Windows Done Right

At the HGTV Dream Home in Sonoma, Calif., more than forty Jeld-Wen double-hung windows have been installed. With this many windows, proper insulation and alignment is critical. Builder Bruce Lee practices proven techniques for proper window installation.

To get to this point in the project, first the framing of the two-by-six exterior walls was completed, then the half-inch 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 the window installation process.

Q: How important is it to install windows properly?
A: 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, and if you don't seal windows properly, you could have water get into your house very easily.

Q: Negative air pressure means the water gets sucked into the house?
A: Negative air pressure is where the pressure inside the house is less than the outside pressure so it draws air through any hole. It's really important to keep them sealed and installed properly.

Q: What does sealed and installed properly mean?
A: 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 you'd 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, and the casing is three-and-a-half inches wide, when they're side-by-side like this it gets in the way. So what we have to do is trim the casing, and we have to trim the sill.

Q: They give you an extra sill because they don't know how big of a sill you want?
A: They're not sure of the application of each window and where they go, so they make allowances for that.

Q: Did you dry fit every window at the same time? You dry fit them because their relationship to each other was important to you?
A: 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.

Q: And before you put them back in, you do what?
A: 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.

Q: What do you mean prep the sill? What does that mean?
A: 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.

Q: Then what do you do?
A: We put the window in, and once we've caulked the back of the casing, we're ready to set the window. And 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.

Q: So nailing it off is what?
A: Nailing off is the final part of the window. It's secured in the opening now.

Q: At that point, you're committed?
A: Once it's all nailed off, then you're ready to start installing the exterior trim.

Q: How will the user enjoy the craftsmanship and the particular attention to detail? What does that mean to the user?
A: 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 these windows so it flows really well.

Q: Show me what you mean and prove to me that these are done right.
A: Well, after these windows have been installed, the drywall has been done already on the inside, and 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. We've got the same reveal on each one of them.

Once Lee set the windows his team installed the trim, seal, apron, headpiece and the crown. The windows were shipped with a protective film that protects the glass not only during shipping, but also during installation and construction.

Q: And that'll stay on for quite awhile, won't it?
A: 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.