Deck Railings for Summer Safety

Deck Railings for Summer SafetyDeck railings are available in a wide variety of styles, materials, and designs; but when it comes down to it, all deck railings are meant to perform the same job no matter what they look like. A deck is a great place to hang out or entertain when the weather’s warm. Deck railings are there to make sure that large objects don’t fall off the deck and injure someone below; they’re also designed to keep a small stumble from turning into a 15 foot drop.

Making the most of a Deck Wall
The exterior wall of the house that the deck is built onto can be a great asset. Anchoring the railing to the deck wall is a way to increase the stability of the railing. The deck wall is also a good place to install outdoor lighting. Though this wall will often have a small light already in place, putting up additional lights is often a necessity for safety and nighttime card games, alike.

Deck Railings and Building Code
As building codes vary greatly from place to place, make sure to check out what it is in your area before you shop for materials. In most places, deck railings are supposed to be a certain height, and the balusters need to be spaced at certain intervals, but in some cases, what you build your railings out of is also an issue. Deck railings around a pool will often be subject to different codes, as well.

Comparing Deck Railing Materials
Of course, the most common material used for this type of railing is wood, and it is often the same type of wood used to build the deck itself. However, because the amount of lumber used for deck railings is far less than what is used for the deck, some people opt for a more exotic wood as an accent.

Railings, especially those on stairs, will come into contact with a lot of hands. This makes them splinter territory. No matter what you build the deck out of, make sure that the railings are constructed of a durable wood that is sealed and treated to prevent splintering.

A safe railing needs to be strong enough to not budge if a person falls into it. For this reason, many homeowners choose metal railings or metal reinforcements for wood railings.

Composite and plastic lumber decking is becoming more and more common as people become more environmentally conscious. These materials can certainly be used to create the railings, as well. The problem here is that these materials haven’t been popular for very long, so it is hard to say what their performance will be like over many years. If you are thinking of using plastic or composite for your railing material, check with the manufacturer about which of their models has tested best (and about the warranty, too).

The Best Look
The last, but certainly not the least thing, to consider is how will your deck railings look in conjunction with your house. There aren’t any concrete rules here, but those who are thinking about painting the railings (or leaving them unfinished) should do some research on the various materials available. Some will take paint or stain extremely well, while others can hold up for decades without any finish at all.

Windows: Let the Light Shine In!

Windows, more than almost any other feature, give a modern home its personality. When homebuyers are asked to describe a home they’ve toured, they usually include references to light in their description. Women in particular seem highly attuned to the levels of natural light in a home.

Advances in window technology have made it possible for homeowners to greatly increase the number and size of windows without getting clobbered with higher energy bills. Modern windows are either double- or triple-glazed (meaning they have two or three layers of glass rather than one).

New Window Styles

While it usually makes economic sense to replace old, inefficient windows, many folks opt to go a step further and add or enlarge windows. A truly dramatic effect can be achieved by installing semi-circular palladium windows on top of traditional rectangular windows. There are even windows that go around corners to allow for a bright corner view unbroken by framing.

Many people are also installing skylights or roof windows. Early skylights were prone to leaking. Modern, top-of-the-line skylights that are carefully installed by a professional can be expected to remain water-tight for a long, long time. If you are considering skylights for your home, don’t skimp. In the long run, you’ll be glad you went with the best.

Energy Efficiency

Modern windows rely on a wide array of technologies to achieve a level of energy efficiency as high as five times that of traditional windows. All that technology can also be confusing. Terms like “low-E glass” and “argon gas” don’t mean much to the average consumer. Any firm making a presentation to you about windows is likely to use dozens of such terms. Fortunately, there is a simpler way to evaluate different windows.

An organization called the National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC) has developed a rating system based on the U-factor. Most windows now carry this rating, so it’s becoming easy to make comparisons. You want the lowest U-factor possible. When you talk to different vendors, ask them about their window’s U-factor rating. You can also look for the NFRC label. Use the U-factor to compare not only the window’s energy efficiency, but its construction quality as well. It simply isn’t possible for a manufacturer to achieve a low U-factor rating without using high quality materials and precision manufacturing techniques.

Choosing Installers

Choosing the right firm to install your windows is at least as important as choosing the right window. The window must be installed absolutely level and square in order to perform at the level indicated on its rating label. It’s also important that the gaps left around the frame be carefully insulated before the trim is reinstalled.

Another issue to consider is the type of sash. Some windows don’t open at all. Because they are useless as an avenue of escape during a fire, these windows should be used sparingly. However, they are by far the most energy efficient, and are ideal for high, out-of-reach locations. The next most efficient closing style is the kind that swing or crank out. When you close these windows, the window sash presses against a pliable piece of weather-stripping. When completely closed, the compressed weather-strip forms a very effective seal.

Window Materials

Least efficient are the traditional sliding sashes. A tight seal makes the window hard to slide, so the seals are left intentionally loose. Over time the seal becomes even looser. While most people focus on energy savings, the savings on maintenance can be even higher. Most replacement windows are made from wood or vinyl. Vinyl windows never have to be painted inside or out. In any painting project, whether interior or exterior, the most expensive part is the windows. Painting all those frames and mullions takes time. With vinyl windows you’ll save 30-50 percent off your painting costs. The combination of vinyl windows and vinyl siding can eliminate the need for exterior painting entirely.

