Every homeowner should take steps to properly care for and maintain their windows and doors to ensure optimal performance and operation – and that’s especially important for homes on the coast! Hastings Inside Service Manager Gerry Morin shares some insight on what coastal homeowners can do to safeguard their window and door investment, and ensure they will be able to enjoy their beautiful views for years to come.
Why is window and door maintenance so important for coastal projects?
No matter where you live, your home is up against the elements. But when you live on the coast, your exposure is greater – and the impact adds up over time. Even on a beautiful day you can have sand blowing onto your patio door! And an average run-of-the-mill storm can have a big impact on coastal homes, because strong winds and driving rain can kick up sand debris and salt – affecting hardware and every part of the window. Bottom line, on the coast, it’s not “if” you’ll get water, but “when” – and as a homeowner, you need to be prepared.
The good news is that the potential negative impacts can be dramatically lessened with a few simple steps on the part of the homeowner. Homeowners can also contract with a caretaker – especially if it is not their primary home and they’re not always there. Many of our Marvin customers with coastal homes contract with a caretaker to maintain or manage their maintenance program.
Can you address the myth of “maintenance free” windows and doors on the coast? How do we overcome this perception?
There are few building products on the market that are truly “maintenance free.” The reason for maintenance is not just to keep the products looking good and clean – it’s to ensure optimal operation and prevent issues from developing down the road. Some homeowners are under the assumption that their products are maintenance free – and it’s just not the case.
That being said, we along with our retailers have a great opportunity for education – to help our coastal homeowners understand what needs to be done in terms of maintenance, and to head off any potential issues by helping them to plan properly. Our close partnerships with architects and builders provide the perfect conduit for homeowner education – and we work to leverage these relationships to ensure that the right information is in the homeowners’ hands.
Building awareness about how to take proper care of window and door products can happen on the front end of a project. During project planning, architects can help the client see how factors like window size or exposure can mean additional maintenance concerns.
Because contractors are closer to the homeowner, at the end of the building process they are in a great position to show them around and point out what will need to be done for maintenance. Some contractors will even offer the maintenance service, which makes things even easier.
As the direct connection from manufacturer to homeowner, retailers have the opportunity to ensure that the end user gets the maintenance information they need. Ultimately this benefits the retailer since they are the ones who are getting the calls.
You suggest that a homeowner make a point of regular home inspections. What should they be on the lookout for?
Yes, the biggest thing is for the homeowner or property caretaker to inspect the product regularly, on a semi-annual basis, and if you are right on the ocean, every quarter. Examine the windows and doors from the outside and inside – more frequently on the exterior. Often when we get a service call, it’s for something that’s been going on for months, and the problem has grown more serious over time.
For wood products, homeowners need to look for cracks or areas in the casing where the wood has peeling paint. If it needs painting, paint it! Check fiberglass products for visible problems like any cracks or separations. Generally inspect the components for any corrosion, and check out the hardware and lubricate it as necessary.
Wash and clean the exterior of your house on a regular basis. Power washing is especially important in coastal environments. All materials, even vinyl, need to be cleaned when you live on the coast. Salt alone can do damage, and abrasion from sand can also cause problems. And it’s not only the window itself that should be inspected – it’s what’s around the window. Check the caulking, trim work, exterior shading systems, and shutters.
You can generally see when something is wrong. If you do spot a problem, the best thing to do is to take pictures and call in an expert such as your retailer.
What other basic steps can coastal homeowners take to ensure the longevity and proper operation of their windows?
I think there are three steps that every homeowner should take when it comes to window maintenance. First, review the owner’s manual. Understand the functions, and learn how to clean and take care of the product. Involve your retailer and your builder. Next, establish an inspection schedule – not only for your windows and doors, but all around your house. After every major storm you should do a walk-around, looking for hanging gutters, loose shingles, tree damage, etc. And finally, when you see that something is wrong, do something about it! I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, six or seven years ago, I noticed this problem, and I’ve have been watching it, but haven’t done anything about it.” That’s when you start to get into major repairs. I always encourage homeowners to take action early. Take pictures, share the information – get some help.
Why do you think that window maintenance is often not high on a homeowner’s to-do list?
Architects are focused on the best design, and builders are focused on getting the house project built according to the plans. Homeowners are thinking of the beauty of the home as a whole. The subject of maintenance often just doesn’t come up until something happens. The ultimate responsibility for that maintenance conversation should be shared among all of the stakeholders in the project. The architect, builder and retailer need to provide the information and present it a way that is clear – and homeowners need to be seeking the information and asking questions. And by the way, the first question should be: Do I have the right windows for this project?
I believe that all of us in the distribution channel have a part to play when it comes to educating about the importance of preventative maintenance and upkeep for windows and doors on the coast. With the right level of involvement and a shared responsibility in ensuring that the proper information is in the homeowner’s hands, we can reduce callbacks and ensure that the customer will be happy with the product for a long time.
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Gerry Morin is an Inside Service Manager at A.W. Hastings. He has worked at Hastings since 1999.