Window replacement a real 'pane' for unsuspecting Washington condo owners

Window replacement a real 'pane' for unsuspecting Washington condo owners
Window replacement in Washington

Window replacement in Washington

It pays to read those bulky condo documents before choosing to upgrade or replace exterior features of your home, especially when windows are involved.

You might be surprised by what you’re responsible to pay for, or whose permission you need for the project.

"My struggle with getting my window replaced was the multiple layers of approvals that were necessary, and the fact that the requirements of each of the approving authorities did not align," says Jim Florie, a licensed real estate agent in D.C. and former condo board member who found himself needing to replace his own window.

Basically, Florie says, if a unit owner wants to replace a window, he or she must submit the plans in writing to the board for prior approval.

There could be other steps, too, for those living in one of the many historic neighborhoods in Washington.

"In my case, the condo documents stated that all changes needed to be approved by the board, but because there is a historic easement on the building, you also have to get approvals from both the [historic trust] and the D.C. Historic Preservation office," he says.

Finding a window company

Fortunately, Washington window companies aren't strangers to dealing with these requirements, especially those window installers working in the city's historic neighborhoods.

Thompson Creek Window Co. based in Lanham, Maryland, for instance, offers windows that will meet the requirements of most area historical associations, including those in Old Town Alexandria, Capitol Hill and Georgetown. Rick Wuest, president and CEO of Thompson Creek, says his company's vertical integration makes it easy to work with unique cases. “We’ve got our own manufacturing plant and we control the installation process,” he says.

Choosing a window company that provides a variety of options and can adapt to unique specifications can ease the replacement process.

There are a variety of options when replacing windows, ranging from just changing the window sash to a complete full-frame replacement.

Each option presents challenges to a condo owner trying to abide by the association’s bylaws and rules set forth by local historical or preservation societies.

Informing yourself before beginning any window project will help you avoid the headache and expense of having to redo a project.

Who pays?

The replacement cost and legwork is almost always the responsibility of the condo owner, and not the association.

But you could get lucky. Usually, in the Washington, D.C., area, windows are the responsibility of the condo owner, but depending on how individual documents are written, there's a small chance the owner could be off the hook completely and the association would pay.

Florie wasn't so lucky.

He footed the bill and chose to alter his original plan: "I finally gave up and ended up just replacing the glass in the existing window, and threw the idea of a more energy-efficient replacement out the window."


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