SPECIAL SERIES: Building the 2009 HGTV Dream Home

Windows Done Right

Dry-fitting more than 40 windows pays off in the end

M ore than 40 Jeld-Wen double-hung windows are installed at the HGTV Dream Home in Sonoma, Calif. With this many windows, proper insulation and alignment is critical. Good thing builder Bruce Lee practices proven techniques for proper window installation.

To get to this point in the project, first the framing of the 2x6 exterior walls was completed, then the 1/2-in. plywood went up, and the house was wrapped with building wrap, Lee explains. Following is the conversation between HGTV Dream Home planner Jack Thomasson and Lee, during which Thomasson questions Lee about his window installation process.

Jack Thomasson: How important is it to install windows properly?

Bruce Lee: The reason why they’re so important to install properly is because new construction’s so tight that it creates a negative air pressure in the house. If you don’t seal windows properly, you could have water get into your house very easily.

JT: Negative air pressure means the water gets sucked into the house?
BL: Negative air pressure is where the pressure inside the house is less than the outside air pressure so it draws air in through any hole. It’s really important to keep them sealed and installed properly.
JT: What does sealed and installed properly mean?
BL: Once you’ve finished framing the walls, and you’ve installed the sheeting and then the house wrap, then you would set the windows by putting them in the opening as a dry fit or as a test run. And then you’d take them back out, and caulk around the casing of the window, and that creates something like a gasket.

Explaining the Process

The Jeld-Wen windows come with an extended sill on each side. The casing is 31/2 in. wide; when they’re installed side by side it gets in the way. So the casing needs to be trimmed, and the sill needs to be trimmed.

JT: They give you an extra sill because they don’t know how big of a sill you want?
BL: They’re not sure of the application of each window and where they go, so they make allowances for that.
JT: Did you dry-fit every window at the same time? You dry-fit them because their relationship to each other was important to you?
BL: These seven windows behind me, I actually dry-fit every single one of them. Every window was in each hole, and it was all set like it was installed, and once we determined that worked, then we took them out.
JT: And before you put them all back in, you do what?
BL: Before we put them back in, we prep the sills. If the sills haven’t been prepped, we go to the pan. So we create a pan in there, and then we caulk the back of the window casings, and then we set the window.
JT: What do you mean prep the sill? What does that mean?
BL: Prepping the sill means once you’ve papered the outside, then you come in and you create a pan out of window flashing, and that way if there’s any water that gets behind the window, it gets into the pan and runs out.
JT: Then what do you do?
BL: We put the window in, and once we’ve caulked the back of the casing, we’re ready to set the window. We set the window, and then we determine that we’re OK with that, and we’re ready to nail it off. And then we’re done.
JT: So nailing it off is what?
BL: Nailing off is the final part of the window installation. It’s secured in the opening now.
JT: At that point, you’re committed?
BL: Once it’s all nailed off, then you’re ready to start installing the exterior trim.
JT: How will the user enjoy the craftsmanship and the particular attention to detail? What does that mean to the user?
BL: Well, once you’ve seen these windows complete and all the trim installed, it looks very nice. And you’re not sure why it looks so nice, but it’s because somebody took the time and the effort to make everything perfect. It is the same width in between all these windows so it flows really well.
JT: Show me what you mean and prove to me that these are done right.
BL: Well, after these windows have been installed, the drywall was completed on the inside. We haven’t finished shimming the inside of these jams yet, but you could tell by where we’re at that these windows were set properly.
Once the windows were set, the team installed the trim, seal, apron, headpiece and crown. The windows were shipped with a protective film that protects the glass during shipping, installation and construction.
JT: And that film will stay on for quite awhile, won’t it?
BL: The film will stay on until the very last day when we start cleaning the house. And we’ll pressure-wash this, clean this up, and then it’ll be ready to paint.

Siding with Excellence

In addition to using high-quality siding, it’s critical to do the right thing before and after it’s installed


Once the 45 windows were set in place, it was time to install the siding on the 2009 HGTV Dream Home. The siding is preprimed SFC pine that is kiln-dried, beveled and channeled 1x10s. Redwood trim will provide a nice accent.

“These houses traditionally 100 years ago were all redwood,” says HGTV Dream Home builder Bruce Lee. “Cost, obviously, has played a factor over the years, but we still like to use as much redwood as we possibly can because that’s what sells these houses.”

Attention to detail, as always, is critical in all aspects of high-end home construction. That’s why nail holes in the siding will be invisible when installation is complete. “When I look at details like this, I think, so often builders will just fill that with caulk or not do anything at all. But you guys are taking some extra measures,” says Jack Thomasson, HGTV Dream Home planner.

“That’s what we like to do,” Lee says. “We like to take the one extra step that most builders don’t. The details are what set us apart. Most contractors or developers would just paint over those nails. And back in the traditional homes at the turn of the century, you didn’t see that. They’re all set and puttied. They spent the extra time doing that.”

A similar amount of care will be taken on finishing touches for the porch, Thomasson says. “What will happen is someone will spend time in whatever furniture ends up being out here, and they’ll notice these details. They’ll notice if it’s done right,” he adds.

