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Is It Time to Replace Your Front Door?

Upgrade your home’s curb appeal, save energy and score a tax rebate with a new front door

glazed entry door systemTherma-Tru

A classic front entrance offers inviting approach and beautiful detailing.

Is it time to replace your home’s front door? If it looks shoddy and does a poor job of keeping out the weather, now is a great time to buy a stunning new door that will add to your home’s value, improve comfort, increase energy savings and ensure security.

A new front door can give your home instant curb appeal. The front door, after all, is a key focal point and one of the first impressions visitors have when they arrive at your home. As such, a new door can significantly contribute to your home’s style and character, increasing its value.

Many of today’s doors are designed to do a great job of shutting out the weather and holding-in home energy. Construction from durable, insulated materials combined with integral weather stripping systems help these doors maximize comfort by reducing drafty air leaks, and they save energy by preserving expensively heated air in the winter or chilled air in the summer.

Some new doors, due to their construction, can also make a home quieter by blocking or reducing traffic and neighborhood noise.

And of course, a new door can improve security. Strong materials (such as steel doors) and sophisticated multi-point locking systems provide an excellent barrier against intruders.

Why Get a New Door Now?

Why does it make sense to jump on this improvement now? There are two good reasons: First, winter is on its way. Though you can remove and replace a door on any clear day, Mother Nature will freely come and go when you remove the door, so it’s best to handle this improvement before winter cold arrives.

A second good reason, if you intend to buy an energy-efficient front door system, is that tax credits that are available now for qualifying products may run out at the end of the year.

Between now and December 31, 2016, the federal government is offering a 10 percent tax credit for buying qualifying Energy Star-certified doors. This credit, which does not include installation costs, covers 10% of the cost up to $500.

Note: An Energy Star sticker alone does not guarantee that a door qualifies for this program. For more about the credit, visit the Energy Star site.

Understanding Door Materials

Historically, entry doors were usually made from wood. Today’s doors, however, are made from wood, steel or fiberglass composites—or a combination of these materials.

Though real wood doors have natural beauty, they are vulnerable to weathering, especially from direct sun and rain, so they need considerable care and maintenance unless they’re installed in a well-protected area. Real wood doors have very little insulation value, so they don’t qualify for tax incentives.

Fiberglass composite and steel doors, on the other hand, are designed to last for decades in severe weather conditions. Most have a foam insulation core that gives them excellent energy performance. Many have a surface that, when stained or painted, resembles wood.

Doors that meet Energy Star requirements are actually more than doors—they are entry systems. With an entry system, an insulated door is pre-mounted in a frame that includes jambs, threshold and interlocking weather stripping. Everything is part of the system, from hinges to dual- or triple-glazed windows (“lites”) and the lockset. With some models, side lites provide light and views at one or both sides of the door.

Replacing a conventional door with an entry system is a significantly bigger job than replacing a door with one of the same size because the wall framing that holds the door’s frame must be rebuilt and the area around the opening may need to be repaired.

Where & How to Buy a Door

Doors are sold online, at major home improvement centers, at lumberyards, at millwork shops and through local distributors and dealers who represent door manufacturers. Manufactured entry systems are made primarily by large companies such as Jeld-Wen, Andersen, Masonite, Pella, Fortune Brands and Marvin. Most companies are happy to offer an in-home consultation and free estimate.

It’s smart to go to a store or showroom so you can see what you’re buying. If you do go to a dealer, plan to be armed with measurements. For a simple door replacement, measure the old door’s width, thickness (normally 1 3/4 inches) and height (normally 6 feet, 8 inches). Then note the direction the door swings. From inside, if the doorknob is on the right, it’s a “right-handed” door; if it’s on the left, it’s a “left-handed” door. When ordering, it’s smart to sketch a birds-eye view of the door and its direction of swing to avoid any confusion.

If you’re buying an entry system you’ll need to measure the thickness of the wall so you can order the proper width of jamb, too—you can usually just measure the old doorjambs. When ordering an entry system, be sure all the components are made by the same manufacturer to ensure that they’re designed to go together. All weather stripping should seal tightly and the threshold should interlock with the door’s bottom edge.