Some people prefer the natural look of wood. From an energy standpoint it works as well as vinyl. From a maintenance cost perspective it is inferior to vinyl. If you want the wood look, check out the fake woods first. If they aren’t the look you want, by all means go for real wood. For you, the higher maintenance costs may be justified by more pleasing aesthetics.

Financing

Because modern replacement windows can have such a dramatic impact on the appearance of a home both inside and outside, and because they can generate substantial long run savings, they are excellent candidates for financing. You can get the improvement you seek now and offset monthly payments with both energy and maintenance savings. If you use a loan secured by your home, it is likely that you’ll realize tax savings as well.

Double-Paned Window Repair

We can’t tell you what to do about your kids when they send that baseball flying into your double-paned window, but we can tell you what to do to repair the window. Of course, what we tell you may not make you any happier with the situation, either.

Once the glass has broken in your double-paned window the factory seal goes with it. This means simply replacing the glass won’t recreate the insulating properties that once were. You may be able to remove the window and reinstall it yourself, but you’ll still need to send the window back to the manufacturer to regain the earlier benefits.

DIY Double-Paned Window Repair

Repairing a double-paned window is almost never completely a DIY project, but you may be able to cut some corners and reduce the cost of the repair. Depending on the style of your window, you may be able to remove the entire window sash. This sash may then be taken to a window repair specialist. This specialist will be able to examine your window panel and, from the size and thickness, order and install the new window in the old frame. Manufacturers can vary on price and high-performance windows, such as low-E glass or gas-filled glass, may need to be special ordered.

Talk to multiple window repair contractors to find the best price on the installation and the glass itself. Also, talk to the contractor about any tips on removing and replacing the sash into your window opening. This will help you determine if the project is beyond your skill. Keep in mind, as well, that some manufacturers won’t honor warranties unless the window is installed by a professional. Having a contractor come to your home may double or triple the cost of the repair, but in many cases, it’s still worth it. Your new window should last you a long time, and it’ll save you a bunch of time and headaches.

The Cost of Repairing Double-Paned Windows

Knowing that the price of repairing your double-paned window can vary probably doesn’t give you a definite idea of what to expect. The glass itself may range from $30 to well over $100. Having a window specialist install the window at his or her shop is probably going to set you back at least another $30 to $60, and if you need to have someone come out to your home to replace a quality, double-paned window, plan on the total repair cost to easily surpass the $200 mark.

Other Problems 

Of course, having your kid throw a hardball through the window isn’t the only thing that can go wrong with your double-paned windows. Through age and high moisture content, the factory seal can become broken on its accord. Often, your window will fog up when this has happened. You’ll still need to have the window repaired by a specialist to regain the seal, but sometimes this can be done without removing the window from the sash. With this time of disrepair, in particular, you should first check to see if the window is under warranty before hiring the services of a window repair contractor.

Install Window Hardware

Before you can install window hardware, you must first choose the window hardware that’s best for your windows. This may sound like an easier job than what it actually is. By the time you’ve selected a double-glazed, low E glass replacement window, you’ll probably feel like you’ve made all the decisions you need, when you’ve just scratched the surface. Window design and hardware have more options than window glaze, and the choices are a lot less cut and dry. Some designs are more complicated but allow for greater window operating flexibility. Simpler designs, on the other hand, may have fewer parts that can deteriorate and require repair.

Window Hardware Basics
This is far from a comprehensive list, but here are a few common window hardware items that you may be dealing with, depending on the type of window you decide you want. Most homeowners, naturally, are looking for window hardware and window companies that will install windows that have the least likelihood of falling into disrepair.

  • A crank arm is a finger-length rod used to open steel case windows.
  • A butterfly window-opening device is similar to a crank arm but smaller and ideal for windows that have shades that hang inside the sill. This device can be a straight arm or rounded.
  • Window locks and latches can be sliding locks, padlocks, hook locks, or key locks.
  • Window sash and balance design that keeps your sliding window operating smoothly.

Window Hardware Professionals
Any number of people can offer advice on your window hardware. Even your neighbor probably has a reasonable amount of experience with different windows throughout the years. Architects have a general knowledge of home structural design, including windows, but probably lack the specific expertise to choose between different window hardware options. Interior designers are great sources of information and advice on any number of home design options, but you’ll need to find a designer who has knowledge in the function and performance of window hardware, not just its appearance. Window installation professionals are probably your best bet for an expert opinion on window hardware.

Curtain Hardware/Drapery Hardware
Hardware of this type is also sometimes referred to simply as window treatment hardware. As counterintuitive as it may seem, there are probably more types of curtain and drapery hardware available than standard window hardware. The reason for this is simple. More than a simple curtain rod, many homeowners want their curtain hardware to be invisible. Holdbacks, swag holders, and drapery pins are just some of the mechanisms that can create invisible curtain hardware. Even visible or partially visible curtain and drapery hardware is available in a number of different designs and finishes to match your home decor.