Frustrated w/ Drafty Windows

skizotNovember 30, 2008

I purchased a new home in Spring of '07 (brand new, was just completed late that Winter) and was pretty satisfied with it until that Winter. My heating bills were pretty high, and I was keeping at 60-62 in the house all Winter long. I came to the conclusion that the windows seal very poorly, and quite a bit of air gets through them. I used a stick of incense and towards the bottom of the windows, the smoke was blowing parallel to the ground.

So, I got the builder out to look at them, and he acted like there was nothing wrong with them. He got someone from the window company, MI Windows and Doors to come out and look at them. They said there was nothing wrong with them either, but he brought with him some bulb seal weatherstripping. All the weatherstripping used on the windows were the polypile type. So, he removed the lowest strip of polypile (the strip on the outer bottom front of the sash) and replaced it with the bulb seal (which actually seals it on the very bottom of the sash, rather than bottom front). He said this ought to help a lot. Needless to say, cold weather is here again, and if anything, the windows are leaking air even worse.

I could never find out which brand the windows are (although I believe they are Capitol), because there is nothing on any of the windows, anywhere, except for one! It was a sticker and it said that these were the 8500 series windows. They are single hung vinyl windows, and they don't appear to have any any glazing on them, and I seriously doubt they're argon filled. So, it looks like the builder chose the crappiest, cheapest windows possible. Their U-Value is 0.49. I was able to pull up an ANSI/AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S.2-97 Structural test report on them:

Structural Test Report

Needless to say, I'm pretty pissed to find out he installed such crappy windows, as this was not a cheap house. However, the one thing that stood out with the report in regards to my problem is that these windows have a decent air-infiltration value of 0.15 cfm/ft^2. This exceeds the performance level specified in ANSI/AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S.2-97 for air infiltration - 0.30 cfm/ft^2. There is *NO WAY* these windows in my house have an air infiltration value that low.

So, today I went out and bought one of those shrink and seal window insulation kits and stuck it up around one of the windows. I hadn't got to the part where you use a dryer to smooth all of the wrinkles out, but I noticed that the plastic sheet was already bowing out and there was quite a bit of air that had filled up the space between it and the window. I had just sealed it literally a minute or two before that. I shouldn't even be having to use these damn things on windows in a brand new house.

Sorry for the long-winded post, but I have a few questions for you guys on this forum (I usually hang out in the GW Lawn Care forum). What gives with all of the air infiltration? Does it sound like these windows were just installed incorrectly, or what? I did noticed that every window has weird notches cut out in the frame which is obviously not helping with sealing. What should my next steps be in this whole ordeal? I've got some pictures of a few and can post them up if that'd help.

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It's possible the windows were incorrectly installed or there was a defect in the manufacturing. Hard to say without seeing the window and installation. Can you tell where the cold air is coming from? Check the weep holes on the exterior of the window and make sure the flap is shut. I would also lock the 2 sashes and try to lift up and down and side to side to see if there's much movement. Have you tried calling the builder or MI again?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 6:32PM
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It seems like the cold air is coming from the bottom sill where the sash meets with it and from the side frame at the tops of the sash on both sides (you can get a better idea from the pictures below). There are no flaps on the weep holes. I asked the MI guy about that, and he said that they've had problems with the flaps getting stuck so they don't use them any more. There is virtually no horizontal or vertical movement on the sash (there's only one as these are single hung).

I've not tried calling the builder or MI again. When I do call MI, I'm going to try and get a different guy to come out and look at them this time. I want to get everything in order before I call them back out, and I was going to let it get a little bit colder out, too (it's upper 30s to lower 40s here during the day).

Here are some pictures of the windows (looks like pretty shoddy work to me):

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 7:03PM
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I agree, that's a pretty crappy installation using an even worse window. Light a match and blow it out, then move it around the perimeter of the window and the meeting rail. I think you will find you are also getting cold air where the top of the bottom sash meets the stiles. No flaps on the weep holes is ridiculous. Look at the weep holes and see if it looks like it has a slot to attach a cover. It may be the builder took them off but, that's a very likely source of at least part of the problem with the cold air coming in. I would also put a T-square on the frame and a small level on the sash at the meeting rail to check that the window was installed plumb and square.