Regardless of who makes the door you’re interested in buying, inquire about the length of the warranty—the best doors have a limited warranty for as long as you own and occupy the house; some warranties are even transferrable to the next owner when you sell the house. You can read or download most manufacturers’ warranties online.

High-quality steel and fiberglass doors are manufactured with an insulated separation called a “thermal break” that prevents outside temperatures from being conducted through the door. If you live in a cold climate, a good thermal break is a must to keep frost from forming on the door’s inside surface.

The cost of installing a new entry door, as with most home improvements, depends largely on the quality of the materials, regional labor costs and installation conditions. The price for a door alone starts at about $400 for a wood door. A pre-hung hardwood door system with side lites can easily run $4000 or more. The best way to nail down costs is to figure out what you want and then get bids.

Though a high-quality door may cost you a little more, its energy efficiency, low maintenance, smooth operation and great looks will pay you back for years.

This article, written by HomeTips’s Don Vandervort, was originally posted on US News.com.

What Is a Smart Door Lock—and Do You Need One?

When it comes to securing the front door, a well-made conventional front door lock does the job just fine. Tried and true, its inner workings have been perfected for nearly two centuries. But consider this: Thanks to technology, a “smart door lock” can add entirely new dimensions to a lock’s convenience, utility, and security.

smart door lock

A smart lock pairs with your smartphone to unlock a world of convenience.

Why might you want a smart door lock? Picture this: Your arms are loaded with groceries and, as you approach the front door, the door lock recognizes your smartphone and automatically unlocks. Or maybe you want to grant access to family, friends, guests, Airbnb clients or service providers when you’re not home—so you just text them a code. Or maybe you’re away from home and want to keep track of who opens the door, or be alerted when they do.

A smart door lock accomplishes all of these advanced functions and more thanks to a combination of wireless technologies including Bluetooth and WiFi that give you control over your smart lock from anywhere you can connect to the Internet via the lock’s smartphone app.

You may not need a smart lock, but it’d sure make your life easier and heighten your sense of control and security over your abode when you’re not home.

A Whole New Way to Open Your Door

Once installed and paired via Bluetooth with your smartphone, a smart lock can be locked and unlocked without a key. Depending on the make and model and its feature set, a smart lock can be opened by waving or turning your smartphone in front of the lock, touching the lock with your finger, tapping a control in an app, approaching your door, or even talking to your lock. Some locks can also be programmed to automatically bolt behind you as you leave. Smart locks offer one or a combination of these keyless lock/unlock options.

All smart lock apps also allow you to send virtual “keys” that can be used by family, friends, visitors or service workers only for a specified period of time (the recipient must download the lock’s app to their phone). The app can also alert you about who’s coming and going, and keeps a history of who goes in or out and when.

If your home is equipped with a video doorbell, you can also grant entry to unexpected visitors you can visually vet through real-time video chat.

A smart lock is designed to replace the bolt lock on your front door. Installing it is a DIY process that’s easier than you might expect—usually involving just a few screws. Typically, it can be done in less than an hour. Surprisingly, smart locks don’t cost substantially more than a premium standard key lock—usually from $200 to $250.

Smart locks are battery operated; batteries normally last from six months to a year. You’ll get an alert when the batteries need to be replaced so you don’t get locked out because of no power. New smart locks made by Yale even have external jacks to hook up a 9-volt battery, just in case the internal batteries die unexpectedly.

Smart Lock Differences

The whole idea of a smart lock is only about two years old, and many of the pioneering smart lock makers such as Kevo, August and Goji are start-ups whose initial focus was more gadget innovation than real-world utility. Since the idea is still so new, all smart lock sellers, including traditional lock makers such as Yale, Schlage and Kwikset, are still figuring out the features and functionality we want.

As a result, while smart locks share many functions and virtues, most differ wildly in design and operation.

Some smart locks, like the August, for instance, present a totally blank face to the outside, and can be opened only if your smartphone is deployed or on your person.

Wifi-enabled smart lock installs in minutes with just a screwdriver. Buy on AmazonKwikset

Wifi-enabled smart lock installs in minutes with just a screwdriver. Buy on Amazon

Yale’s [easyazon_link identifier=”B01JUBS0Q0″ locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]WiFi plus Bluetooth Assure[/easyazon_link] and the WiFi-only Linus both include a touchscreen keypad for alternative entry.

