Home Improvement--General/Window replaced with bay window
QUESTION: We just had new vinyl windows installed. The living room window was replaced with a bay window (previously not a bay.) They are Restorations windows, made by Sunrise, which seems to have a good reputation. The salesman seemed very knowledgeable and said he had previously worked as an installer. He said that part of the installation of a bay window includes a support that goes through the soffit. I said that I had noticed water/rain that seemed to sometimes drip from the soffit. He said when they put the window in, they would be able to see if there has been any water damage. But the installers didn't remove any of the soffit. When I asked about it, they said they weren't installing it that way. So I wonder if it's necessary to support a bay window through the soffit? Also, if there was any water dripping from the soffit, the new window is now up against the soffit. Could the new window be damaged by the water, if in fact there is water there?
Also, during the installation, the window seemed to be too tall and they cut sections off of the bottom to make it fit. There is a brick window ledge. Part of the bay is on the ledge and part extends past the ledge. The two ends are on the ledge where parts of the window were cut away. So the part of the bay that extends past the ledge, also goes a bit below the ledge. I think the bottom edge of the entire window should be a straight line, but now it's not because it was cut. Is this a common practice? Initially the salesman took measurements and then said that more accurate measurements would be taken when the windows were ordered. When an installer came to measure, he didn't seem particularly accurate. He just held up a measuring tape and took one vertical and one horizontal measurement. I thought the salesman had said that all four sides would be measured. I asked the installer and he said he just needed to measure to the nearest 1/4 ".
What I don't know is if mistakes were made or if these sorts of "adjustments" are common.
ANSWER: Hi Vicki,
I am not personally familiar with any of the Sunrise brand windows but a quick look online seems to confirm that Restorations are a high quality window. Unfortunately, no matter the quality of the window, improper installation practices often result in reduced energy efficiency, poor operation, and premature failure from sagging or water infiltration. The top three reasons I get calls to repair vinyl windows installed by other companies is glass seal failure, block and tackle balance system failure and problems related to improper installation such as sagging, being installed out of square or being improperly flashed and sealed resulting in water infiltration around the window.
Bay windows usually have support rods located on either side of the fixed glass sash that extend from the bottom of the window up through the mulls and extend slightly through the top of the window. Cables with integral turnbuckles attach to these support rods and extend at an angle back to the wall of the house or to an overhead support such as a rafter tail where they are attached to an eye bolt. The turnbuckles are then hand tightened just enough to bear the weight of the window, eliminating any sagging that would otherwise occur over time. Alternatively, support brackets are sometimes installed under the window though this can be more ornamental than structural.
Water dripping from the soffit could be from a roof leak or just running around the fascia and back onto the soffit (this sometimes occurs on homes with vinyl soffit and metal or vinyl fascia trim). If the dripping is from a roof leak, obviously it should be repaired immediately. If it was just running around the fascia and back onto the soffit, proper installation of the bay window should have included sealing the window to the soffit in a manner that would preclude water infiltration over the window. Water leaking inside the window near the top or discoloration of wood, caulking or paint near the top are indications of improper installation and can result in substantial damage to the window and possible structural damage to the home if not stopped.
Measuring and ordering the window about 1/4 inch less than the actual opening is common practice to allow for plumbing and squaring of the window. It is also prudent to measure both the with and height of the opening in several places in case it is out of square or settling has occurred.
No circumstance comes to mind that should require notching the bottom of a bay window but it is possible that your particular window required an unusual configuration. If it was either wood, thin vinyl trim or metal coil stock that was notched around the brick ledge (rowlock)it is plausible that it is being used to trim out the bottom of the window. In my experience I can think of no circumstance where it is appropriated to notch into the vinyl frame of the window. Doing so may compromise the integrity of the window structurally; also by decreasing energy efficiency or by allowing water, wind or insects access to the usually airtight inner chambers of the vinyl jamb.
Photos of the window in question may have allowed me to relay more definitive answers. Feel free to provide photos if you like and I should be able to refine my answers. There is no way at this time for me to be sure but, based on the information you provided the installers may have failed to properly support the window unit and may have improperly modified the jamb to make an improperly sized window fit the opening.
