Our blog is a bit behind our progress on the house, so the window installation actually happened a little while ago, but hey, when it comes down to a choice between researching for the next phase and writing about the stuff we’ve already done, researching usually wins out.
Anyways, in March we got our eight windows installed. As we mentioned in an earlier post and in our introduction to Tiny Roots, we planned to use all reclaimed windows. We managed to get all but one of our windows from Habitat for Humanity ReStores, Craigslist, or manufacturer/distributor boneyards. We ended up with a couple extra as our plans evolved over time, so we’ll be able to sell those to cover the cost of the one we bought new.
After all the hard work we put into wrapping our house, let me tell you, it felt wrong to go and cut holes in the Tyvek.
Material Notes and Lessons*
We had windows from several different manufacturers, so I spent some time looking at different window installation instructions for each of them, as well as a fair share of YouTube videos and Andrew Morrison’s tiny house video. Since our windows are reclaimed, we didn’t have to worry about voiding our warranty, but window manufacturers tend to provide pretty clear instructions about installation. However, if you look at different brands, they each have their own particulars. On top of that, none of them are specifically for tiny houses, so we had to take all the information and pull out what made sense for us. For example, manufacturers recommend using roofing nails at specific intervals in the nail fin found on new construction windows. However because of the movement expected for a tiny house, other tiny house builders recommend screws. Screws also allow you to more easily remove the window should the need arise in the future.
That said, we used screws and found them slightly frustrating to work with. The track on the screw would catch on the sides of the nail fin and pull the window out of level as we screwed it in. This was cause for some unsavory language and high tempers throughout the process. I don’t know that nails would have been better in the long run, but at the time, we sure wished we’d had some.
We chose two products for flashing: Grace Vycor for the sides and top, and DuPont FlexWrap for the sill plate. We were fortunate to find the FlexWrap for cheap from a retiring contractor on Craigslist.
We found the FlexWrap to be a fantastic product. The paper backing comes off in two different strips, so you can peel off the first section, place it on the sill plate and about 6 inches up the sides, then peel off the second section and fold it down the outside and out at the corners. The material stretches so you fan it out at the corners rather than trying to layer straight strips of the standard flashing material. We highly recommend it if you can find it, especially at a discounted price.
While the FlexWrap bends around corners nicely, we read that the tension can sometimes pull up at the corners over time, so we tried a trick mentioned in an online video. We used small nails with plastic heads to tack down the corners.
The most important thing to remember when installing windows or any object that requires a hole in your structure: always place your materials in a way to allow water to flow OUT of the structure. As with the Tyvek house wrap, we layered everything from the bottom up so that water coming from above would be pushed out away from the structure via the shingle pattern. The side flashing goes on before the top flashing. One layer of top flashing goes down, then the Tyvek flap, then another layer of top flashing slightly higher. Always try to create a pathway for the water to flow out.
We chose a silicone based caulk to further weatherproof our windows. We placed this behind the fin around the top and sides of the windows. Note that we didn’t place caulk along the bottom of the window because if water does get in, you want it to have a place from which to drain.
We used Great Stuff Window and Door formula to seal/insulate the gaps around the windows once installed. Some of our gaps weren’t very large and from our reading online, the normal Great Stuff formula can bend windows out of shape . The specific window and door formula is more flexible so it won’t put nearly the amount of pressure on the window frame as it expands.
Tool belts were invaluable in this process! We had a couple larger windows that required us to be on ladders. Trying to maneuver a heavy window, drill, screws, caulk, flashing, utility knife and yourself while 12 feet in the air is no joke. Seriously. USE A TOOLBELT.
The whole window installation process took us a few days to complete because we were being cautious and learning as we went, as usual. If you have fewer windows or more experience, it will go much faster I’m sure. Overall, windows were challenging because: 1) getting anything perfectly level is generally challenging, 2) see the note about tool belts, 3) they are major holes you purposefully put in your house and therefore highly prone to water infiltration. We tried to do as much research as possible, but reading is not the same as doing. That said, we have windows and very much look forward to the light and beautiful scenery they will bring into our house.
*We decided not to provide a step by step guide to installing windows. There are plenty of resources online and from each window manufacturer. Also, we aren’t experts by any means.
**If you buy new windows, definitely follow the manufacturer’s installation directions. In most cases, not following them will result in a voided warranty if anything does go wrong.