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MCM Window Shopping

I’m really excited about the Milgard aluminum windows I picked out for this house and have to say I’ve removed tons of aluminum windows but this is the first time I’ve ever put them In. They are a modern energy efficient version of what we took out. With my right hand man Barney, we got them all installed including the 6 foot and 8 foot patio doors in a day and a half. These are new construction windows meaning you have to break the stucco back to install them using nailing fins. Putting them in is easy but the most important part is getting new flashing behind the old felt paper and using Jiffy Seal around them for a good seal. When breaking out your old ones try not to damage the wire mesh or felt paper. There’s a lot of guys flipping houses in San Diego and throwing in retrofit or vinyl lip windows. Believe me, you don’t want to put in vinyl retrofit windows, they will not hold air and warp in less than 10 years. I know because I have them in my house!

For our Mid Century project I wanted to get the stream-lined modern minimalist look so the aluminum was a clear choice. I wanted to use a mixture of casement and awning windows on this project so the master bedroom window was a perfect candidate to replace the old huge slider with a fixed window and 2 casements on the sides. I was able to put together a custom front window also with an awning on the bottom and slider on the top as seen here. I almost went with a really cool look – triple awning on the front, but thought there might not be enough air flow on those hot San Diego summer nights with no A/C so I played it functionally safe and put sliders in the secondary bedrooms as well. Since we are re-stuccoing the whole house I also took this opportunity to break out and replace all the old crawl space vents as you can see at the bottom of the top picture.

After price shopping around at 4 places I ended up getting the best deal at Home Depot. These are special order windows and take 3-4 weeks to arrive so you want to order them as soon as possible so they don’t slow your project down. For orders over $2500 you can request special pricing from the Home Depot Bid Room. Just ask to do so at the Millworks or Contractors desk. In my case they knocked off another 14% and with no delivery charge I ended up paying about $3600 for all the windows including a 6 foot and 8 foot patio door. These windows are of course low E and dual pane. The patio doors were a little more tricky because the frames come in 4 pieces but easy for anyone to do and they installed like a dream. They shut so good it sounds like an airplane door.

I tried out a new drywall patching crew this time and am super happy with the results. They cut out everything square, patched all my Swiss cheese holes from running the mechanicals, and then skim coated the entire house with a new 90% smooth texture. They also had to redo some of the window and door returns from our install, so it was nice to have them there fixing stuff as we were putting in the windows. The inside is ready for paint now, everything is really going smooth with this house. I’m off to the recycle yard with the old aluminum windows now for a nice bonus check for helping the environment!

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  1. 16 Comment(s)

  2. By halbert on Feb 5, 2012 | Reply

    Hi, Tom.

    For the not-handy among us: is there a rule of thumb for estimating the cost of installation for replacement windows? If you had to pay someone else to install these, how would it scale up the total cost?

    On the crawl space vents: we’ve got rusty metal screens on the exterior of our MCM. I was thinking about replacing them with new hardware cloth to deter the rodents. Are actual vents the better solution?

  3. By Tom on Feb 5, 2012 | Reply

    Hi Halbert. As far as I am aware, the larger companies that install the windows charge just as much to put them in as you actually buy them for. The general rule of thumb is that hiring a contractor to do repairs usually ends up being 50/50 labor and materials or sometimes even 60/40. The most important thing is getting them measured correctly so when you go to install it minimizes drywall repair inside the house. I would start with the local window companies in your area and have them come out and measure. It wont cost you anything for a bid and then you can decide on whether or not to buy from them or shop on your own and find a good handyman to put them in.

    They sell 2 kinds of foundation vents, mine have louvers on them but some are open screen. Either one will work, I just thought these look cleaner. You definitely want to do something now just to get them secured.

    Good luck!

  4. By Bilgefisher on Feb 6, 2012 | Reply


    Not sure if you were in the military, but if you were get a VA card. Most Home Depots and all Lowes stores will honor a 10% military discount. Saved as nearly $600 in our last rehab. (Although we should have gone to the contractors desk). Its good for small projects or those trips back to the store.


  5. By Travis on Feb 6, 2012 | Reply

    Looking good, Tom! I like the casement windows in the master.

    Last week, I had a plumbing leak upstairs and now I’m looking for someone to repair the ceiling underneath. Is there anyone you want to share?

  6. By Dave on Feb 6, 2012 | Reply

    Many older houses in California have little or no insulation. How do you add insulation to the roof and walls of a house like this to reduce heating and air conditioning costs? Electricity, with the current rate structure, has become quite expensive. Perhaps there is nothing that can be done with the roof in a house like this one.

    Thank you

  7. By Tom on Feb 7, 2012 | Reply

    With an open beam ceiling like this, there is a way to insulate the roof. Right now all you have is 2″ tongue and groove with the roofing material on top. The Cedar wood actually provides around a R15 insulation factor which many people overlook. If you really wanted to step it up you would add 4-6 inches of closed cel foam board on top of the T&G and then another layer of roof sheeting with a radiant barrier facing down, then finally come back with the shingles on top of all that. It would change the appearance of the roof line as there would now need to be facia boards but this is how homeowners in Las Vegas and other extreme climates are handling the Mid Century Modern projects with regards to roof insulation. Of course if you were to gut the entire home it would be easy to add wall insulation as well. Great question!

  8. By Tom on Feb 7, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Jason, That’s a great tip. I wonder if you could send your quotes through the bid room, get the max low price and then when you go to the register to pay you bust out your military ID. I know a lot of times there is a policy of only using one discount but in the past I’ve been able to take advantage of a manufacturers 15% discount on millworks then also get 10% from sending it to the bid room. I think it comes down to who’s taking a margin hit. The bid room discount (and military Id) comes straight off Home Depot’s profit margin whereas a manufacturers sale does not, so I think that’s why I can pull off the double dip sometime. $600 bucks is a great savings, on our last rehab we got $450 bucks back from our local electric company for energy saving appliances and insulation. Take care

  9. By Dirk Smithson on Feb 7, 2012 | Reply

    Just a tip on buying windows cheap. You can call window companies and ask for “bone yard windows” these are windows that didn’t work out for the intended project. I picked up a few for 50.00 each. They’re brand new, but there is a catch, And that is you might have a hard time finding the right sizes. mine worked out ok, but I did have to add an extra piece of sheetrock to make up a 1/2 inch difference. I know a guy who did an entire house for 500.00 and they look awsome!

  10. By Molly on Jun 26, 2014 | Reply

    I’ve been curious about what the authentic wall texture is for a genuine mid century modern house. What was the texture like originally for your house?

  11. By Tom on Jun 26, 2014 | Reply

    It was a light orange peel. Could have been done over the years though but appeared to be as built. So many different architects and builders, I would imagine you could find them textured light and also smooth.

  12. By Molly on Jun 27, 2014 | Reply

    Good to know. Thanks so much for the reply : )That house is bitchen by the way!

  13. By Tom on Jun 27, 2014 | Reply

    Thanks, I shoulda gone white flat panel on the kitchen cabinets though…or wood grain flat panel. Live and learn.

  14. By DurhamDee on Nov 9, 2014 | Reply

    Hi Tom, It looks like your slab is continuous from inside to outside under the sliding patio doors. If that’s the case, what is the sill flashing detail there? I’m designing a remodel on my master bedroom that will require me to solve this problem.

  15. By Tom on Apr 1, 2015 | Reply

    We used that Jiffy Seal

  16. By Tim on Mar 6, 2017 | Reply

    Are the Milgard Aluminum windows thermally improved?

  17. By Tom on Mar 8, 2017 | Reply

    Those Milgard Aluminum windows are incredible.

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