost of a vinyl product, the cost is significantly less than a clad alumium window.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 3:22PM
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I have large original casement windows made by Anderson with wood trim in my brick ranch that was built in 1955. The windows are functional and are in good condition, except very few handle cranks need replaced, and the bathroom and laundry windows are slightly foggy. I had a couple of estimates on replacing all of the windows with vinyl double hung windows. In my opinion, the vinyl looked cheap and inexpensive. Wood casement windows was way more expensive, and since this it what I already have, should I keep the original windows and keep the quality look of a wood casement window? The maintenance of painting the wood every so often may be worth it? Also, the windows that are foggy in the bathroom and laundry room may be replaced with obscure glass to give a new appearance to the windows.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 12:02AM
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Would it be worth investing in replacing the wood frame windows with an inexpensive cheap looking vinyl? I think it may take away from the value of the house, so would it make sense to keep the original windows for now since the house will be listed for sale at some point.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 8:40AM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Do not buy windows with an ROI calculation component to what you think you will get back.

Most often times, customers will cheap out and it can hurt the value of your home.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 8:33AM
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I wanted to replace my wood double-hung windows because they were about sixty years old and needed to be repaired. I take a builders magazine. They said that, assuming correct installation, that windows fail because of seasonal movement. Their tests showed that solid vinyl had four times the seasonal movement of wood. I ended up repairing my wood windows and reinstalling them. I thought maybe I shouldn't wait twenty years, next time, to perform normal maintenance.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 6:36PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Their tests are not accurate.

Vinyl window do not move 4X as much as wood windows and there are a myriad of other factors that need to be clarified prior to making that sort of assertion.

Repairing older wood windows or adding storms is an option.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 8:29PM
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In my limited experience, vinyl windows are far superior. The cheap 12+ year old replacement windows in my current home look brand new but the 20 year old wood windows int he house I'm buying are rotting. And I've done absolutely nothing to maintain the cheapie vinyls. The house with the wood windows has been well maintained and the home was far better built.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 11:33PM
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your limited experience would be correct, vinyl windows are good from the right manufacturers. I would never call them far superior to wood(whether maintenance is required or not)

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 10:24AM
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The thing is, our new house was built by the best builders in the area, well maintained. While the old house is in a low income area where everything in the house is cheap. Not sure how they lucked out getting the "right" vinyl windows in the cheap house with cheap everything and the "wrong" wood windows in the house that is well built with quality everything, floor to ceiling. Again, just my experience but I find it hard to believe that the cheapies who sold me my current home in this low income area just happened to get it right in just one area - the windows - and wrong everywhere else on and in the house.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 9:02AM
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I have old iron casement windows that have seen better days. They are not energy efficient but my husband loves them. I have thought to replace them with a vinyl window that looks just like mahogany wood on the inside. Our friends built a home on the beach in Mexico using what they call "European windows." They look very much like mahogany wood grain windows even up close. I was amazed. The advantage is that they tilt for ventilation and open for cleaning on a 2 hinge system. I saw some yesterday at a home show, but the disadvantage is that the outside of the window is brown vinyl and the inside of the window has the dark wood grain look. Does anyone know of a company that makes the wood grain on the outside as well as the inside? This site is great for getting some real info on windows.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 12:34AM
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"Vinyl window do not move 4X as much as wood windows"

The thermal expansion of vinyl is well in excess of wood, and occurs in more directions than wood.

Wood does not actually respond to temperature so much as humidity.
It shrinks when the humidity is low and swells when it is high.
The cycling never stops and no practical method exists for stopping the movement of moisture in and out of the wood.

Vinyl is less responsive to humidity, but does respond to temperature.
Even vinyl siding must be carefully attached to prevent buckling and cracking.

The nail holes (just like the ones in vinyl window nailing flanges) are clotted for a reason.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:23AM
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There is absolutely nothing I have ever seen that indicates that vinyl windows have a higher "failure" rate than wood, whatever that means. If anything, it would be the exact opposite. Vinyl would have a much lower failure rate than wood. I would estimate that 65% or more of the windows we replace are wood windows, less than 30 years old. Most have seal failures and/or rotted wood. Nearly all leak air air like a seive. Most of the vinyl windows we replace are the really cheap ones the builders put in or ones that "the previous owner" put in before they sold the house.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 4:36PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

The coefficient of thermal expansion of vinyl vs. wood is more like 9X greater (28 vs. 3). That does not mean that they window is any more prone to failure if properly designed.

The argument that any window fails because of expansion and contraction (assuming that it is properly designed) is hogwash. If that is true, the large curtain wall glass systems would be exponentially more prone to failure than your average vinyl double hung because of the expansiveness of the glass/frame connection and total expansion movement being far more but at a lesser rate (12 vs. 28).

Wood can move more aggressively with humidity changes as compared to vinyl with temperature if the conditions are right. That does not eliminate wood windows from consideration.