The [easyazon_link identifier=”B01JJ0YYWG” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Kwikset Kevo[/easyazon_link] powered by Unikey ($199.99) looks like a normal lock and can be opened with a traditional key. However, if you’ve got your paired smartphone in your pocket, you can also open it just by touching the lock.

Both the new August ($229) and [easyazon_link identifier=”B00YUPDUYE” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt[/easyazon_link] ($229) are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, which means they can be opened via Siri voice command from an iPhone or Apple Watch. The Schlage also includes a keypad.

Adding a key option like the Kevo, or a numerical keypad, can be a comforting option to the tech-suspicious. We’ve all experienced wireless connectivity issues, and none of these mishaps could compare with an outage locking you out of your own home. To allay this fear, some smart lock makers are augmenting their wireless-only entry with optional keypads. [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LBGVQ9K” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]August[/easyazon_link] is adding a two-column keypad strip, for instance, and Danalock will soon start selling its circular Danapad keypad (price to be announced).

Smart locks don’t provide much of an advantage for apartment dwellers, however, since an outside buzzer limits a smart lock’s remote entry attributes. To help solve this, a company called Ikilock has unveiled its “remote doorman” Ikiplug box, which can remotely trigger your intercom to open the outer building door.

If you’ve got a household with a plethora of comings and goings, the right smart lock may be a smart idea.

Stewart Wolpin is a consumer electronics expert and a contributing writer for eBay.com, a great place to find technology to improve your home.


Window Glass Buying Guide

This window glass buying guide explains R values, Low-E glazing, high-performance window glass, and much more.

Dual and triple glazed windows provide excellent energy performance. The two windows on the left are solid wood; the frame on the right is wood inside and aluminum clad outside.Bacho / Shutterstock.com

Dual and triple glazed windows provide excellent energy performance. The two windows on the left are solid wood; the frame on the right is wood inside and aluminum clad outside.

window glass buying guide

This high-efficiency window is triple glazed and clad on the exterior. Photo: Marvin

Window glass is infamous for allowing heat to move far too freely between indoors and outdoors. Heat moving through windows dramatically reduces the energy efficiency of homes in both winter and summer. The biggest issue, of course, is heat loss in winter. But summer presents problems, too, as heat gain can burden air conditioning systems and glare can make rooms uncomfortable.

The good news is that many new types of high-performance window glazing have been produced in recent years, making possible the use of glass without the accompanying severe heat loss, heat gain, glare, and other problems. This window glass buying guide will help.[GARD align=”left”]

The basic measurements of performance are R-values and U-values. In addition, other measurements include a “light-transmittance” value that rates how much light the glazing allows, and a “shading coefficient” and “UV value” that measure the amount of glare and ultraviolet light allowed through the glass. Talk with a window dealer about the specific properties and values available.

Understanding R-Values & U-Values

The energy efficiency of various windows can vary dramatically. For this reason, they are given two different types of values that measure heat loss: R-values and U-values. Windows are most efficient if they have a relatively high R-value and low U-value. Here is a brief explanation of each:

R-value. Thermal resistance—the ability of a material to resist heat flow—is measured by an R-value. The higher the R-value, the more the material resists the movement of heat. A single-glazed window offers an insulating value of about R-1, a dual-glazed model provides twice the value at R-2. The type of glass is the most important factor when it comes to R-values. You can buy even more effective high-performance glazing.

U-value. This applies the factor of time to the heat-loss measurement. U-values measure heat that escapes per hour through a window. Windows typically have two U-values: one for the glass and one for the window, including the frame. The lower the U-value, the more energy-efficient the window.

Generally speaking, if you want to minimize heat transfer, pick high-performance glazing that has a high R-value. For maximum light, choose a type with a high visual light-transmittance value or, to cut glare, with a lower light transmittance value. To cut heat gain, select glazing with a high shading coefficient. Glazing with a high UV value will block nearly all furniture-fading ultraviolet rays.