At this stage, I would be getting a little agressive with the builder and with MI and start asking how and when they are going to get this resolved for you.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 9:25PM
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Yeah, there is pretty good air infiltration towards the top of the sash as well. I used a stick of incense to test, which I assume is the same thing as lighting the match and blowing it out, right? And it doesn't look there are slots to attach flaps for the weep holes. I ran out real quick and snapped these shots of the weep holes on the exterior. Does it look like there would have ever been flaps there to you, skydawggy?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 9:48PM
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It's a little hard to tell from the photos b/c the attachment would be at the top of the hole and there's a shadow. From what I can see, it doesn't look like they were made with them. I don't know what to tell you except air seeping in those holes and entering your house is part of the problem. Put some tape over the weep holes for a day or so and see if the amount of air infiltration diminishes. I wish I could think of a way to cover them and still allow for proper drainage. From the previous pictures you posted, it looks like the sashes don't fit in the frame very tightly either.

I really hope you can get either MI or the builder to help you but, from what I'm seeing, these are just low end builder grade windows. The builder ought to be ashamed of himself for using such a poor quality window.

Let us know what MI says after they come out and look at them.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 12:16AM
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I just can't believe that such a shitty window could be engineered. The engineers should be just as ashamed as the builder (and don't even get me started on the builder; he's a true piece of work). I still think there's some kind of manufacturing defects and/or crappy installation problems that are causing them to perform even worse than they were designed. However, how am I supposed to get anyone to admit that? Is there someone I could call out to test the windows for air infiltration?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:05AM
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Your local power company, gas and electricity, will be able to recommend an inspector who can perform an energy audit on your home, and he/she will be equipped to detect and isolate air filtration around your windows. There is a possibility that the power and light company will do the inspection at no cost to you, they may have an energy saving program designed to help homeowners reduce their energy consumption. It might take a phone call and some time waiting to get in touch with the right person, but these are the folks with the knowledge and expertise to help you.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 5:35PM
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MI (METAL INDUSTRIES) are a builders grade window. they stink. thet are like silverline..

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:08PM
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ericwi, thank you very much for that info. I just got off the phone with the gas company (Black Hills Corporation, used to be Aquila). They don't offer audits, nor do they have a list of recommended auditors. The guy said they cannot recommend an auditor because they would get into trouble for being "preferential." Go figure.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:09PM
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You already know the windows leak badly. Getting an Energy Audit isn't going to solve your problems, it's only going to confirm what you already know. I'd focus on getting MI to help you. At this point, I would be demanding some compensation so you can get the windows either upgraded or replaced with another brand.

How many windows are you having this problem with?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 10:17PM
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skydawggy, unfortunately I'm having this problem with all 18 windows in my home. Getting the energy audit will definitely help my case. Yes, I know they leak badly, but I have no hard proof of that, aside from sticking your hand next to them. That's not going to hold anything if I had to go to court over this. Getting an energy audit will give me actual numbers to fight with here. If I get MI back out and they do what they did last time they were out and say there's nothing wrong with them, then what? Without numbers, I can't do anything about it.

guy_exterior_man, what do these pads look like? And isn't that something that the MI rep house should have picked up on when he was at my home? I didn't feel he was the most competent, and I got the impression he knew the windows were sh!t, but didn't want to do anything about it. And, what all things did you have to do to get them to seal correctly?

Having to buy new windows right after you buy a brand new house is absurd. This is my first home, and it definitely wasn't cheap. I don't really have the money to spend $25k+ on new windows.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:56AM
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Given the number of windows involved, and the degree of air infiltration, I don't see how you can avoid litigation. From what has been said above, there may not be a simple, and inexpensive solution. You will have to find a building inspector who has the required equipment and credentials to perform a test of the windows that will hold up in court. And you will have to find a lawyer who is willing and able to take on a case like this. Its important to have a warm and draft free home in the winter, so the effort will be rewarded.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:46PM
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Any litigation would likely involve only the window manufacturer, and you'd have to show that the windows don't meet the published test data. Your builder would be liable only if you had a specification document that indicated the specific type or quality of construction you desired.

