Volume 41,   Issue 3                             March 2006

the Farnady Files

Low-Tech Life Span
    Glass Continues to Evolve and Change

by Dez Farnady

After several failed attempts to buy recordable disks for my DVD recorder, I turned to a friend in the business for a little advice. I told him that no matter what kind of recordable discs I bought, my reasonably new machine did not recognize them. He just laughed and said to buy a new machine. “What do you mean?” I asked.

The explanation was simple. In the high-tech (or even the medium-tech) world the lifespan of technology is about 18 months. My machine was no longer able to keep up with the pace of the technological developments. It was too old to record on the much faster capacity disks now available. Disks that would work on my recorder were no longer even being made. My 18-month-old machine was too old, it was obsolete. So I had to buy a new machine if I wanted to continue to record my own DVDs.

The Glass Life Cycle 

Thank heavens the cycle is a little longer in the glass business. But, considering the life expectancy of your home or some commercial buildings, it may not be as long as you think. Consider my plight with trying to match glass on a large residential skylight job I sold fewer than ten years ago. Back then I thought the LOF blue green Eclipse was just the ticket. By now it has gone through so many changes that I am completely unable to match the glass to replace the one broken lite I need to replace. I tried using the green reflectives from Pilkington and at least three different manufacturers and can’t even get close.

So what is the life cycle of contemporary glass products? I know the Silver Varitran is so long gone that most of you don’t even know what it is unless, of course, you are working in one particular large office complex in Orange County, Calif. And the gold Solarban curtainwall job in San Jose, Calif., had better not have any breakage once they run out of attic glass because no one will ever match that. I suppose on some of these buildings the answer will be either re-glazing the entire job or the wrecking ball eventually.

Close to Home

Residential windows are another item I just tangled with. My aluminum sliding windows were installed in 1977. For some of you guys that is ancient history, but considering the cost of the house at least a century should be the reasonable life expectancy. So how long should the windows last? The life of the house? I certainly think so, but don’t you believe it.

I was ecstatic about the fact that some of my single-sealed butyl insulating units lasted nearly 30 years but the windows are another concern. I know that I can still make deals on the replacement insulating units, but tearing the windows out would be another matter. 

All this leads me to the conclusion that the safest bet is to stay with the vanilla glass. The option is to be prepared to replace it all when the Sungate 500 or the Heat Mirror 55 is no longer as accessible as it would need to be to replace the one out of the ten units that’s gone bad. So what is the glass cycle? Is it ten years or 20? Or does it depend on when the manufacturer decides to change the product or in the case of the window maker, decides to go “belly up?”

My large window maker of 30 years ago is long gone. Replacement parts no longer exist. Some of the exterior snap-on vinyl bead has been eaten by the sun so a bead of silicone will have to do. If the screen clips are broken or lost, though, it becomes jury-rig time or I just forget to put the screen back. Funny how the old single-glazed, double-hung wood window downstairs is still alive and well. The cracked piece of glass was removed and its replacement putty glazed. Now the old vanilla window is as good as new. 

Oh yes, with the insulating aluminum slider, just like with my 18-month-old DVD recorder, I can just go for everything brand new. Great! My “life span” solution is to replace all 14 of my upstairs windows to the tune of some $10,000 to $15,000 for removal, re-work of the opening, the new windows plus installation. And that’s a deal because I am in the business. Yeah, right … well maybe that old wood double-hung is not so bad after all. 

Dez Farnady serves as general manager 
of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight
 manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. 
His column appears monthly.

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