The following two links are to videos demonstrating sound installation practices for a bay window.
Bay window video 1
Bay window video 2
If after reviewing my response and the videos you are still unsure of the quality of the installation it might be advisable to contact a local builder or home maintenance company to assess the quality of the window installation.
I hope I have been of some help in this matter.
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QUESTION: Tony - Thank you very much for a very informative and prompt reply. I wish I could supply photos, but I'm so low-tech. I have over 1000 photos that are only stored in my camera, and I haven't tried to load them into my computer (which is old, slow and uses Windows XP, etc.)
I don't think we have any roof problems. I wonder if the water that I saw on the soffit could have somehow come from the gutter or between the gutter and the house/roof. Our house is a brick ranch which has a fascia strip (I think less than a foot tall) that runs across the top of the brick. It looks odd because the tops of the windows are in line with the top of the fascia strip. Shutters had been hung on the brick, but only tall enough to meet the bottom of the fascia strip. It seems that the shutters should be as tall as the windows. It makes me wonder if the house was built that way because the fascia was cheaper than another few rows of brick? I wish the fascia was gone and the brick went all of the way up. Because of where this fascia strip is located, I don't think water could get from it to the soffit.
Why would a bay window be installed without any supports connected to the rafters? Is it sometimes appropriate? I'm assuming that, since ours has no such supports, it's an inferior installation. But that may not be true?
I tried to look under the bay to see if I could see what part had been cut (to make it fit onto the window ledge.) There is caulking everywhere which conceals some things. I'm guessing that flashing was what was cut, but I can't be sure. The height of the notched out area is less than an inch, yet I noticed it right away. (It was more obvious before the caulking was done.) When you stand in front of the house, looking at the window, it's obvious that the bottom isn't a straight line. Is it possible that no damage was done to the bottom of the frame? I was thinking that the bottom of the frame rests on the ledge, but actually the weight of the window is supported by how the jambs were attached? (The ledge doesn't support any of the weight?) (I'm trying to get up to speed on window vocabulary, so I hope I used the words flashing and jambs correctly!) I can see how it would be best to have the window made about 1/4" less than the opening. But when our measurements were done I wonder if their height measurement was too tall, so the window was too big to fit. When you used the phrase, "trim out the bottom of the window," is that something that is done where it is acceptable to not have the bottom of the window be a straight line? I would think that if part of it was cut/notched out, it would have looked better to cut all the way across so the bottom would be a straight line.
I just looked at the warranty information online. It says, "Restorations Windows warrants that the Certified Restorations
Professional Contractor will install the windows and doors in
your home in accordance with Restorations Windows factory
recommended installation specifications." I wonder what they recommend for bay windows and overhead support. They also say, "The only issues which could void this warranty are improper installation, acts of God, and/or misuse or abuse." That sounds contradictory. The warranty could be void because of an improper installation? Who determines it to be improper?
One of your suggestions was to contact a local builder to assess the installation. Would they be able to determine all what was done, since part of the soffit is concealed by the window and caulking somewhat conceals what may have been done to the bottom?
Thank you so much for your insights.
Please find attached two drawings that label some of the parts on the exterior wall of a typical ranch house. Perhaps they will help you understand my explanations better.
One thing that I should have suggested immediately in my earlier response was to contact the company you paid for the windows and relay your concerns to them. They are the most familiar with your project and should be happy to address all the issues in question. Each home presents unique challenges to installing windows and there are often multiple ways to overcome these challenges. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons why they chose to install the window the way they did.
If they are not willing to spend some time with you on this, gently remind them that during their sales pitch they were selling "piece of mind" and "worry free" not just a truck load of windows, as I am sure was the case. If they are not willing to discuss your concerns or their answers seem uninformative, that is a sign of poor business practices. If the explanations are not satisfactory, the knowledge that you intend to consult with another builder or home improvement company may encourage them to be more forthcoming.
Unfortunately, without observing the work first hand or even in a photograph I am not able to provide more definitive answers than in my first response. I hope you are able to find some information that will provide that Piece of mind you bought with the windows.