You Didn’t Have to Cut Me Off

Sorry, Gotye, but we wanted to.  Had to.  Did.  Cut concrete, that is.  For the basement windows to pass egress in the basement bedrooms at our first house, Ben hired a concrete cutting company.  When we decided to cut this concrete, we knew who to call.  A $300-400 bid wasn’t bad at all, so we made our appointment and got started a week later.  The process was interesting, and not only to the boys.  First, a metal guide gets bolted to the concrete.

Then the giant saw gets set in the track, hooked up to hoses, and starts cutting.

Following the guide, the saw moves on its own.  The guy, Pete, adjusted it along the way and changed directions until it cut completely through.

Once the bottom was cut, he switched the guides and cut the sides.  A nice shove and the concrete fell to the ground.

Over the weekend Ben and Sammy framed out the opening for a sliding door and double hung window.

Having installed a door and several windows made this easier and they had the new window and door in before the evening.

It’s a little more finished looking than last time, right?

And certainly different than what we started with.

Now the sliding doors are at the same height.

No more climbing up three steps to get to the wet bar, then down three more to get to the patio.  The back yard is looking worse than ever, but that means we’re one step closer to rebuilding.  Just a little more excavating, cutting down a tree, and waiting for spring to get started on our plans.  Speaking of plans, I figured it was time to share the ideas we’ve been tossing around.

(not to scale, just to give a picture)

Oye, that’s a lot to take in.  Let me explain.  Because our house is built on rock, there’s no way we could drill a well to water grass.  We’re far too cheap to pay for city water for green grass.  And Montana is too dry (especially this year) to keep grass green.  So, a large concrete patio should minimize dirt/dust in the house while giving us a space to relax.    Centered on the family room sliding door will be a pergola.  I’m thinking something simple and more modern than traditional.  Perhaps we’ll have an outdoor dining table under or we could go more toward an outdoor living room.  We’ll see where we land.  The rock stairs to no where will stay.

Some of the sandstone boulders we dug out will be used as a natural retaining wall.  But we carved out a larger area for a waterfall feature and a gas fire pit.

I’m thinking something rectangular like this bordering on the patio with moveable bench seating for maximum enjoyment.

A small stream will meander down the hillside to a waterfall with hidden storage pond below.  Hidden meaning we’ll use holding tanks to recirculate and keep an open pond from looking gross/filled with rocks deposited by little boys.

In the surrounding areas, we’ll add crushed limestone to further cut down on the dirt.  Drought resistant plants are on our list to add life and greenery.  Because the back yard connects to the driveway, a wooden walking path, or boardwalk, will connect the patio to a set of stairs down to the driveway.

Of course this is all subject to change as we gather inspiration, search out materials, and take measurements.

Yep, we’re officially crazy, but it should be totally awesome when we’re done.  My pergola dreams will be fulfilled.  What do you think?  What’s your dream for an outdoor space?  Are you already planning your spring landscape duties?

Green = Green: Window Shopping…Literally

Right now, replacing windows at the back of the house is the focus for a few reasons.  It’s small, not highly visible, and one of the windows by the sliding door had only the inner pane of glass.  Somehow, the previous owner shattered the outside pane, leaving us with this:

Then we went on a hunt for the perfect windows.  In a Utopian world, we could have black windows.  Unfortunately for us, black windows would fade easily on the south-facing front of our house.  So, we’re stuck with white.  Cohesion is the name of the game, so we want the windows to match.  Ideally, Ben wants windows that allow high solar heat gain on the front of the house.  It seems US companies don’t often make these windows.

After checking tons of companies (Anderson and Pella to name a few) we landed right where we did six years ago.  Alside white vinyl sliding and double hung windows; same brand and same line (UltraMaxx) we used at our first house.  Alside makes custom sizes and the prices are about half of the other brands.  We had six years to live with these at the other house and no complaints.  Vinyl is low maintenance, not needing paint or stain.

So what makes these windows green?  Well, they’re Energy Star rated, for starters.

These windows also seal tightly, preventing air infiltration.  Which means your heater or air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard to keep up temperature.

For sunny climates, the solar heat gain coefficient is great.

Aside from the eco standpoint, the windows function well.  Sliding windows open smoothly and quietly.  And the double hung windows allow us to open the top and/or bottom for maximum air flow.

Our slider picture slider windows also have a fun feature.  The picture window also slides and all panels are completely removable.  Cleaning the windows is super easy because of this.  And, if you’ve got a large piece of furniture that won’t fit through the door, pull out all panels and you’ve got a large opening.

The hardware isn’t ugly, either.

We’ll use the same windows throughout the rest of the house, too.  Maybe not the front windows, but we’ll have to see what we can find for those.

Do you have a favorite window brand?  I know some people swear by Anderson.  Are you looking for the perfect window?

P.S.  We were not compensated or perked for this post, we simply love the windows we’ve purchased and want to share with you.

Laboring on Labor Day

Nope, not pregnant.  No new baby here.  I’m talking about windows.  Now that all most of the windows are in, let’s go inside to take a look at the difference the new windows have made.  First, check out the kitchen in all it’s 70’s wallpapered, oak, bay window goodness.

And now with the sliding white window.

Making this window flat lets in so much more light, and the window seems bigger without dividing it into three sections.  Oh, and the fact this window actually opens.  Go figure.  The same can be said for the breakfast nook window.  Before, V and E used the bay window as their personal dance floor/kitchen/play room.

Despite shortening the window, I think it feels more open.  Perhaps not having a mass of dark oak helped?  Whatever it is, I’m liking it.

Just a breath of fresh air to see a lighter, brighter kitchen.  Removing the ugly wallpaper definitely helped.

In the family room, we replaced the two stationary side lights with shorter double hung windows.  Hooray for air flow.  For some reason, I always feel guilty putting furniture in front of windows.  So this arrangement works better for us.

Also, I think the shorter windows feel more intentional and less like “this is a door, but let’s just take off the handles and no one will know.”   The window height actually matches, instead of looking like someone scored a lot of assorted windows on Craigslist and made it work.

Oh, and these windows and doors are so quiet to open and close.  The old door squeaked and squealed.  Ben is a ninja leaving in the mornings now, sneaking out the quiet door.

While window shopping, we discovered most energy-efficient windows have a low visible transmittance thanks to the UV blocking coatings.  This concerned us, because about 50 or 60 percent of light makes it into the house.  Luckily, we don’t see a drastic difference.

To gain egress in the bedrooms, our city requires 5.7 square feet with a minimum opening of 24 inches tall by 20 inches wide within 44 inches of the floor.  The original height of the bedroom windows was fine, but our casement windows only opened about 18 inches by 4 feet.

To use the same brand and line of windows throughout, our only option was a large (4 foot wide by 66 inch tall) double hung window.

Luckily, our windows sit about 19 inches off the floor, so we didn’t have to use tempered glass.  Wahoo for saving a little money.

These are my favorite windows.  I love the cute courtyard feel of the back yard.

And from outside, the windows are almost the same size.

No more awkward bay windows bumping out, either.

Ben used three layers of 2 by 4s to get the windows out.  When he wraps the house in insulation, the siding will sit flush with the edge of the window.  Using the 2 by 4s is a simple and strong way to support the windows while extending for the future insulation layers.

Now to get the insulation on the outside and frame the windows on the inside.  Of course we’ll keep you updated on our progress.

What do you think of the new windows?  Have you gotten new windows recently?  Did it make a world of difference?  Both in looks and monthly savings?