Window Installation Creates Problems | WSJ.com

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My house was all framed and roofed and the windows were installed ? but the siding wasn’t yet on ? when I happened to meet two women at a cocktail party who had recently built new homes. I casually asked them if there was anything they’d learned.

There’s no such thing as casual conversation when you’re building a home. It turns out that both women had been involved in lawsuits because of leaking windows that they say were improperly installed.

Window installation has become more of a problem as houses have become more energy efficient. Windows used to be installed leaving a gap for air flow to occur. Now they are completely sealed. While less cold drafts occur, the reduction in air means any water that gets in can’t evaporate, making leaks more of a problem.

Window makers’ warranties typically don’t cover installation ? only the window itself is covered and only if the window is installed using an approved and recommended method. That means if windows leak around the edges because of improper installation, the window manufacturer won’t pay for repairs. And if the contractor doesn’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions, the window maker won’t pay for any kind of damage to the window either.

Oh, and unless you ask, it is unlikely your contractor will tell you what installation method they’re using.

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The women at the party shared their horror stories: Theresa Rockove, who manages her husband’s medical practice, built a 5,000 square foot, $1 million two-level home in Troutdale, Ore., finished in August 2005. The following winter she noticed a smoke alarm was shorting out; it turned out to be all wet. Soon more windows started leaking. She hired Western Architectural, a national waterproofing consulting company that inspects the weather and structural integrity of residential and commercial buildings. Western Architectural found the flashings — the material, usually metal or plastic, installed to prevent water from penetrating — hadn’t been properly installed. It took nine months, a second mortgage and living in only part of the house, but finally Ms. Rockove had the damage repaired and settled a lawsuit with her builder for $250,000. The builder could not be reached for comment.

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