As the exterior renovation plans snowballed last spring, we decided to go ahead and also enlarge the windows on the road side of our house as well as replace the windows on the lake side. Getting new windows was something that really scared me, but water damage on our old wood window frames pushed us to do it anyway! It didn’t go 100% as planned, which I talked about here. We still need to have some things fixed: a glass panel cracked in half in the winter, the frame for a lake side window was broken during install, and the wrong privacy glass was ordered. So I’ll still be sharing some window updates when the weather is warmer, but today I want to share the process for getting bigger windows installed so that anyone planning a window renovation can see what to expect. Despite the problems we had with our installer, enlarging the windows was such a great investment. From the outside, the house looks so much more modern with bigger windows – and I am really happy that we chose two widths and one height because that looks really custom. Inside, the new larger windows on the road side match the scale of the large windows we already had on the lake side. The balance was always off, like someone had mushed two house designs together. Now the house feels more balanced and intentional, plus the rooms with larger windows are brighter and feel larger because the light just pours in. During the winter this side gets a nice amount of sunlight and finally being able to capitalize on that made our long dreary winter so much more cheery. I knew it would make a difference, but I didn’t realize just how much of a difference larger windows would make.
You might have already caught this glimpse in previous posts, but here’s a before/after of the roadside with the new, larger windows. (I’ll be sharing a whole home before/after when the snow melts and we can landscape a bit so stay tuned for that).
Bigger Windows – Before/After (Exterior View):
Choosing and Designing the New Windows:
Designing the windows was a lot of fun! First we went around town looking at show rooms and getting quotes. In the process, we familiarized ourselves with styles and terminology. This helped because when our roofer/siding installer could do the same thing for less money, he didn’t have a showroom. But by that point, we were really clear on what we wanted. Our windows are manufactured in Toronto, but we were able to see them installed on a local new construction home before ordering. These windows were custom made, which was perfecr because I had some specific things I wanted:
- I wanted crank windows (vs. sliding), because they seal better and lock out cold.
- I also wanted the crank handle to fold in, so it could be tucked out of the way.
- I wanted massive windows, as big as I could (reasonably) go!
- On the road side, I wanted a picture window for the top and then the smallest size awning window on the bottom for air flow, without obscuring the view.
- Because bigger windows would provide a nice view right at toilet and bedroom level, I wanted privacy glass on the bottom.
- For the lake side, I wanted to get rid of the casement and do mostly picture windows.
- For the lake side, I wanted the windows at the ends of the house to be the same awning style (one was awning, the other casement before).
- We both wanted triple pane, for more heat retention
- And I wanted black outsides and white insides!
I used post-its inside and out to map out the size of the new windows. I asked if there were any limitation or any standard sizes that would save us money. Some problems popped up: the awning windows on the bottom of the two larger windows needed to be two pieces and not one. Also, on the lake side, I originally wanted the window on the left to mimic the sliding door and be a casement style right down the middle but that was too large a piece of glass for the mechanism. We opted to make them all picture. But otherwise, my plans and designs were feasible!
The Process of Getting Larger Windows Installed:
Getting holes cut in our house was nerve wracking. Although the company we hired had some good workers, they also outsourced a bit of this job to a father/son duo who didn’t have my 100% confidence. Nobody really came prepared to cover anything (a couple of old sheets, lol) so I rushed around moving furniture, covering everything, putting down tarps and asking repeatedly that they not use my walnut and teak furniture to set their tools on, lol. I even brought in a work bench. But it was a few inches lower than my desk and therefore less convenient. They cut one hole at a time, but were prepping other windows simultaneously so once the work started, the house was a disaster with so much activity and dust!
This isn’t a DIY or instructional post, but you can see that because the new window was so much wider, the drywall was removed, the opening was cut larger and a larger header needed to be installed.
One complaint is that they were so rushed, they didn’t carefully put back the insulation and so we could actually feel a draft! We had them take down the drywall again and fix it.
Getting all four windows done was quite the experience because they were everywhere! Both bedrooms, my office, and the master bedroom. I can see why people like to leave the house during a process like this, but I really wanted to be here for quality control – and it’s a good thing I was.
I won’t share the process for each window because it was pretty repetitive!
