Selecting Windows: What’s More Important Than the View?

December 19, 2011

When undertaking the process of having a home custom designed, the question of what windows to select will inevitably come up. While the view and decorative effect of a home’s windows are an important consideration for a homeowner, licensed professional designers, contractors and window suppliers must consider much more.

An associate of mine tells a story about a window manufacturer that he represented in a case brought by homeowners whose home was negatively impacted from leaks at the windows. The homeowners had a beautiful view from their home which was built on the ridge of a mountain. To take advantage of the view, the homeowners asked the architect to incorporate large windows facing west into the design. During the first winter that this family resided in the home, wind driven rain and snow pounded especially hard on the home as it sat unprotected on the ridge.

After some unsuccessful attempts by the general contractor to stop the water and cold air intrusion, a lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit and subsequent trial alleged that the windows were defectively constructed and that the faulty window construction was the cause of the water intrusion. The window manufacturer prevailed at the trial because the windows were proven to be properly manufactured, however they were not designed to withstand the wind exposure, wind speed and impact of the rain and snow at the levels of exposure which occurred at this particular home.

Windows are designed to perform under specific climates and weather conditions. Furthermore, windows are rated, based on performance testing, to withstand effects up to certain measurable pressures. Window manufacturers test windows to determine the extent of wind speed, wind exposure and rain impact that a particular window model can withstand. If a window is placed in an environment which requires the window to withstand elements beyond those which it is designed to perform, the windows will indeed fail. Such failures include frames that break at the joints, failed seals allowing moisture between the window panes, vapor and water intrusion, and air intrusion.

It is the licensed design professional, general contractor and/or window supplier’s responsibility to confirm that the windows are properly rated and manufactured to perform in the conditions at a specific building location.

Even if the windows selected are appropriate, they must be installed correctly. Some window manufacturers install their own windows. Most window fabricators provide installation instructions so that a contractor who is to install the window has sufficient information regarding what is required for the particular windows. Other companies do not provide any installation instructions and instead rely on the contractors to perform the installation properly.

Regardless of the information provided by the window manufacturer, different types of windows require specific installation techniques.

A window installer is often defined as a person who sets, anchors, seals and/or applies flashing to a fenestration product—fenestra by the way is the Latin word for window which generally refers to an opening in a structure—therefore, we are referring to people who install windows, doors or vents. Such tasks can be performed by more than one contractor but ultimately the process is critical to the proper performance of a suitable window for any given building.

Although the homeowner may feel that they are contributing to the selection of their home’s windows, it is ultimately the responsibility of the licensed architect, general contractor, developer as well as the specific contractors performing the actual window installation work, to assure that a properly designed and specified window is properly installed.

This article was written by attorney Glen Van Dyke of the Van Dyke Law Group, which has offices in Truckee, Eldorado Hills, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Van Dyke has represented thousands of residential and commercial property owners and homeowners’ associations in the resolution of disputes over the construction of their homes or buildings. Property owners who have questions about possible legal issues in both California and Nevada can call 877-868-7013.

Media Coverage

Tahoe Bonanza December 22, 2011
Sierra Sun Law Tips & Advice December 23, 2011

News & Resources

Nov 21st, 2016
ABC News: New Home Heartbreak, When Dream Homes Turn Into Nightmares

Nov 2nd, 2016
Residents of Sacramento’s First Net-Zero Energy Community Claim Their Homes May Not be Net Zero After All

January 30th, 2012
Mold Inside Buildings or Homes can Cause Damage Resulting in Lawsuits Part 2

January 23rd, 2012
Mold Inside Buildings or Homes can Cause Damage Resulting in Lawsuits Part 1

January 13th, 2012
Mandatory Arbitrations are a Dangerous Attack on American's Civil Rights

January 9th, 2012
Mediation and Arbitration Provide Alternative Means of Resolving Disputes

January 2nd, 2012
Homeowners Associations Must be Proactive in This Economy Part 2

December 26th, 2011
Homeowners Associations Must be Proactive in This Economy

December 19th, 2011
Selecting Windows: What's More Important Than the View?

December 5th, 2011
Examining Issues Surrounding Uncertain Performance of Green Building Materials

November 28th, 2011
Green Building: Cost and Performance Considerations for Homeowners

November 21st, 2011
Green Building: Buyer Beware

November 7th, 2011
Sign Code Changes on the Horizon

October 31st, 2011
Planning to Erect a Business Sign? Be Sure to Hire a Licensed Sign Contractor

October 24th, 2011
What Should Homeowners Know About Their Local Building Department?

October 10th, 2011
Property Owners: Confirm That Your Design Professionals are Responsible

September 22nd, 2011
Licensed Contractors a Must to Get Projects Done Right

September 1st, 2011
What Does The Building Department Official Do For You Anyway?

July 26th, 2010
Risk and Liability (PDF)

January 15th, 2010
Plaster History and Cracks