We cheated. We didn't replace the basement windows ourselves. For only the second time this year, we hired a contractor to do some work on The Box House.
Earlier this past spring, we removed the overgrown yew bushes from around the house, giving them away on Craig's List to whomever wanted to dig them out. When the trees were gone, we discovered that our basement windows were essentially falling out:
That's not quite true. We knew they weren't in great shape, but from inside the basement, you couldn't really tell just how bad. Note in the next picture how there is greenery growing behind the glass. (Hmmmm, on closer inspection, I think that's some wayward late-season mint. We had it growing everywhere, and enjoyed an abundance of mint juleps over the summer. The storm window is no doubt acting as a green house.)
Regrading the yard helped with some of the garden encroaching inside, but with the bushes gone, anybody walking by could see how bad the windows were. Blow on them too hard, and they'd fall off. In fact, after a storm we'd go outside, pick them up off the ground, and set them back in place. Pull them off yourself, and you could rob us blind.
Of course, the rooms where Ted and I have our offices, and spend a good part of the day, had security bars. Unfortunately, if there was ever an emergency from within, these bars would prevent our escape.
The old windows were quaint and old-fashioned. They swung up and inward, attaching to a hook on the ceiling.
Unfortunately, the windows and frames were kinda rotted, the glass was thin, and they leaked like crazy. You could feel a breeze coming in through the closed windows. Restoration wasn't worth it for a number of reasons; the windows weren't really quality to begin with, and we wanted egress windows that we could open quickly and easily--without struggling to open them and hook it to the ceiling just to get out.
We knew we were losing a lot of heat through these windows. At the end of last winter, when we moved in, we worked in the basement in our winter coats because it was so darn cold. So we wanted to replace all the windows and get them hooked into the security system before winter settled in again, and knew we couldn't do it ourselves quickly enough. Besides, they are oddball sizes and needed to be custom made.
After interviewing several companies and gathering estimates, we settled on Scientific Window of Chicago, which we found on Angie's List. Although they said it would be six or so weeks before they could install the windows, they were here in three and a half. A crew of four came in and got it all done in a day.
We chose slider windows. They can be opened to let air in without having to maintain clearance in front of them, and the glass can easily be popped out for quick egress. We didn't really lose much in the way of light coming in.
Overall, we're pretty happy with the work. It was freakin' expensive to replace everything at once, don't get me wrong. But to replace 13 custom-sized windows ourselves would never have gotten done. Anyway, heating cost savings in the next few years should balance it out. It's not quite as cold in the basement with the winter winds now properly blocked.
This pic with Ted is before they finished cladding the exterior with aluminum.
The finished product:
Sometimes, it's worth hiring out the work.