The Privacy Glass Mix Up:
As I mentioned, because the new windows extended much lower, I wanted privacy glass for the lower half (which opens). I chose the Rain design, because I’ve always loved that style of glass plus I thought the texture would pair well with the faux bois stamped metal siding. I had a conversation with the owner about which glass I wanted, but then I was nervous about him getting the details right, so I followed up with an email confirming everything – and good thing I did! He had ordered the Frost with no recollection of our decision so I forwarded our email correspondence and it will get replaced (soon, I hope) at no charge. The Frost is pretty and I tried to live with it, but the Rain is so gorgeous I just really want it.
During the same discussion about the privacy glass, I ordered custom vinyl window jambs. When we ordered windows, I said the #1 thing that bugged me was the painted jambs (or window sills) because Szuka rests her face on them all day and so they need to be cleaned a lot. Plus they always needed to be repainted because moisture caused them to peel. Vinyl would be easier to clean – and no maintenance! Well, the company just went ahead and did them with cheap MDF! I was so irritated – that would have been my last choice. Luckily, I had my email correspondence to prove it but I decided to just keep it instead of having it all ripped out, although I’ve been told I won’t be charged. One day I’d like to replace them, but we’ll just do it ourselves. At that point, I really wanted everyone out, lol!
The Lake Side Windows:
The lakeside windows went a little more smoothly – the same sizes went in, except instead of casement style they are almost all fixed picture windows now. In the kitchen and the fish room, the windows are now the same (one was casement, the other awning) so the ends of the house have great symmetry. Sadly, one frame was damaged on install so come spring it will get replaced. The end windows (kitchen and fish room) also arrived incorrectly (fixed, not awning) but that’s been replaced already – yay!
Switching from casement to picture windows has been amazing! Especially because the middle one didn’t actually open. We only ever used the one closest to the fireplace, but otherwise they just blocked the view. Pardon the crummy iPhone photo, but you can really see the difference:
The Wood Rot Problem:
The crazy thing is that we had some minor leaking in the bedroom but major wood rot on this side. The middle window was barely in there. I could have sworn I saw it wiggle once before they were replaced, but I thought I was losing it. Nope! The windows were super loose. So it is a GOOD THING we decided to replace them, and it was worth the hassle.
The Window Capping Outside:
Outside, all of the windows were capped with framed with wood which was capped in metal. I could also choose that (the width/color), and I chose pretty chunky dimensions because we’re not putting any shutters or anything back on.
New Windows, Before/After Inside:
Now you’ve seen the grubby, in-progress photos, here’s a look at how different rooms look with larger windows – excluding the powder room. We’re working in there right now on some projects so I don’t have a good photo…yet!
So, we still need to get some things sorted but I have been so anxious to share the before/process/after photos. I wanted to wait for it to be “done”. But that will take forever. It’s been quite the journey, but I love having larger, newer, fresher windows!
If you’re getting new windows, here are my tips to make it less stressful:
- Visit multiple show rooms – even if you have a preferred installer/manufacturer – because you pick up little tidbits from each salesperson.
- Check for government energy rebates (we saved $100 per window) and make sure you do the preparation ahead (like a consultation, etc) to get the refund.
- Make a list of what you like/dislike about your windows and have measurements ready when you get quotes.
- Don’t forget about blinds – because our windows are so large, I had to order custom blinds (a few inches smaller would have saved me money).
- Have everything in writing about sizes/styles etc. Follow up phone calls with emails or text messages.
- Budget extra time and extra money – but definitely extra time! Windows break, are ordered incorrectly… Life happens!
- Move the furniture out the way in preparation and take down any window coverings ahead of time.
- If the bathrooms are getting new windows, having a bathroom plan for yourself (just in case – like a neighbor).
- Gather old blankets and invest in your own tarps. These guys came with like a few old bed sheets and then proceeded to put tools on my wood furniture. I quickly covered everything!
- Double check the windows with your order before they start cutting holes – confirm sizes and styles with your order sheet.
- Take lots of photos during the process in case any warranty issues arise, because the manufacturer will blame the installer and vice versa. When you say you have photos of the installation, they stop passing buck.
See The Other Exterior Reno Updates Here: