Tom Shafer

Buried in the basement? Replace the windows

November 22, 2011

When replacing windows, a lot of homeowners seem to forget about their basement. Unless you have something you want to keep buried down there, you should think seriously about replacing your basement windows, too.

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Many older homes still have the thin-framed aluminum, single-pane basement windows the builder installed. A concrete block supplier often provided builders with these no-frills windows, which were usually long and narrow–32-inches wide-by-18-inches, -22-inches or -27-inches high. Typically, the old basement windows tilted in and locked with a simple hook-and-eye. They usually didn't include screens. If you still have windows like these, you've been in the dark too long.

Styles for basement replacement windows

Window styles for basements are often one of these three:

  1. Hoppers. The original windows were probably hoppers. On a hopper, the sash pivots at the bottom, and the top of the window tilts open into the room. Most hoppers also have hardware included that allows the sash to be reversed and pivot at the top.
  2. Awnings. An awning is the opposite of a hopper. Awning windows pivot at the top and open out at the bottom. They are particularly effective, since they can be open when it rains. They keep the rain from coming in at the same time they provide ventilation.
  3. Sliders. This is a popular style for basement windows, especially in the Northeast. Open, they allow ventilation but do not take up space by opening into the room like hoppers.

All of the replacement styles mentioned above are available these days with screens.

Security features

Today's basement windows have die-cast metal hardware that has passed forced-entry tests. New security products, such as laminated glass, or Thermal Industries' double-skinned, acrylic sheet called Exolite, can take the place of breakable glass.

Glass block windows are also an effective choice where both security and privacy are needed, but where you want daylight to penetrate. Louvers with screens can be built into glass block basement windows to allow ventilation, as can dryer vents.

Energy-saving glass

Glass packages include low-e coatings and may qualify the windows for an Energy-Star rating. You can select from argon gas-filled units with dual or triple-panes and low-e glass on two surfaces. Weather stripping is usually a wool pile, but many basement windows now use a bulb, especially if water infiltration is a critical issue.

When you replace your windows, don't forget: get rid of those unsightly, energy-wasters down below. Let some light and air into your basement–without compromising on style, security or energy savings.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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