99% of the salespeople that make this claim that material "X" is better than "Y" because of expansion and contraction have exactly Zero "0" idea of what they are talking about. It is regurgitated sales pitches and that is the extent of it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 11:06AM
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+1 Eric.

I couldn't agree more.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 12:18PM
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"The argument that any window fails because of expansion and contraction (assuming that it is properly designed) is hogwash."

The clad windows fail in a relatively short time compared to all wood windows since the cladding cannot remain sealed under the repeated heat and humidity cycles the windows are subject to.

There are good reasons the estimated life of new windows is 25-30 years.

"If that is true, the large curtain wall glass systems would be exponentially more prone to failure than your average vinyl double hung because of the expansiveness of the glass/frame connection and total expansion movement being far more but at a lesser rate (12 vs. 28). "

This is complete bogus.

The vast majority of glass curtain windows do not open, and have extensive sealing designed to compensate for the movement of the frames and glass (the glass movement alone can rise to inches on larger windows).
Movement (flexing) of the structure is also allowed for.

Add to that the use in commercial structures that often have concrete floors that are NOT affected by minor leakage and there is simply no comparison to residential double hung windows.

You might review the problems the Prudential building in Boston had with its curtain windows due to excessive building flex.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 3:29PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd


When I was referring to window failures, I was speaking to what is the most commonly cited failure as a result of expansion and contraction....glass/seal failures. I should have stated that more specifically in the post.

I agree with you that the seal failure rates of curtain walls being accelerated because of the differential coefficients of expansion of glass and aluminum is "bogus". I was using that as an example to make my point about the argument that residential vinyl windows will have seal failures.

I think that you are again agreeing with my in your explanation of curtain wall systems. I was illustrating the point that no window system bonds the glass to the frame substrate in a 1:1 ratio. All glazing systems have a built in flex whether wet or dry to allow for differential expansion rates.

Again, I think we are arguing somewhat of the same point. I was demonstrating the unlikeliness of seal failures because of frame and glass expansion rates. The reality, as you stated, is that the systems can accommodate quite a bit of movement before it poses a seal failure potential for a window. That is when we are talking about expansive lengths of glass as compared to the extremely small sizes in most residential applications.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 5:36PM
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i was responding to a post that has strangely disappeared. It made the claim that vinyl windows had a greater seal failure rate than wood.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 8:22PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Sky...who was it that you were responding to that deleted their post?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 9:36PM
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I don't recall. Their post was in keeping with the title of this thread. I have had posts disappear from this site in the past. I don't think it's intentional, I think it's just some type of glitch in the software.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 11:54PM
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This is an old thread but may I resurrect it:
I just inherited my mother's house in No. MN. For many reasons I will keep the house. The original Andersen casement windows (exactly 60 years old) are difficult to close and I was expecting to have to buy either new Andersen 400's or Marvin Integrity with wood interior. Then, my brother said, "I can have someone just repair them--lots of extra paint, gunk, to be stripped off, some wood may have to be repaired." And I would save major money--my mom had a lot of windows in that house. Secondly, the hardware is so much nicer than the new windows. Any opinions on this? I could afford a lot of maintenance with the money I will save.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 2:23PM
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It depends on how bad they are. Restoring your original windows is certainly a valid option, but there is a threshold of what is and is not worth restoring. If you are filling rot holes with putty and stuff like that, you are wasting money and you'll spend more in the long run when you have to replace it.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 5:27PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd


Post up some pictures and take an accurate stock of what sort of shape they are in and where the demising line between being penny wise and penny foolish is.

If they just need some tweaking and some painting, you can't beat good and old wood windows.

Plan on getting some sort of interior storm to help with the thermal issues that can't be addressed regardless of restoration.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 7:07PM
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Thank you so much for your responses--I posted earlier today, went to do some work and couldn't find the thread--and re-posted! Sorry!

I won't be back in MN for a couple of weeks. I'll take some pictures and post them for all of you experts to see. Re: thermal issues--the house is entirely too tight. A little fresh air is probably valuable. No vents in bathrooms, no kitchen vent. I'll re-do the kitchen and install an extractor then.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 12:00AM
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No such thing as a house that is too tight in terms of unregulated air leakage. You want to be able to control the air exchange in your home, so if it is legitimately tight where you worry about moisture issues, back drafting appliances, etc, there are ways to control that other than having leaky windows.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 7:25AM
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Windows on Washington Ltd


Give the age of the home, the house is largely done off-gassing at this point.

You need to vent bathrooms and above cook ranges.

You may also need some mechanical ventilation via HRV.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 8:39AM
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Sorry--what is HRV?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 3:34PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

It is a means of mechanical ventilation for a tight space that recovers the energy from the air being exhausted so that we don't waste the energy by blowing the air out of the home.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 11:18AM
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