Someone might not notice the detail work right away, Lee says, “… but down the road they’ll start appreciating it and say, ‘Wow! Look what these guys did.’ Or somebody will point it out to them, and then they’ll really start appreciating their home.”

Details like this can be helpful during resale, Thomasson notes. Homeowners trying to sell their house can point out details like these to prospective buyers, and that makes a big difference, he adds.

Behind the Siding

A quality siding installation is a great feature of any home, but what’s behind the siding is equally important. That’s why Lee uses a few tricks for installing house wrap.

“When you’re installing the house wrap, it’s a good idea to use a straightedge on the inside corners,” Lee explains. “What you want to do is push that into the corner. What that does is provide enough of the house wrap material in that corner so when you install the siding, you’re not ripping that paper. Because if you were to rip that paper, then you’ll have water getting into your house.”

When you have enough paper in the corner, you staple it into place, and then you’re ready to install the siding, Lee says. “House wrap serves many functions, but one most importantly. The primary purpose of the [house wrap] paper is for water-penetration prevention, to keep water out of your house,” he adds.

Softening with stone

Carefully chosen paver stone, mixed with proper installation, can soften the landscape of any home

An important part of the landscape at the 2009 HGTV Dream Home is the hardscaping and how it defines the outdoor living spaces. On the front walk, the back patio and the driveway, architectural pavers create both traditional and functional spaces.

Hayley Kaslar is owner and designer of Legacy Paver Group in Santa Rosa, Calif., a full-service paver installation firm that works with homeowners and architects from design through excavation and installation. Plans call for the paver surfaces to complement the details of the 2009 HGTV Dream Home itself, Kaslar says.

“I think to pour straight concrete in front of this house would have been too stark,” Kaslar explains. “We wanted to find a paver that was tumbled and rustic-looking to match the house, so you maintain an overall Old-World charm. We really wanted to find a paver that would achieve that and would soften the hardscape, and allow the house to sort of pop out and not have this modern, flat concrete in front of it.”

Pavers will give the house a softer look, and the paver design — using a combination of small and large pavers — will create an Old World charm with plenty of character similar to the house, Kaslar says. The same pavers will be used throughout the landscape for a consistent look, but the pattern will change to mix things up.

“In the front of the house, we have the driveway with two paver strips leading up to a turnaround — a parking area in front of the garage. The paver strips will have a strip of grass between them — we’re all about softening the hardscape in front of the house. So the grass between the two parking strips will soften the front. We’ll have a nice, welcoming grand pathway taking us up to the entrance to the house. The pathway will mirror the design layout of the driveway,” Kaslar explains.

“In the back, we’ll probably get a little bit more creative and maybe mix in some of the larger paver sizes into the patio instead of just using them in the border. And again, that will give us a nice, rustic look with a bit of a modern twist, because we’re going to have a nice, built-in barbecue back there. You’ll see a lot more of the back from the inside of the house which will also have a lot of modern features,” she says.

What Lies Beneath

Kaslar says any great product is only as good as its installation, which is why she emphasizes that what is underneath the pavers is as important as the pavers themselves. “What’s underneath the pavers is what’s going to keep this project and installation lasting for a generation, and that is the installation of the base rock,” Kaslar says.

“So, the first thing we do is we cut out the existing surface to the shape that we want about 12 in. down from the surface. And then we’ll roll out a geotechnical fabric which will start the migration of the soil into the base rock. Then we start bringing in the base rock in 2- to 3-in. layers. We’ll compact them, and we’ll repeat that until we get the depth of the base rock that we require — 9 to 12 in. for a driveway and 4 to 6 in. for pedestrian use,” she notes.

Straight lines are ensured by stringing lines along the edge of any paver area. Once the pattern is laid out, concentration is focused on these edges. “We’re doing several different types of borders here, but the standard is to have a border going around the edge. It gives it a cleaner finish,” Kaslar says. “If you finish the driveway with cut pavers, you never really have a nice, perfectly smooth curve or a nice, perfectly straight edge. So we’re using rather large 14-in. by 14-in. pavers on the border, but you can use any style of paver, any shape or size, so long as it’s consistent all the way around the perimeter.”

Once a border type is chosen, a trench is dug along the base rock, which is filled with concrete, she explains. “We will wet-set those perimeter pavers in that, and that is what’s going to stop the pavers from migrating away, which will cause gaps in the center of the installation. So we really need to make sure we have those border pavers set in concrete. And a lot of times, we’ll reinforce it with some rebar, and that will stop the pavers from migrating away and it keeps everything nice and intact.”

Functional benefits of pavers compared to concrete include a resistance to cracking, Kaslar says. “As individual pieces, pavers can withstand more pressure than concrete, which is a solid slab that can buckle and crack. Good installers actually offer a warranty on the installation that you can’t get with concrete. And asphalt really has no value from a cosmetic standpoint, and it crumbles. Once pavers are in, provided they’re installed correctly, they’re not going anywhere.”