Advice on windows, doors and other openings
Deciding on windows
In today’s world, we have a tremendous choice in windows. A typical window, three feet wide and five feet tall, for a home, can be framed in aluminum, wood or various plastics. Not only do we have a choice of window frame material, but we have a choice of single pane, single-strength glass, double-strength glass, plate glass, tempered glass, dual panel and more.
The least expensive window is mass produced and sold at the local lumber yard. Its materials generally include aluminum and double-strength glass. From there, we can add twin glass for thermal resistance. Then of course, we have various options for tinting, low E inserts and more.
In window choosing, budget should be considered. If budget is of no consequence, some of the new windows with vinyl coverings make a lot of sense. If budget is of small consequence, then the window of choice may be the all-wood window frame.
The window of choice for me is the vinyl window. I like the vinyl window better than straight aluminum because it does not sweat as much. Also available is a vinyl clad aluminum.
Satisfying code requirements
Another major concern is the shape of the window. Code requires that a bedroom window be of a size that allows egress in and out of the bedroom by a firefighter with an oxygen pack, and that allows occupants to exit in an emergency. Bedroom windows must have 5.7 square feet of clear area when the window is opened. The smallest dimension cannot be smaller than 20 inches, and the lowest part of the window must be no higher than 42 inches above the floor.
These code sizes are well known, so window manufacturers can tell if their particular windows meet that code.
Custom windows cost more
What I call round tops are popular today. They are either half-round or elliptical shape and placed at the top of a regular, rectangular window. To avoid sticker shock, price these before construction begins. It is not unusual to find the 3050 bedroom window at a price of $80 to $100, but then learn that its companion round top costs more than $400.
Often, the feel and look of a round top can be faked by constructing the round top, but not inserting the window. Instead, a false window, made of stucco or some other material can be inserted.
It is most important that the new builder spend time pricing windows. Windows can often make or break a budget. In my opinion, if you want the best window for a home, purchase standard windows, vinyl frames, double pane, with low E film already in place. These can be purchased for slightly more than the cheapest window, and they will last with less maintenance than most others.
Very few people come into your house, walk around and say, “I love your windows,” and mean the windows’ construction. They may like the position, they may like the view, but very few examine the structure of the window.
Use or purpose
The window’s use or purpose must also be considered. Large windows are for spectacular views or for other people to look into. But small windows are all that is needed to look out.
If you have a view of the Teton Mountains, you want a large window. But if the view is limited to your neighbor’s house, a small window suffices. If you plan on putting drapes over the windows and never opening them, then why bother with windows, especially big ones.
On the other hand, if you are building a storefront and you want people to see in as they drive by, then you need big windows.
Another reason for windows is ventilation. Windows used for ventilation should be opposite each other to allow breezes to blow through.
In general, we put windows that are too large and too numerous in our homes. They leak a lot of heat. They leak a lot of energy. They are in need of constant cleaning and are often very expensive.
Another type of window is the skylight or roof window. But again, we have to be careful not to get too big. An 18-inch skylight lets in a lot of light and a lot of heat. If we are in an area that needs serious air conditioning, we should probably go with a reflective, mirrored type skylight.
A solar tube is another alternative. It’s a skylight on top with a silverized tube leading to a skylight on the bottom. In any case, we strongly recommend you consider the translucent skylight rather than the clear. The sun forms a shaft as it goes through the clear skylight, creating one very bright spot in the house. But the translucent skylight scatters the light throughout an area. It seems to provide more light even though some is lost in the scattering.
But skylights can be horrible in cold climates. Internal moist air dumps condensation on the skylight that drips back into the house. We call these condensate leaks, but they are not leaks at all. They are just condensation of enough volume to give the homeowner fits. If skylights are used, condensation will most likely result at one time or another. Condensation can be gathered either by a bucket, a bowl, or a permanent drain. If a permanent drain is desired, it should be factored into the cost of the skylight.
Spend the time to learn about windows. Cost is not always the best indicator of quality.
Note: This article combines information, including dollar amounts, from two articles we published in 2004.
Dome Openings: How to add a window or door to a Monolithic Dome
By Kris Garrison
In a Monolithic Dome, the type of window or door opening and its placement depends on the dome’s design and its function. Here are the basic four types of openings most commonly used:
An augment is an extension of the Airform that creates a vertical surface beyond the curve of the dome where a door or window can be installed.
Proper planning results in smooth augments. Therefore, it’s important to know the exact measurements of all windows and doors before the Airform is patterned.
Augments increase the cost of the Airform, but that increased cost often gets offset by much easier window installation. Not only are the windows easier to install, but they become more tornado-resistant than standard dormer types, they provide more interior space, and they will not rot, burn or attract termites.
Augments are created using Monolithic’s standard dome construction techniques.
The primary reason for an augmentation is to make the Monolithic Dome Airform upright or vertical at the edge of the window, providing a vertical area for doors or windows. The Monolithic crew and engineers have improved the augmentation process by developing a simple and easy-to-assemble rounded corner buck. Rounded bucks, when done properly, produce a near-wrinkle-free augmentation at the juncture of the door or window.
Cutouts: Inset or Outset
An inset opening is designed to fit inside the line of the dome. In other words, the opening is set back within the dome. During construction, the Aiform is marked for a cutout, and no foam or concrete is sprayed there. Once the dome is solid, the Airform is cut out, creating the needed opening.
Disadvantages: Inset openings take up floor space, and they can require more maintenance, such as painting and/or control of termites, rot, mold, etc.
An outset opening is similar to an inset, but a conventional structure such as a dormer is added to the dome’s exterior, and then the window or door is placed within the conventional addition.
Cylinder openings or Gothic arches
Cylinder openings can create a Gothic Arch entry or can function as a connector between domes.
An Airform inherently wants to inflate round. A cylinder also wants to inflate round. A cylinder entry is easy to construct when a partial cylindrical Airform is used to create the shape.
A gothic entry is created by propping the center of a partial-cylindrical Airform while it’s being constructed. The gothic entry can be cut out at an inward angle or an outward angle. Each give the building a different look.
Skylights provide light, ventilation and a view of starry skies.
In most Monolithic Domes, round skylights with diameters of 18 to 24 inches work best. Although not large, they let in more light than expected.
Skylights do not have to be round. VeLux skylights or roof windows are operable and designed especially for sloped roofs. They also meet code requirements for egress in bedrooms.