Like a shrinking proportion of New Westminsterites, I live in a single-family detached home. A two-professional-income family and a history of fiscal prudence meant that a couple of years ago we were able to sell our “hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops” condo on Royal Ave and buy a house. There were several motivations for the purchase: the Condo didn’t really compliment my obsessive cycling habit; I really wanted a garden and the Community Gardens Project in New Westminster was still only a glimmer in David Maidman’s eye; the condo market in New West looked pretty saturated to me, and more “peaky” than the housing market; and we had committed to New Westminster as the best place in Metro Vancouver to live.
At the time, I described the purchase as “kind of small, kind of old, in a slightly sketchy area, but we can almost afford it”. In the end, it is more size than we need (the guest suite renos are ongoing), we lucked into the house being really solid for it’s age, the brow-of-the-hill neighbourhood turned out to be anything but sketchy and my neighbours are great, and we can still almost afford it. A few minor renos have really made it “our home”.
The house was built in 1940, and although solidly built and well cared for, it is still a 70 year old house. We had an energy audit performed, and they confirmed many things we already knew. The physical plant was in good shape, the furnace and water heater were relatively new, but could be replaced with more efficient ones. There are a few insulation and draft-sealing things we can do. But mostly: the 70-year-old single pane windows are sucking us dry. We decided efficient windows were the first priority, when we had the money and time to do real improvements.
Thus began a long, dark journey into the aftermarket window market. We had a dozen window sales people come through the house. We visited showrooms and workshops, spent our evenings walking the streets of Queens Park staring at (not into) strangers’ windows. The longer this process went on, the more frustrating it got, as we discovered some depressing realities: any windows we could reasonably afford were ugly, and most after-market windows are cheaply built.
I am currently sitting in my dining room, a year or so after we started this course, looking at the new windows we are in the process of having installed: double-pane, Low-E, Argon-filled, wood framed. Significantly not CSA-approved.
More about the journey from energy audit to new windows will be included will be coming as part of an ongoing series here