Types of Window Glass

Basic insulating glass may have two or three panes separated by an air space. Dual-glazed have become the standard for performance; triple-glazed windows are, of course, better performing but are relatively expensive and heavy to handle during installation.

Here is a closer look at your options:[GARD align=”left”]

Low-e & insulating glass. This type of glass has a virtually invisible metallic coating that blocks radiant heat transfer and protects carpets and furnishings from fading by reducing damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun. “Super” windows have two low-e coatings to achieve incredibly high R-8 insulation values. Even more efficient insulating windows have argon gas, a natural, colorless, non-toxic gas that is sealed between glass panes. Insulating low-e glass filled with argon gas has about twice the insulating qualities of standard dual glazing.

Tinted glass & reflective glass. Tinted glass can significantly reduce heat and glare from direct sunlight and cut ultraviolet (UV) rays that can discolor furniture, carpets, and floors. It does this by absorbing the inbound solar radiation.

Tinted glass is, as its name suggests, darker than clear glass. Because of this, it slightly reduces the amount of visible light. Several different colors and shades of tints are available, and each has a slightly different effect. A gray or bronze cast, the most common tints, cut down on heat and light equally. Windows with blue and green tints, on the other hand, allow in a little more visible light. Black tints absorb more light than heat.

Like tinted glass, reflective glass reduces solar gain. From outside, it appears to be a mirror. Because tinted glass absorbs only a small percentage of light, it does not have the same mirrored appearance. Beware of blocking too much light. If you do, your energy bills are likely to go up as your home will require more artificial lighting.

If you have existing clear glass windows but want the heat- or UV-blocking benefits or the privacy offered by tinted windows, be sure to investigate window films. These thin plastic sheets, which you can easily apply to windows, can dramatically improve the performance of your window glass. Various types of window tint films are intended for blocking heat, blocking UV rays, or simply offering privacy. For more information, see Window Film.

Safety glass windows. Safety glass is designed for installation where a person might accidentally walk through or be injured by a window or sliding door. Most local building codes require safety glass in many different situations including but not limited to:

stained window glass

Stained glass adds a brilliant decorative touch.

• A window that is within 18 (or 24) inches of the floor
• Along staircases
• Near bathtubs, showers, saunas, and the like
• In swinging, sliding, or bi-fold doors
• In railings
Check with your local codes regarding requirements.

Safety glass may be tempered, laminated, or wire-reinforced. None of these will shatter when broken. Tempered glass, for example, will crumble when broken. Laminated or wire-reinforced glazing is held together by its internal layer of plastic or wire.

window glass buying guide grilles

Grilles for divided lites are inserted between glass panes, making window care a breeze. Photo: Marvin

Specialty glazing. Of course, you will find decorative possibilities, too, including etched, beveled, leaded, stained, and many other ornamental glazing materials. You can even buy glass that has a hydrophilic coating to help shed water more quickly, which basically turns a rainstorm into a window cleaning. Impact-resistant windows are now available to protect your home and family from wind-blown objects and the local little league all star.

Divided lites. Multi-paned windows may have either faux or real divided lites (panes). These are a good choice in homes with a traditional architectural style. Those with real muntins (divisions between glass panes), though authentic, are considerably more expensive and a little more difficult to clean than the ones with snap-in wood grilles.

You can also buy windows that have integral shades or dual-glazed windows with mini-blinds positioned inside, between the glass panes. These are great for rejecting glare and heat gain on hot, sunny afternoons.

How to Fix a Pocket Door

If you have a pocket door that isn’t working properly, here are some remedies you can try.

Pocket door with translucent panels glides into the wall for space efficiency.

Pocket door with translucent panels glides into the wall for space efficiency.

Pocket Door Is Off Its Track

If the pocket door is off of its track, you’ll have to remove it before you can repair it. To do this:

1Use a utility knife to break the paint seal along the stop moldings on each door jamb, and then carefully pry off the moldings with a chisel or a 5-in-1 tool and flat bar.

2Position the door so that it’s centered in the doorway, tilt it toward the room, and lift the rollers out of the overhead track.[GARD align=”left”]

3Inspect the rollers to see if they’re broken, worn, or otherwise fouled. If one or both are, repair or replace both of them. You can buy pocket door hardware online or you can take your parts to a well-stocked hardware store to find matching replacements.

