Windows & Doors FAQ
Will a stucco repair around my windows offer as good a seal as re-stuccoing the entire home?
Yes, but with the above color and texture considerations.
What is a trim extension?
Trim extension is a separate stick of material that is made of the same material and color as the window frame. It is either snapped into a groove at the perimeter of the window frame or adhesively connected to provide a clean transition between the window frame and the old stucco. Trim extension is a viable option when a complete stucco application is not being accomplished. Trim extensions are typically utilized in lieu of stucco repair.
How are windows installed with homes built of brick and wood siding?
For brick installations the window would be ordered without a nailing fin. We would measure as tight as possible to insure minimal gaps between the brick and window frame. We would either use a texture caulking to mimic the color and texture of the masonry grout joint or install a slim version of trim extension. For wood siding there are differing conditions, but many times we would be able to install a window nail fin and trim out the exterior with an appropriate wood trim.
What are the benefits to installing windows and stucco at the same time?
At Reule Sun Corporation, we call it Total Coordinated Installation and the benefits are numerous.
Stucco and window trades are independently unique and require different skills that are not normally intiutive of each other. At Reule, our team approach insures that each trade has a thorough understanding of the other trades needs. Interestingly, many of our workers cross over to both trades.
Total Coordinated Installation for window replacement and stucco refinishing offers our customers:
Should I replace my windows before or after the stucco application?
If it is in the budget, it is best to accomplish both the window and stucco application in one lockstep with one another, with the windows being installed just prior to the final stucco finish coats. This will minimize the amount of potential stucco damage that could occur to an existing job if one were to install the windows after a new stucco application. With a coordinated installation of windows and stucco, aesthetically the transition from stucco to windows looks like a new contruction installation and not a retrofit look, which typically requires a supplemental trim extension that gives the frame a bulky appearance.
Will the window installation require any work on the homeowner's part?
We request that our customers:
A: Remove hanging items from the exterior walls where our work will progress
B: Relocate any prized or delicate items from the work area and in the interest of all parties, secure
Can windows be installed and the stucco repaired around the window without the need to re-stucco the entire home?
The short answer is yes, but with a substantial caveat. The challenge is to get the new stucco repair to match the old stucco. This is very difficult, if not impossible to achieve. Stucco is always curing and will darken over time. The same bag of stucco applied today, will not match stucco out of the same bag in six months. The other challenge is to blend the texture. It is necessary to overlap the stucco repair on the old stucco with an additional textured layer, which creates a noticeable transition between the new texture. A stucco patch will always be noticeable in both color and texture compared to the old one. Synthetic stucco offers a better opportunity to blend color but texture differences will always be apparent. Some of our clients opt to utilize a trim extension in favor of a stucco repair.
Window Installation… Trim or Fin?
With the popularity of replacing old steel or aluminum windows and doors with new replacement products, one might ask; what is the best installation method? Many consumers are not aware that there are several approaches to this issue. Windows and doors can be ordered with or without nail fins and with loose or integrated trim. For discussion below, window and door installation methods are similar and we will explore the different approaches of installation, the aesthetic consideration, cost, pros and cons.
Replacement Windows with Loose Trim:
The status quo for new replacement windows is to install the window and then utilize a snap on or glue on trim (loose) piece around the exterior perimeter of the frame to bridge the new window to the existing finishes. This method requires that the old window be carefully removed, leaving a mostly undamaged opening for the new window to be installed. First, the sash (moveable panels) and glass are removed and then the frame either collapsed or cut it into segments and pried out. With the new window being devoid of a nail fin (see nail fin discussion below), it easily slips into the opening and on top of the interior finishes, then secured by screwing through the side of the window frame and into the existing building structure. The interior window to finish transition is either caulked or a flat trim applied to bridge any interior gaps. At the exterior, there will be about a 5/8” gap between the perimeter of the new window frame and the existing (stucco, wood, brick, siding or masonry) finish that will need to be addressed. This gap is filled with a foam backer rod (foam rope), or a closed cell low expansion spray foam (not allowed by all manufacturers) or another form of insulation. Some will suggest that closed cell foam will waterproof the opening, but this is a false assumption. Recommended but not always performed, is the application of a wide band of caulking that is spread over the insulation, to create a waterproof bridge between the window and the existing wood framing - sheathing - building paper (collectively referred to as the building envelope). Lastly the trim is cut to length and installed around the perimeter of the new window. The trim is typically a stick of material 1-1/2” wide, made of either sheet metal (also referred to as coil or break