"However, the one thing that stood out with the report in regards to my problem is that these windows have a decent air-infiltration value of 0.15 cfm/ft^2"

Not knowing exactly what 0.15 infiltration "feels" like, it is about 15 times greater than the infiltration specifications we are accustomed to in regards to double or single hung windows. The 0.15 rate of air infiltration doesn't appear to be very good, but may also not be something that would be as noticeable as you have indicated.

It appears that your new home purchase was made through buying an existing completed structure, as opposed to contracting a builder to construct the home based on your specifications. If this is true, it would not be a liability of your builder that you are unhappy with the windows, any more than they would be liable for your dissatisfaction of the exterior paint colors. This is assuming that you assessed the home and likely performed a home inspection prior to purchase. Again, the liable entity in your claim would be the window manufacturer if you can prove the windows don't meet the published air infiltration test data.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 6:59AM
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mcsbldr, you are somewhat correct. However, if it is deemed that the windows were not installed correctly, then please explain how the builder would not be liable. If the windows were not installed properly, they're not going to perform as they were designed to, and that would obviously be the builder's fault. Also, what home inspectors are trained, or have the equipment, to measure air infiltration of windows? If you look at any of their disclaimer's you'll find that they say they're aren't experts in hardly anything, except "red flag" items, and that you should have such professionals come out for further inspection of components (HVAC, etc.).

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 9:40AM
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I would focus on MI at this point and would make all of my corespondence to MI and the Builder written. Get them to send a rep out to look at the windows, but insist they give you a written report on the problems with the window. If they claim the windows were not installed properly, make sure you get it in the written report. I would then have the builder come out and give you a written report in which he would likely claim it is the design of the window. Then I'd sue both of them using each others statements against the other and use the energy audit to establish there is a problem. If one refuses to give you a written report, then I'd ask for some documentation that they at least came out and inspected the windows. If you have to take some pictures of them while they are there. You can later use the fact either refused to give you a report against them. Civil Court has a low threshold of proof and you only have to establish likely fault and damages. Note that I am not an attorney and am just giving an opinion on how I would approach this. If you can't get satisfaction very soon, I'd consult with an attorney if you haven't already.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 1:01PM
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Where was your pre-purchase inspector in all this?

This really sucks for you.

There have been some long threads on the building a house forum about legal measures to get builders to rectify major faults. Costly, protracted, and even if found in favor of the homeowner collecting on the money can be nearly impossible. It may be that your builder is in or nearing bankruptcy, in which case save your time and money and start shopping new windows. You should read some of those threads to get feeling for the issues which can vary a lot by state.

The window manufacturer will say it is an installation problem. They have attorneys on retainer to brush off homeowners. These are crappy windows to start with, but you bought them!

I highly recommend Schuco replacement windows.

Perhaps you can massively caulk, film and gummy strip most of the windows (making them essentially immovable) and replace them gradually over the course of a few years.

I hear ya about the "I just bought an expensive new house" feeling.

Post a question "to litigate or not" on the building forum and see what folks say.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 4:41PM
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I think your best bet is to call Capital and tell them you have had problens since you moved in. Also let them know you have had them out before to try to remedy the dituation and it hasn't worked. Tell them if they don't send someoneout to do a full inspection and let you know the issues you will call your attorney and have him handle it. Usually this will get them to at least send someone back out. They should pull the siding on your house and check installation while they are there. This will at least give you a start. If they won't, then find the CEO and call him.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 4:49PM
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This post is 4 years old, why dredge this back up, Crapitol sucked in 2008 and they suck in 2012 and about the only thing worse than there products is their customer service.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 8:16PM
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