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Community and Q&A

Installing All-Wood Windows

sunrisehomestead | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

Hey guys-

Curious if anyone has installed a more traditional style fully wood window/jamb, opinions on those, best practice for install, and most of all curious if they can meet energy codes (California).

I was spec’ing Sierra Pacific windows for a project and now my client wants to go with a super old school traditional wood window/jamb built in a small millwork shop. The house was built in the 60’s so he wants to keep that northern california coastal cottage feel.

My main concerns are:

Install: I am trained to install flanged alum. clad windows and doors…flashing them to the WRB and air sealing the interior jamb to R.O. Without a nail flange and taping up onto the edge of the window like usual, I am wondering the best way to get a good reliable seal on a more traditional wood unit. The house is right on the coast in northern california so very vulnerable to storms, wind driven rain, etc. Any best practice methods, details, drawings, etc. would be helpful here. If we do exterior insulation I am guessing my jamb depth will need to be deeper to extend it to the face of the siding/trim beyond the depth of the exterior insulation.

Condensation: worried about the lack of thermal break via an extruded frame and wether this could mean condensation/mold issues on the interior drywall returns etc.

Energy code: we don’t need permits to install like sized windows/doors but they will be doing a full exterior remodel in the next year or two which will require permits and I am worried the county will say-get those brand new full wood windows out of there and replace with a manufacturer that has verified data on energy efficiency(not only the glass but the frame extrusion, etc.). The glass will obviously be spec’d for whatever is typical code wise. But everything else will be wood.

Do you think these traditional style windows would meet energy code requirements in California? How would we prove their legitimacy performance wise to the county if they were built in a small millwork shop and the only data available is for the glass alone?

Thanks guys!

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  1. Daniel Allen | | #1

    In LA we use B&B for custom wood windows to match styles of existing. They have NFRC values to pass Title 24.

    Talk to your Title 24 consultant, my understanding is if you don't have windows with NFRC labels for the inspector to verify, the calculation defaults to less desirable non-rated values that requires increasing performance elsewhere to make up for it. There may also be a limit to the percentage of non-rated windows you can use. This is to allow for custom site built windows for special conditions. To start look at:

    1. sunrisehomestead | | #7

      interesting...are they a big manufacturer or just a small shop? I doubt the one in question my client wants to use has verified data that would be respected by the county.

      1. Daniel Allen | | #10

        They are a small shop, but I think they do enough high-end work to make getting verified worth it.

  2. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #2


    Attach a brick-mold of whatever size would match the rest of the exterior trim and you can install the windows just as you would an exterior door.

  3. DCContrarian | | #3

    When the client says he wants to keep the "feel" of traditional windows, is he talking about the feel of shivering in the winter when the wind rattles through them, the feel of battling stuck windows in the summer, or the feel of scraping and painting them every five years?

    Seriously, modern windows are so much better. Everything that you ask of a window they do better. You can get ones with a historic look.

    1. Peter L | | #4

      That was funny and accurate. The whole "nostalgic" thing is sometimes ridiculous when one truly points out what some of that technology was like back then. Wood windows are a constant maintenance nightmare and very inefficient. With the exception of a modern triple pane EUROPEAN MADE wood windows (very expensive), it doesn't make sense to install such a window in a home.

      1. Expert Member
        Malcolm Taylor | | #6

        What's the difference in maintaining European all wood windows and their North American counterparts?

        1. Jonny_H | | #9

          According to the marketing material of a couple manufacturers I've seen, they harvest their wood in the middle of the night at just the right phase of the moon, imbuing it with extraordinary durability....

          My eventual take was that wood clad with aluminum on the exterior, or a wood stackup with Accoya or similar modified wood on the exterior, would be plenty durable. I wonder if anyone makes wood window frames with black locust exterior?

          Of course, I couldn't afford any of those options, and ended up with fiberglass -- which I'm confident will be plenty durable.

    2. John Clark | | #5

      ^^^ THIS

    3. sunrisehomestead | | #8

      actually yes...he is. He's a diehard romantic about these kinds of things. He loves that kind of grit and grime of funky old coastal hippie houses! I agree-as a certified passive house nerd these windows make me cringe! We bid the job for some nice VG fir interior, alum clad exterior pushout casements and awnings... but he wants an even more old world feel.

      1. DCContrarian | | #11

        If that's what he really wants, why pay to get them made? You can get them for free easily, you literally can't give away old windows like that.

        1. DCContrarian | | #12

          You can even get bonus lead paint contamination for extra authenticity.

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