Replacement basement windows - This sounds easy enough. Measure the opening, and head to a hardware store right? Well, not quite.. one look around my neighborhood, of houses built in 1972 and thereabouts, I could see basement window replacement was an issue.
I didn't have to be a CSI, to see that this was a major problem in this neighborhood, as all the main house windows had been replaced over the years, and many looking really nice, with new doors as well. But their basement ones looked very tired and sorry for themselves and old. These were not big windows, but you could still see them.
I wondered, why they would go to all that expense of having the main floor windows and doors replaced with the energy efficient vinyl clad and insulated steel doors, only to leave these leaky aluminum framed, totally useless ones still in the basement?
I found out fairly quickly why. We are renovating a 1972 semi detached house, and this particular street has many of them. Actually this entire neighborhood, consisting of street after street, had similar style houses, all built around 1972 (according to my research at the town office). All of them had these little 30 x 11.5 inch windows, at least 3 of them in their basements. All they are really good for, is letting in some light, and if you were lucky enough to have ones that could still open.. some airflow in the hot summers.
We purchased our house in late November and those cold winter winds were already blowing. Two steps down the basement stairs, and you could almost see your breath it was so cold. We looked at these, and over the years, panes had broken, and obviously could not be replaced, so people were basically covering the outside with screwed on plexi-glass, or some kind of plastic with HUGE air gaps. Just put up with it I guess?
We decided to embark on the mission to replace these aluminum ones. After some research, we discovered the aluminum frame was actually LOAD SUPPORTING, and therefore could not be removed. Basically holding up the walls! There were three of these, and the rough stud opening was 30 inches by 11.5 inches. The present aluminum ones, consisted of sliders with two window panes to each slider. Originally there must have bee 2 sets of sliders on each window. This was huge efficiency problem for this basement and the house.
After speaking to numerous glass companies, and even ones that specialized in replacement basement windows, we were dumbfounded. All of them said, this size was not made anymore, and that basically you would have to do some major construction and support the wall and make this opening bigger, to accommodate a much larger one and then have a window well, at great expense. Considering one of these, was in the driveway, this totally did not make sense. You would get out of your car and fall in a well, if we did it their way!
We were getting frustrated. We asked some of the neighbors what they had done, and other than stuff insulation in the openings in the winter and plastic on the outside, they had all given up on finding replacements that were not going to break the bank.
I called one company that said, it gave free estimates, and if you agreed to the price, would replace the basement ones right then and there. I called them up, as soon as I gave them an idea of the size and what type it was, they wouldn't even come out.
We were then considering creating our own window and installing those insulated window blocks, since these were never big enough to escape through, just for light, we figured we would have to get creative and artistic, and my hubby loves using that "foam it" stuff. Since we were upgrading all the insulation in the roof and upper levels, it seemed pointless if these basement windows were not dealt with.
Just when we were about to give up, we walked into Home Depot. (We had basically been living in there since starting this renovation!) never really thinking about their window department. It didn't seem that big, and if the really big companies could not fix our problem, then why would this small department?
I just happened to be in an aisle nearby, and thought I would just go and whine to the poor guy and see what he said. We told him about the aluminum support frames, and how these old sliders were in there and no one could properly replace them.. as I am whining, he frowns, takes me to this little aisle of windows.. and there, on the shelf were LOADS of them.
He picked one up, and right on the label, it said "VINYL CLAD TO REPLACE ALUMINUM BASEMENT WINDOWS" It might as well of had our name on them. Plus they were on sale. He actually said "we have carried these for a while, but they don't really sell" I told him he should take a big ad out in the paper, because have of the town could use them.
So, the morrow of this story is, don't let the big window companies bully you into bigger replacement basement windows. These small ones are not worth their time and money, and they will talk you into a construction job that might not be needed (unless you want to go that route). Don't give up on your search, especially if you are a DIY person like us, and like to do everything ourselves (mostly to save money!). These windows were under $100.00 dollars each, and were perfectly designed for these window openings with the aluminum frame. The instructions had you remove the slider, and they even had trim pieces to fit over the permanent aluminum frame. You can then paint any exposed aluminum frame with white tremclad paint. (We will do that in the summer) We were just excited getting them replaced!
So, if you are not getting the results you are looking for, keep looking. Don't rule out your local hardware store. They are full of information, and can at least point you in the right direction.
We made the assumption that because they were windows, we should deal with a window company, after all that is their business right?
So, we spread the word about these replacement basement windows, being right under our noses in the Home Depot, so that shelf of his just might be empty by the end of the week! My son installed them in 15 minutes each, and they look great, and the basement is already warmer.
If you are a DIY homeowner, don't let those big companies bully you!