Please join us for an Open House on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M., as we celebrate 30 years of providing community association management services to Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.
Now that the windows throughout the condominium have been replaced, proper operation and maintenance begin immediately. Not because there is anything wrong with the windows but because the association has just invested a large chuck of change into a quality window.
One of the things that should have been done with the previous windows of your condominium to prolong their life was routine maintenance. On the ocean front, salt accumulates with dirt and grime which will sit in the tracks of the windows facing the ocean. The debris will a) cause corrosion of the frames b) cause weep holes to become obstructed and c) cause a premature deterioration of the window.
Getting ahead of the maintenance curve now will prolong the life of the windows and keep a small job from turning into a big job. If you are fortunate enough to have a maintenance person for your condominium, this is a project that can be reserved for down times.
The maintenance is as simple as vacuuming the debris from the track, flushing the tracks (usually with the sliding glass doors) with clean water and wiping the salty condensation away. At the same time, lubricate springs and other wear items. A silicon spray will provide a protective barrier to metal hardware that is aluminum or steel. Perform a window inspection to ensure all latches are intact and functioning properly and screens are in good condition.
The frequency of this routine maintenance should be experimented with over two years or so. If you find that grime accumulates on the bottom four floors more frequently that the top floors, perform the maintenance on the bottom floors every six months. Make the maintenance for your new windows flexible, do it when it needs it.
When you settle on a window, are happy with the construction and warranty, it’s time to select a contractor to perform the job. We continue to harp on technology but its and important financial consideration. Just ten years ago it wasn’t too terribly far fetched to have the entire building scaffolded to install windows. Because the scaffold was an expensive and unsightly endeavor, new technology was created to allow windows to be installed properly, and within the building code, from the inside.
Selecting the right contractor for a massive window project should be done carefully. Manufacturers of windows of this caliber should have a listed of certified contractors knowledgeable about their technology and installation process. It is imperative that a Board of Directors properly vet these contractors to ensure a) the job will be done right b) the job will be done with the least amount of inconvenience to owners and renters c) contractors employees behave d) they’ll stand behind their work. It seems simple but its anything but.
One way to simplify the process of selecting a contractor is to ask for references. Contact those references and then go visit the project. If you can find an active project that would be ideal. A Board contingent can then watch how the installation process works, determine how disruptive it is, and watch the contractor in action. Things to ask yourself would be are these guys professional, are they organized, are they efficient and are they respectful. Because lets face it, your letting a group of strangers into your home for a few days. Would you let them into your unit to hang out with your wife and family?
Another solution is, if your association has a maintenance person, have him or her manage the project on the ground. If they are able, they can coordinate the installation and run interference between the owners, contractors and Board of Directors. Your association management company may also perform this service for a fee. However, this is not a situation where the maintenance person or property manager can just pop in and out to check on things. A project of this magnitude will require continuous oversight. The money associated with the expense is well worth it in the end.
Selecting the right window for your project is only half the battle. Finding the right contractor who is the right fit for your particular project is a significant part of the equation. Ask lots of questions and trust your instincts.
As far as technology is concerned, there are a number of factors to be considered beyond the style. In recent years, efforts to improve the energy efficiency of windows has been a major concern. Other considerations for those along the ocean are wind resistance from tropical storms and hurricanes as well as proper window tint as it relates to sea turtles (sea turtles typically hatch on the full moon and are attracted to the water by the bright light. Bright lights on the land side have been shown to disorient the hatchlings causing them to move towards land instead of water).
The most recent technology for windows incorporates a high wind resistance (from flying debris), energy efficiency and thermal transfer and adequate tinting for sea turtle hatching. These windows tend to be heavy but once installed, wear well in the salt air.
Considerations for windows like this are the sash material, material used for movable parts (latches, springs, rollers for sliding glass doors) and ease of use. Because of the heavier window, elderly people may have a harder time opening and closing the window properly. Rollers used for sliding glass doors (because those are really heavy) should be high quality stainless steel. The reason is because any other material, aluminum or steel, will corrode causing the door to not move properly along the track after just a few years. Springs are typically wearable items. Your window should be constructed in a way that the springs can be replaced relatively easy should it be necessary. Your maintenance person should not have to remove the window entirely from the opening to replace a wearable item.
Windows of this caliber are expensive but have been shown to hold up for a very long time. What you should consider when looking at these upgraded items is how long your window warranty is, what is covered under the warranty (wearable items are typically not covered) and what your costs for maintenance will be over the expected useful life. If a window manufacturer wants to sell you a high end window but offers only five years on a warranty, continue looking for a better window.
REFER TO YOUR GOVERNING DOCUMENTS REGARDING OBLIGATIONS OF THE CONDOMINIUM FOR SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS, COMMON ELEMENTS, AND MAINTENANCE OBLIGATIONS.
We spoke in the previous blog post how Hurricane Andrew changed the face of the construction industry in Florida. Today we’re going to talk about the changes that occur in the window industry and how Boards of Directors need to stay current.