metal) or vinyl that either snaps into a groove at the perimeter of the frame or glued (caulked) onto the frame with the backside and edge of the trim caulked to the existing finishes. For wood clad, composite and fiberglass window types, occasionally the trim is made of the same material as the window, which tends to be of a sturdier construction than sheet metal or vinyl trim. Due to the additional rigidity, these sturdier trims generally do not suffer the same fate of vinyl or sheet metal trims, but are still subject to the same sealing issues that plague all loose trim installations. It is of utmost importance that the proper caulking materials and methods of application be utilized between the window to the building envelope, and the trim to the exterior finishes, so as to create a 100% continuous weatherproof barrier. The type of caulking being utilized between the trim and underlying finishes is often misunderstood, as the installer might use pure silicone to glue on the trim to the window frame, which is acceptable and then again use it to seal and secure the trim to the underlying finishes, where it will not perform as a weatherproof barrier. Pure silicone caulking is designed to be utilized against smooth surfaces but does not function properly as a weatherproof barrier when utilized against rough or porous cementitious or stucco substrates. This is where Polyurethane caulking would be preferred. Many installers are not willing to change out or use different types of caulking for any given application and often assume that just caulking behind the trim will provide a weatherproof barrier, which is falsely promoted as a complete installation. The challenge with trim is that the sealing regiment is difficult to execute and often not properly performed, which can lead to air and moisture intrusion into the building envelope. Air infiltration is a drag on heating and cooling systems and moisture intrusion can lead to a mold issue or damage to the structure, sometimes without any visible evidence of the intrusion after the installation. An application where trim may be an options is with some brick exterior clad and adobe construction buildings. The aesthetic downside for trim installation is that it widens the visual perspective of the frame which can make the window look out of balance, especially for smaller sized windows. It is relatively easy to identify a replacement window installation with trim due to the wide picture frame effect that trim creates, which many find objectionable. Exposed caulking is subject to deterioration from the elements which can allow the trim to come loose and therefore requires periodic maintenance, which is a cost that must also be factored into the trim installation. The installation cost for a loose trim application falls in between an integral trim and nail fin method.
Replacement Windows with Built on Integrated Trim Extension:
Most vinyl window manufactures offer a trim that is molded or integrated onto the window frame (also referred to as trim extension or stucco bar) that provides the same function as loose trim, by spanning the gap that existed between the window frame and building. Integrated trim solves the problem of not having to fit a loose trim to the exterior of the window frame which can be daunting, particularly at the corners. The aesthetics of integrated trim is superior to loose applied break metal or vinyl trim, due to it being fabricated as an integral component of the window at the factory with the corners being perfectly aligned. The integral trim installation is similar to the above loose trim method with some exceptions. The seal between the window and building is created by caulking the back side of the integrated trim with the window then pushed into the opening and secured. An additional bead of caulk is then applied at the outside edge of the trim to fill any gap against the existing finishes. The downside to integrated trim is that it is difficult to sufficiently insulate the gap and create a complete seal between the widow frame and building envelope. The sole weatherproof barrier is created by the caulking at the backside and edge of the trim to the existing surface finishes. This is sometimes concerning considering a seal to a rough surface, such as stucco or masonry is difficult to achieve and can require maintenance over time. Unlike a loose trim, an integrated trim does not conform as well to undulating stucco surfaces, so the caulk joints at the edge of an integrated trim can appear to be thin at one corner and substantially thicker at the other corner of the same window. In an exposure with wind driven rain, a loose trim or new construction installation would offer a superior seal against the building envelope and avoid the potential for moisture and air to enter the walls. The installation cost for an integral trimmed window is the least expensive due to the labor savings by foregoing the seal, the insulation and by not having to install loose trim or the more extensive nail fin method. An integrated trim is going to offer superior durability and aesthetics when compared to either break metal or vinyl trim, but the seal against the building finish is the only weather protection and inferior to any of the other installation methods.
The popularity for either of the above trim installation methods can be attributed to the minimal disruption caused to existing exterior stucco finishes along with it being the least expensive. Trim installations also go much quicker with a two man crew able to install eight to ten windows per day, making it substantially less expensive when compared to a nail fin installation. The downside for trim is that it widens the visual perspective of the frame that many find objectionable, and the caulking seal must be meticulously executed and maintained, otherwise moisture can infiltrate into the wall cavity causing damage to the structure and mold propagation, along with air infiltration to the inside of the building.
