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Hi Robert,

I always read your column and there is a question you could help me with if you have time.

I live in a condo where most of the windows face the alley side. Children are constantly playing out there and it is very noisy. One of the windows leaks and needs to be replaced. Is this an HOA responsibility? What’s the difference between a window and a retrofit window? What is the best window to eliminate noise from the outside? Thank you,

Joe L.

Hi Joe,

Thermal pane, dual-glazed windows do a lot in the way of soundproofing. The panes of glass are hermetically sealed and the space is filled with argon, a low heat-loss gas, or left under vacuum. The conductivity of these windows also make them much more energy efficient because they keep the heat inside the building during winter, and prevent heat from entering during summer.

Another method of soundproofing are windows that are custom fabricated and installed behind your original window. So, you have both an interior and exterior window. Manufacturing companies state that U.S. noise levels are increasing 5% every year, that 90% of all noise enters the home through windows and doors and that these secondary soundproof windows will reduce noise an additional 75% – 95%. This noise cancellation technology was first designed and developed for the recording industry.

Replacing the window may or may not be a homeowner responsibility. It depends entirely on your CC & R’s – conditions, covenants, and restrictions. These documents represent a unique set of regulations that outline the responsibilities between you and the association, which are often open to interpretation. If you are unsure about who is responsible for what, contact your HOA. If you disagree, you can always consult with a real estate attorney.

Retrofit windows can be installed if the HOA permits them. They are an inexpensive alternative to a full window replacement. You leave the original frame in place and just slide in the new window, then caulk. Personally, I’m not a big fan of retrofits but they can work. The problem is in five or so years when the caulking gives out, you are re-caulking them and resetting them. That’s been my experience. Aesthetically, they have a big frame around them on the outside and they stick out like a sore thumb. You can spot a retrofit a mile away. It all depends on your HOA. If they don’t allow retrofits, you have to install a new window which involves breaking out stucco. If you’re on the second floor, you need scaffolding. That’s $700 right out of the gate, plus the window at $500. or $600, depending on the size. Stucco, demo, labor, interior drywall repair…it’s costly for a new window and it adds up very quickly.

The real question would be, “Is it the window that’s leaking or the stucco and the paper around it?” To make that determination, you have to water test which requires opening drywall. Has your unit been water tested? The window is isolated by masking off the window and frame with plastic, and then spray the surrounding stucco. If the stucco does not leak, remove the plastic and wet the window. In this way, you can ascertain exactly what’s needed for the repair.

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Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Your Home Improvements” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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