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Building Resilience (8): All That Glass

First-time installing stackable sliders, a bifold window, and triple-glazed casement windows that are fastened through the frames: OA makes the mistakes, so you don't have to!
June 02, 2023

Last time on Building Resilience, we were Installing Marvin’s Skycove on the outside of the house. It wasn’t challenging enough to install an 800-pound prototype on the house with a skinny lot and very limited crane access. We decided to do it at the beginning of a pandemic to make sure that it would be as difficult as possible.

Actually, the installation went smoothly. A skid-steer loader took the place of the crane, and after knocking out the shims and bolting the Skycove home, at the end of the day, there was a cubical glass window seat securely attached and flashed weathertight.

Next, Michael and the crew turned to the Marvin Modern casement windows with triple glazing and fiberglass frame and sash. Next was Marvin’s Modern stacking sliding doors that open the living space to the outdoors.

Before they can do that, though, they have to unload the truck.

As the truck was unloaded and windows spread around the house, Stephen began removing the existing windows, and Ben began installing the new ones.

Actually, the installation started the following day, but in the video, we can do a lot of fun things.

The windows are sealed to the ZIP System R-12 panels' surface using ZIP’s 3-in flashing tape. But the openings are flashed with more Zip System tape, like the stretch tape for sill pans to stop air and water leaks.

Between flashing is the window installation.

"Those little things that we thought were packing clips of some sort are actually shimming stands to give a second flat spot to screw through.

BTW, I just wanted to comment on Ben's ability to manipulate a frame while standing on a ladder using two hands and not holding on to the building's side. That takes true skill.

[He’s actually floating…]

Like a French acrobat!"

As usual, the first step is leveling the bottom, typically done with shims and little pry bars.

When the bottom is level, the carpenters typically nail the bottom corners and measure diagonals to make sure the frame is square; then, they nail the top corners of the nailing flange.

But this isn’t a nailing flange. It is a taping flange, and the window fastening is done by screwing through the fiberglass frame. The guys nail the flange into the sheathing just to keep it flat for a better taping job.

The frames are screwed about every four to six inches, which seems like a lot of screws and a pain in the neck, but actually, it’s a superior way to get a perfect installation.

"It goes fast. I mean, we all have impact drivers. It’s not that long. I would rather that we are screwing this thing and getting it perfect in the opening then relying on nailing the outside to be the thing that’s making it perfect.

I guess you’re nailing about every four inches on the outside…

Not every four inches, but you’re not nailing it for accuracy. The screw gives you accuracy. If anything, it forces you to true-up the window in the installation.

Yeah, and that’s going to improve the performance of the window.

And if you overdrive a little bit, you back the screw out, and the window comes back. A nail is a very permanent thing, and not always the greatest when you’re squaring and truing up something like this."

With the frames set, square, and perfectly straight, the sash snaps into place—with a little musical interlude—and the hardware snaps into place, and the window operates perfectly.

But what about those massive sliding stacking doors that completely open the living space to the outside world?

"We’ve never installed either one of these, really. The slider or the bifold. It was very much a learning curve.

I’m going to take the mask off.

The slider is a four-panel slider. Each of those panels comes in around 130-pounds apiece. And the track that it sits in is all unassembled when it arrives. So we get these super long crates that are super cool—we turned them into work tables afterward—all designed to protect the comp[onents. And, you lay them all out on the ground, and you start to go through the instruction manual and go “Wow. This is going to take a few hours.” And it does, but honestly, at the end of the day, the frame that you’re working with is so lightweight that it makes it really easy for two people to handle it, set it into position, make little adjustments, start to tack it into place.

One of the biggest learning curve bits for us was on a fourteen-foot opening; we have a quarter-inch total deflection allowed in the assembly. So, it’s very stiff. And in the unit itself, the track, it’s got to be pretty much dead-on spot-on perfect.

There’s just not a lot of room for error.

As you’re installing the four screws across each of the tracks, if you overdrive or underdrive any one of those, it deforms the track a little bit and will cause the doors to bind in the track.

So, getting that right is really critical. And we learned that the hard way, you know, we thought we had it pretty good, started to set the doors in place and move them and found that we had to go back and make some minor adjustments. To that end, the adjustments are super-easy to make, so it’s not like it's installed and “Oh, man, you screwed up, and you’re done.”

Overall, it took us about four hours to install the big slider, and I think that’s about where it should be.

The instructions were good. You know one of the cool things that Marvin has done is they’ve added in QR codes. So as you’re going along and trying to figure out how that screw goes in, or what location. You just scan the QR code, and a little video pops up, and it shows you in context what you’re about to do. So that’s pretty cool.

Something else that Marvin’s doing, and is probably worth mentioning, is they have separated the installation parts, like the screws, the handles, the manuals—all of that stuff—from the units themselves.

So when you get your order of forty windows and doors, that stuff all came as individual pieces, and then we got these three giant black and yellow boxes. Inside each one of those were all of the hardware kits that we were going to need. Touch-up paint, silicone, extra instructions, it makes for really awesome jobsite management.

It’s a little thing, but on this side, the jobsite, it’s a huge thing."

What about the window behind you. It looks like you’re inside the house, so that’s an interior window?

"It is an interior window. There’s that big slider. This is the sunroom. And I’m a big fan of putting windows in interiors. I think it’s a cool way to separate two rooms. You still have light. You still have privacy if you need it. You can open it up to connect the two spaces, and visually, it’s a really cool detail.

Here we have a super-cool outswing, bifold, window.

I’m guessing it’s not triple-glazed with argon gas and design pressure ratings for Miami-Dade county, is it an interior window, or is it an exterior window that was put inside?

This is an exterior window that we put inside.

So it probably does have all that stuff, only probably not the triple-glazing.

Not the triple-glazing, but here’s the secret, this is actually a door. From the ultimate line, Marvin’s signature Ultimate line. It’s intended to be a door, and we asked if they could custom-make us one as a window.

The engineering is designed for something much larger than what you see back here, which makes the operation of this thing like butter. The hardware is well within all of its tolerances.

Challenges with something like this—and I think Marvin anticipated it—have a lot to do with the order of the hardware itself. Each of the glazed panels has a different function and get different hardware, and there’s an order of assembly and an order of attachment that is pretty important to follow.

We actually managed to get one of the parts reversed when we were assembling this. So we got it assembled, kind-of, and then we had to backtrack seven or eight steps and then put it back together again.

Funny that we had just installed the big slider, and then went and installed the bifold. And the two processes are completely different."

Yeah, you were feeling all confident from the slider that you didn’t bother reading the instructions on the bifold.

"…Not exactly, but yeah."

That’s a lot of glass to pack into a single episode, but here we are, in the end, talking about what’s going to happen next.

The last step in installing all that glass to integrate the frame with the WRB and drainage plane.

And that’s the first step of water management, which is what we’ll focus on next time when we install a UV-safe WRB called InvisiWrap from Benjamin Obdyke.

"I think this stuff is just awesome. Take a look at how gorgeous that is. Those connections are virtually invisible. This tape that they're using has got kings of a fabric-y quality to it. It’s very soft. Not reflective at all. Which I think adds to that whole matte-black invisible thing that they’re going for over at Benjamin Obdyke."

And we’re going for the whole invisibility thing, too, because we want it to be invisible behind the open cladding sections from AZEK.

After that, we’ll install two types of rainscreen: Batten UV over the InvisiWrap and SlickerMax over the rest of the house.

AZEK Paint Pro Panels will cover the SlickerMax, and then we’ll install that awesome deck.

Until we crash into the next episode, stay tuned, and stay resilient.

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