Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Egress Windows

According to most residential construction codes, a room must have two exits before it's considered in the room count. If you buy a home with a conventional loan, that really doesn't matter. But if you buy, or sell, a home through any government type loans - VA, Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, etc - they have some rules about emergency egress from rooms and insulation, etc. Now, of course, a door counts as an exit, but windows only count if they are a certain size. They have to be big enough for a man to get through from either side and must have so much clearance on both sides. I'm not going to get into the measurements and such, because that can change depending on where you live, but I'm going to talk about our Egress Window Project.

Now, Isderf and I have been saving our money for a while to do this, since it would cost about $6000 to do it. We did look into doing it ourselves, but by the time we payed for the contractors and dealt with them and then spent the extra time to actually do that project - I felt we were safer just paying someone as I wanted it done before Christmas (see the last blog re: patio). Turns out, I should have just hired out the parts separate, as I ended up acting as the general contractor anyways.

First I want to say, I've dealt with this company in the past and they've been great. My grandparents used them, my other grandmother used them, my neighbors across the street used them, and we used them when we replaced some of our front windows. Turns out, having someone install windows is very different from having them act as a general contractor to have construction done before they install more windows. So having said that, I am not going to give the name of this company. Yes, I was really upset with how they dealt with things and yes it stressed me out a lot, but having given myself time to cool down before I wrote this blog I feel that they still did a great job of installing windows, it was before the installation that we had problems.

Isderf met with the manager of this company while I was still popping my meds, the beginning of May, so I played no part in that. I didn't think it would help to have my input as it was a great possibility that it would have nothing to do with windows at all. They told us it would be about six to eight weeks before they could start and that the project would take about three days.

Around the first of July we started getting phone calls to arrange the installation, so we cleaned out the two bedrooms and pulled back our carpets. The Dig Line was called and my front yard was sprayed with colorful marks all over the place.

The first day, the cement cutters arrived. They would do just about everything, but the windows themselves. They started digging and digging - oh did I mention, that week hit the triple digits and stayed there for a few days and we didn't have A/C.

The guys had only been digging for a few hours when they knocked on my door. Turns out, the gas line wasn't out as far as we thought. Good news, they didn't break it. Bad news, it was in the way of our window well. So now, instead of the cement cutters calling the people who hired them, I'm on the phone back and forth trying to figure out how to deal with this. Should we do a different window? Should we just do one window and come back later for the other or reimburse the cost of one and deal with it much later? It's eventually decided that I'll try Intermountain Gas to see if they can just move the pipe and the cement cutters will start digging the other hole. After a few hours, the rep from the gas company shows up and gives me more news; good, it'll only cost $215 to move it, bad, can't move it until Monday next. Our windows are supposed to be installed and done on Friday!

Our whole project went like this. We had a digger go home after hurting his back. Another had to go home to get his sick child. They refused to dig around the exposed pipe line, so Isderf did it instead.

When they started cutting the cement they determined that part of wood was actually attached to the cement they needed to remove, so everything had to stop and wait for the window guys to come back and determine where it could be cut and someone was always bringing me more news so that I had to call the windows guys again.

Three days later, I had one hole in the wall and no windows. It was determined that they'd wait until the gas line was fixed on Monday, come back that day to finish digging the other hole and then install both windows at once. I was confused, it took them almost three days to dig one well, how were they going to do it in one day?

So Monday dawns and the gas company does their job, which is a harrowing experience in itself. Everyone else in the world is taught to remove themselves from areas that smell like gas and to prevent any type of ignition. Not so with those who actually deal with it. My children were in the basement and it was smelling quite strong there, so I brought them up and ventured outside to tell them about it. Turns out, they don't cut the gas from the main line to the house, they just cut the line and then used a pressure screw of some sort to block it. This releases a lot of gas into the area, which doesn't seem to bother the guy 20 feet away striking his torch to weld some pieces for the move. I decided that the kids and I would just stay outside until they were done.

After about 2 hours our diggers were digging again. And again they come to my door, turns out, we have a gas leak now. You know how you call and get put on hold and wait forever to get answers, doesn't happen when you call with a gas leak. Within one hour, I had three gas company vehicles in the area with workers and the construction manager guys standing around. So now our diggers are, once again, waiting.

We finally got the pipe leak fixed, the windows dug out, and now we had to wait again. This time we waited for hours for the window guys to come back and mark exactly where they wanted the window cut. Then, while knocking out the block of cement, they missed and hit the inside wall.

The one good thing about the installation, once they actually started on the windows, it only took about 3 hours and they only bothered me when they were done, to ask how I liked it - but that wasn't until we'd had workers at our house for seven days and a weekend with boarded up holes.

This project was jinxed and I was never so happy as when the window installation was finished. I was ready to call the whole thing off. Although most of the problems could not be blamed on anyone but bad luck, the lack of communication between the contractors and the installation company sucked, big time. I spent so much time on the phone, that the secretary of the manager at the window company finally just gave me his cell phone number - which I'm sure he was happy about.

Even with it all done, we waited for about a week before we called to ask if they were going to put gravel in the bottom of one of the windows. We also ended up with a bit of sink hole around one of the window wells. On top of all of this, we had to wait 4 weeks to get our window well covers and ladders.

It's now done and I've even gotten the trim painted and the windows nice and clean. I know it's important and will give us peace of mind when the kids move into the basement bedrooms, but geez the whole process sucked and I went through most of a case of Mike's Hard Lemonade in that two week period.

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