Replacement Window Building Codes, Permits and Fire Codes
Figuring out whether our new vinyl replacement windows would meet
local building codes and fire codes was one of the biggest challenges
we faced. We often heard different stories from the various sales
people who gave us estimates.
One of the first things you should consider
when doing any type of remodeling is whether you will need to get
permits from your local building department. All of the replacement
window companies we considered agreed that permits were not required
because the original window openings were not changing in size. If
you want to enlarge a window, it's more likely you'll need to pull
permits. Since building codes vary greatly, you'll need to check with
your local building department if you want to be sure everything is
up to code.
Tempered Glass (Safety Glass)
Old patio doors that lack tempered glass can be a safey hazard.
All of the companies who gave us estimates
agreed that our sliding patio doors would have to be tempered glass,
also known as safety glass. This is the kind of glass you find in
car windshields that shatters into tiny pieces when it breaks. It's
much safer than regular glass which can break into dangerous knife-like
shards. You can see why patio doors would need tempered glass since
pets, children and even adults are more likely to run into them. Tempered
glass is more expensive, but we're glad to have it. We were always
worried about what could happen if our young daughter ever had an
accident with our old patio doors.
We were surprised to learn that patio doors aren't the only things
that need to have tempered glass. Our local codes require that windows
close to exterior doors and windows that are close to the floor
also be tempered. Apparently windows close to an exterior door are
more prone to break when the door slams. And windows close to the
floor have the same problem as patio doors—people and pets
may run into them. Again, you'll need to contact your local building
department to find the rules for your area.
We got tons of conflicting information about
fire codes as they relate to vinyl replacement windows. Apparently,
the current codes in our area require that window openings be big
enough for a fire fighter in full gear to easily enter all of the
bedrooms in a home. If you live in an older home, your original windows
may not meet the new codes. That's usually not a problem until you
replace those old windows. Once you install vinyl replacement windows,
some states or municipalities may require that you bring everything
up to code. One sales person pointed out that the sliding windows
in our master bedroom were too small to meet the fire codes since
half the window opening is blocked by the stationary part of the window.
Her solution was to replace the sliders with awning windows, the type
that hinge at the top and open with a crank from the bottom. We didn't
really like this idea since all the rest of the windows in the house
would be sliders. Of course, we asked the other sales people about
this. They all said or implied that the codes weren't that strict
and we could replace our old sliding windows with new sliders. We
never got a definitive answer and we chose to get new sliders. I suppose
this could come back to haunt us when we sell the house, but the risk
seems very low. Once again, you should check with your local fire
and building departments for information about the codes in your area.
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