There are 9 windows in our tiny house, and only 2 of them are the same size. I think I said this sentence a dozen times over the 2 month stretch it took to get window quotes. It’s an important sentence. It tells window salespeople that my house is not a normal house. It also reminds me that we are not climbing Mt. Everest.
Windows are kind of a big deal in terms of energy efficiency for the home. Windows are a weak point in walls. They have almost no insulation value, and so if you have a lot of windows in your house, chances are good that you’ll have cold spots in your house. You can more or less mitigate this by purchasing double-paned windows (at least), and buying a good brand that won’t shrink or crack or leak. Now, I may be spoiled by working in a construction job, but I wanted good windows, and to me that meant Marvin brand. By reputation, they are among the best off-the-shelf window brands. They are also ungodly expensive for two tiny housers building on a budget.
No matter, we told ourselves, we’ll get sponsors! We guessed windows would cost a company maybe $3000 on the high end and that they would jump at the chance to throw some windows our way. Guess again! We received quotes ranging from $6000 to $14,000 for our 9 windows. At those prices, I can see why none of the window companies wanted to give us anything for our house, despite our house being only 9 windows large. A few folks offered generous discounts when I told them they were out of our price range, which is a good strategy if you were planning to spend the money anyway, but we weren’t. We couldn’t make them fit our budget. On to plan B then.
Plan B is always Craigslist
Ah, Craigslist: the friend of the budget conscious, eco-friendly builder. Also friend of poor college students. But I digress.
Using the materials search function on Craigslist, we found windows upon windows. Old windows, new windows, vinyl windows, double-paned, triple-paned, mullioned, triangle-shaped, fixed, double hung, single hung, aluminum clad, fiberglass. If you can imagine it as a window, we found it on Craigslist.
Thankfully, we found windows at a time when our framing was still somewhat flexible. Because that’s the risk you take with Craigslist, of course. What you find on Craigslist isn’t perfect. And most Craigslist treasures need a bit of spit and elbow grease before they can work. Ours were no different.
We got Craigslist windows from 2 different sources in our approximate sizes for most of our locations. Along the way, our 9 windows turned into 10. Our triple mullioned window became separate asymmetrical windows overlooking our living room (one of my favorite features), and we had to resize our stove-side kitchen window rough opening. Not too bad, all things considered. But we couldn’t find loft windows anywhere. Time for plan C, I guess?
What exactly is Plan C?
Construction friends came to our rescue once again. One of my coworkers suggested contacting an area window distributor to see if they had back stock they’d be willing to sell. And so on a wintry day, Seth traveled to JB Sash in Massachusetts to poke through their piles of windows for something suitable. He came away with 4 windows for the loft, slightly smaller than our rough openings which meant a bit of re-framing, but very cheap. And wouldn’t you know it: most of our windows turned out to be Marvin brand. This makes for a very happy Christine.
Above all, the tab
In total, we spent $1200 for 10 windows. Not bad, I’d say. Not exactly free, but well worth the effort it takes to procure good windows.