Replacement widows with Nail fin – IE: New Construction Installation Method
Don’t be confused that the new construction installation method requires you to build a new home. Simply put, this install method for existing homes is accomplished in a very similar manner as would be required for windows installed in a newly constructed home following the same new construction building codes. More specifically this type of installation requires that the window be ordered with a “nail fin” just as one would for a new construction project to provide the same benefits for a replacement window project.
One might question what a nail fin is, and what is its purpose? Windows made for a new construction application incorporate an integrated nail fin that runs at the center of the window frame around the entire perimeter. It is perpendicular to the frame and projects out about 1-1/2”. Think of it like a dorsal fin to the back of a fish. The nail fins are typically pre-punched with holes that identify where the manufacturer requires the attachment (with screws, nails or staples) to be made against the sheathing – framing (building envelope). The nail fin provides the most secure method of attachment with the window becoming an integral component of the building structure. The nail fin is then sealed to the building envelope with wide sticky tape that is referred to as flashing. The nail fin provides an interface for the flashing and a complete seal of the window to the buildings weather barrier paper or Tyvek like house wrap. Not required but recommended, is to caulk the backside of the nail fin before installing it against the sheathing to create an additional seal. At this point of the installation, the window is 100% weather tight with the ultimate protection against moisture intrusion and air infiltration.
The nail fin installation allows for two methods of the window to interface against the interior finishes. Method #1 is for the window to rest on top of the existing interior finishes, the same method in which most all other replacement widows with trim are installed. The new windows are sized slightly smaller than the existing windows being replaced, because they are sized to the interior finishes (drywall, plaster or wood) and not the framing as the original widows were, but this allows for minimal disruption of the interior finishes. Method #2 is to install the new window against the framing, the same way the initial window was installed when the home was built. In newly built homes, the windows are first installed against the wood framing (with a minimal gap) and then the finishes (typically drywall or plaster) applied and abutted against the window frame. Because new window frames are typically thicker than older ones, method #2 requires a slight cut back of the interior finishes that abut to the new window frame and then caulked. Method #2 provides for a minimal caulk joint on the interior, and provides the maximum allowable size for the window, but at an additional cost.
When considering a nail fin installation for an existing home with exterior stucco finishes, the installation requires some additional steps. An approximate 6” band of stucco is first removed around the perimeter of the old window, revealing the wood sheathing and building paper that will later be tied into with the new window flashing. The existing stucco netting (chicken wire) or lathing is folded back away from the opening and with the removal of the nails or screws from the nail fin; the old window virtually falls out of the opening, with almost no damage to the interior finishes. The opening is cleaned up and the new window installed according to the above new construction Nail Fin method. Additional steps are then required to restore the stucco around the newly installed window that include; new metal lathing, base coats of fiberglass reinforced stucco and stucco finish. Recommended but not required is to imbed fiberglass netting into a second layer of polymer cement which is applied over the initial base coat, to help bridge any cracking from translating through the new finishes. Over the base coats a stucco or primer and synthetic stucco finish is then applied. When the home is to be entirely refinished, the finishes will seamlessly tie into and abut to the new window frames and look as if they were installed when the home was newly built. If the stucco finishes are not to be applied over the entire home, the stucco can be patched around the window per the above method and finishes applied over the patching. The caveat for this method is that the stucco finish will not completely match in color or texture to the existing finishes, and a halo effect will be evident around the window. Some owners choose this method for budget consideration and live with this condition until later refinishing, which then corrects and unifies the aesthetics for the entire home.
The benefits of the Nail Fin installation method are numerous. First and foremost is that the window is completely sealed to the building envelope providing a 100% weatherproof and air infiltration barrier. Any opportunity for moisture or air to enter between the window and building is completely eliminated. This cannot be overstated, as there can be many opportunities for moisture to creep behind a window installed with a trim application. The attachment of the window is equally secure to that of a newly built home. The aesthetics are superior when combined with a total stucco refinish due to the finishes transitioning directly to the new window frame. The stigma of a picture frame aesthetic that plagues the trim installation method is eliminated. No maintenance for trim or caulking as is required. The maximum window view area is available as compared to a trim installation method that is typically sized smaller than the old window. In New Mexico, Los Alamos County authorizes only the nail fin installation method along with many counties in in Arizona and California and others that have systematically adopted it nationwide. Some manufacturers will not authorize any other installation method. The Nail Fin installation method is the most costly, however the aesthetics and superior integration to the building envelope make this one that should be at the top of the list.
Author: Robert R. Reule, Reule Sun Corporation