Repairing A Pocket Door Track

Repairing the track is trickier because it’s located inside the pocket. If possible, slide your arm into the pocket and make sure the track is screwed soundly in place. If it isn’t, do your best to tighten the screws.

A hopeless track will have to be replaced. This involves removing enough wall covering near the track to let you access the old track so you can remove it and install a new one. Unless you’re accomplished at home carpentry, call in a professional. You can buy a pocket door track replacement kit online.

Roller at the base of this pocket door is adjustable for smoother gliding on its track.

Pocket Door Does Not Roll Well

When a pocket door doesn’t work right, the problem is often with the rollers. Check that they’re fitted into the track properly. If they are, you will need to remove the door to diagnose the problem.

1Remove both stops from the head jamb and from one side jamb so that you can lift the door out. Angle the bottom out, and then lift the door up.

2Inspect the rollers to see if they’re broken or have just come loose. If the problem is just a loose roller, tighten or replace the loose screws at its base. If a roller is broken, replace both.

Pocket door tracks and rollers can also be adjusted to compensate for a warped door, but a badly warped door should be replaced.

 

Window Hardware

All operable windows come equipped with hardware, the mechanisms used for opening and closing the sash, latches, and so forth. Here is a look at the key types of hardware:

Casement window folding crank and latches are inconspicuous on this Pella window.

Cranks

Casement, awning, and hopper windows utilize cranks for opening and closing. (Older types used push-bar operators.) Some manufacturers offer cranks in nonmetallic finishes (notably white), and some new types have fold-down handles that are relatively inconspicuous.[GARD align=”right”]

Hinges

The best casement, awning, and hopper hinges pivot to allow arm space between the sash and the window frame to make washing exterior glass an easy job. You can even find special European hardware that turns a casement window into a hopper window. Because the hardware locks tightly in several places around the frame, the windows have very low air infiltration. But, unlike American casement windows, the European-style window mechanism swings into the room, which can be awkward and inconvenient depending on the type of window coverings you have.

Counterbalances

On double-hung windows, the sash is counterbalanced on the sides by weights or mechanisms such as torsion screws.

A smooth glider has low-profile hardware. Photo: Marvin

Sliding Mechanisms

The sashes of most aluminum and vinyl windows are lightweight enough to slide in the sill tracks. But large, door-height sashes must be supported by heavy-duty rollers on their bottom edges.

Latches, Locks & Security

Latches are used to hold the window tightly closed. Two are recommended on tall or wide hinged windows. On double-hung windows, sash locks pull together the upper and lower sash. Keyed sash locks provide an additional measure of security. On sliders, look for security locks so the operable sashes cannot be jimmied open.

Though hinged doors are relatively easy to protect with proper latches and deadbolts, windows and sliding glass doors are not as simple to secure. Windows and doors that slide can be forced open or lifted off their tracks, and glazing can be broken.

In addition to installing locking devices, you can enhance security by replacing all ordinary glass with tempered, laminated, or wire-reinforced glass or with plastic, as well as by installing perimeter alarm systems.[GARD align=”right”]

Several ready-made devices are available to make prying open a window and/or removing a sliding glass door from its track more difficult. The right locking device to choose will depend on whether you need to secure a sliding window or door or a double-hung window.

To keep a panel from sliding, use track grips, which are tightened by a thumbscrew or key, or use metal stops that straddle the lower track and are secured with a lever or thumbscrew that clamps them in place. Or use a spring bolt, which is screwed to the sill or base track and has a pin that snaps through a hole drilled into the edge of the lower track and the bottom of the sash.

Even more secure is a bar that screws to the doorjamb and swings up into a saddle on the edge of the door to lock it in place; an advantage of this type of bar is that it can be adjusted to allow the door to be partially open.

The easiest way to keep an inside panel from sliding is to drop a dowel or a piece of stiff tubing into the empty portion of the lower track. Cut it 1/4 inch shorter than the distance between the panel and the jamb.

Double-hung windows can be locked with wedge locks, key-operated latches, or locking pins that go through one sash and into the next.

 

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