One aspect, albeit an important one, of condominium window replacement is architectural standards that are applied to window selection. Although some condominiums require owners to replace windows at their own expense, the Board of Directors has color and design authority, meaning a window must conform to certain sizes and colors.
In the 1990’s, a popular window style used was a bronzed aluminum sash with insulated glass. A number of condominiums used this style as a replacement since they were readily available and came in standardized sizes or custom sizes. But as we’re seeing 20+ years later, these windows are no longer available in the “square box” style used in the 90’s. The bulky sashes have been trimmed down with different architectural styles added. As a result, new bronze windows are no longer exact matches from the 90’s. Functionally, after 15 years or so, these windows would typically lose their interior seals (double pane insulated glass is two pieces of glass sandwiched together with a gas in between the panes, sealed around the edges). The result was windows that began to fog over and become opaque. Another issue for ocean front condominiums was the constant salt air and moisture exposure caused these windows to deteriorate.
The point is that members of the Board should address window standards for their condominium every five years or so. Technology has changed dramatically over the last several years making windows made just 10 years ago obsolete. Improvements in thermal management, materials and impact resistance means Board members should stay (somewhat) current on the latest window improvements. While not everyone will replace their windows simultaneously, a generalized standard should be adopted in terms of sash/frame size and color. In short, select a high quality window with a reasonable warranty (10-15 years), that is state of the art and tested within the last 12 months, and most importantly, move forward with your window project in a timely manner before the technology you’ve chosen becomes obsolete. There are a number of instances where a proposed window project can languish for five years or more before a condominium Board of Directors decides to move forward, money being an important consideration. However, the longer you wait, the farther away from the latest technology you get.
This is a touchy subject for most condo owners and board members. So let’s say this up front in bold letters, REFER TO YOUR GOVERNING DOCUMENTS REGARDING OBLIGATIONS OF THE CONDOMINIUM FOR SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS, COMMON ELEMENTS, AND MAINTENANCE OBLIGATIONS. Now on to the show.
Discussing window replacement for condominiums will require two or three separate posts. For this post we will discuss the generalities of window replacement and move on from there.
As buildings age and technology improves, replacing windows throughout a condominium becomes a necessity,not only in regard to energy efficiency but also in regards to water and air leaks and hurricane protection. Windows in condominiums built in the 1960’s and 1970’s were generally aluminum framed, single pane construction. These were terribly inefficient designs that created air leaks, condensation on the panes and eventually water leaks from wind driven rain. Leaky windows along the ocean may cause water damage, mold and mildew problems. In south Florida, the question of window replacement became a moot point after hurricane Andrew swept the area causing significant damage. Almost all windows facing the ocean were damaged beyond repair necessitating replacement with up-to-date windows, in 1992. The other side effect was a revamping of the entire building code for Miami Dade County. The rewriting of the building codes for Miami Dade County led to nearly every coastal county in the state rewriting their existing building codes. These new building codes caused a ripple effect through contractor, subcontractor and supply circles, including window suppliers.
Prior to 1992, it was discovered that windows were attached with only two or three screws around the edges. After Andrew, it was found that this poor installation process caused windows to become detached from buildings. One of the first upgrades for window standards was the number of attachment points for windows and sliders. Before 1992, few people thought that window replacement in condominiums was a reasonable undertaking. When hurricane Andrew removed their windows for them, the topic of windows became a central theme for condominiums. But choosing a window that would last for 20-25 years proved to be problematic and paying for them through special assessments proved to be costly.
In Florida, since 1992, two things have occurred: a building boom of high rise condominiums and a rash of hurricanes that have touched nearly every part of coastal Florida. Incorporating window replacement into these seminal events has created a whirlwind of controversy ranging from the local, condo board level all the way to the state level. In our next installment, we’ll talk more about how we’ve gotten to this point and how condominium boards are adjusting with the times.
One of the reasons that associations have to engage the services of lake maintenance companies for stormwater retention areas is to help control the noxious weeds that are a threat to all of Florida Waterways. The Top 10 noxious weed invaders according to the St. John’s River Water Management District are:
- Water hyacinth
- Water lettuce
- Chinese tallow
- Japanese and Old World climbing ferns
- Cogon grass
- Brazilian pepper
- Tropical soda apple
- Torpedo grass
- Air potato
Just like the non native pythons that are a problem in the Everglades, noxious weeds can cause an environmental change in your stormwater system. There are very few companies that offer manual extraction of these invasive species so it’s best to manage them in the beginning. If you notice a clump of weeds gathering at the waters edge, notify the manager or the lake maintenance company.
Also, is you live along the lake and your property has a “stormwater retention easement” indicated on your property survey, make sure you do not fence or block access to the retention area. There are a limited number of these easements around a retention area. If it becomes necessary to obtain access to the retention area, you could be forced to remove the fence to allow access.
If you have brought your boat home from a creek, river or lake that has these noxious plants, they could have hitched a ride. When you wash your boat and flush the engine, these weeds flow out onto your driveway or yard. You, in turn, hose the driveway off into the street where it ends up in the stormwater system the next time it rains. Its a never ending cycle but you can do your part by not flushing your wash material into the street.