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CUTTING IT DOWN TO SIZE – Window Treatments

Specifications and Window Treatments

 

There is a volume of content providing information about every aspect of window treatments. Everybody, us included, has an opinion about what is right, what is wrong, what should be done, when it should be done and the long term benefits that can be enjoyed if it is done right. However, as with everything in life, when it is our turn, most of us are not as sure as we thought we were, and we find ourselves looking for some sound advice and encouragement.

 

 

The relevance of window treatment :   The options before a homeowner while looking at a window are many – should it be left bare, should it be fabric, should it be blinds and shades or should it be a combination.  Well-made and fitted window treatments give rooms an appearance of color, warmth, and a high-end look.

 

The goals of window treatment:

  • To install elements that will enhance the aesthetics of the window and the room.
  • To create privacy while letting in light and providing a view. This is of primary concern in suburban homes built in close proximity to neighboring homes and of streets.
  • To protect furniture and fittings from the detrimental effects of direct sunlight, dust, and moisture.
  • To harness the inherent properties of window treatment material and mechanisms to provide thermal insulation that in turn can result in direct savings through reduced utility bills.

 

Case study:

Imagine a home is Staten Island, N.Y. Staten Island comprises of approximately 265 square kilometers which in turn consists of 151 sq.km. of land and 114 sq.km. of water. Out of 151 sq.km. Of land, 110 sq.km. Forms the Gateway National Recreation Area. The natural environment is home to diverse population of wildlife. White-tailed deer, turkey, hawks, egrets, pheasants, cotton-tailed rabbits, opossum, raccoon ….

 

Climate:  Annual Rainfall: 43 inches. Snowfall: 23 inches. Sunny days: 205. UV Index: 3.8 against a U.S average of 4.3. Comfort Index: 47 as against a U.S average of 44. Most of the terms used to depict the weather would be familiar except ‘Comfort Index’. The Comfort index measure recognizes that humidity by itself is not a problem in winter with nobody complaining about it though it is perceptibly present. Humidity is identified in summer and Comfort indices use a combination of peak summer daytime temperature and presence of moisture in the atmosphere to predict the effect that humidity will have on people. The higher the figure, the better the Comfort index.            

 

Population:  4,73,279 and the borough’s population is steadily increasing.  14% of the population is over 65 and 41% below 18 years old.

 

Housing:  The borough’s home ownership is 69%, and the median value of owner-occupied homes is $4.41, 000. The earliest residential development dates back to the early 1800’s and it has continued steadily ever after. Hence a trip around the borough will reveal Greek Revival, Italianate, Folk Victorian, Gothic, Second Empire, Queen Ann Style Victorian homes, and Federal and Adam architectural styles juxtaposed with the more recent Ranch homes and Semi-detached homes. Ranch homes, as is usual are single storey houses, often with a basement.  The floor plans are usually divided into a living space and a sleeping wing.

 

Statistics and window treatment:  It would be foolhardy to ignore the figures that cold statistics throws up especially in regions with sun, rain, snow, high humidity, hot summers, and freezing winters. Measuring only for light and view would be akin to the proverbial grasshopper in Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper”. Statistics on all aspects of a home in the United States and Canada is so well collated and easily available that it should play a major role in the decision-making process of every window treatment project, both big and small.

 

Choosing a treatment for its color, and light filtering properties is not a very difficult proposition. Many sources can be tapped to arrive at the colors that would suit the general scheme and individual tastes. However, one needs to go a bit further to understand the year round heating and cooling requirements of every single room and its occupants. It is here that the most often ignored aspect of window treatment is ignored – the specification of the product.

 

Product specification and window treatment: It is not very rare to hear people say that they find specifications too laborious and technical to pay attention. They would rather leave it to the good intentions of the ‘technical experts’ who front the sales departments of stores. Unfortunately, the world is moving towards a regime in which the experts are available ‘on the cloud’ where all vendors are moving. Information provided on websites drive the cloud and internet based world. The challenge for the consumer is to find a reliable vendor who provides a reliable product.  It is mandatory for manufacturers to adhere to minimum standards for material and safety yet the internet is replete with products from dubious sources with scant regard for the comfort and security of the end users. Understanding product specifications is thus an important aspect of the window treatment installation process.

 

Staten Island and window treatments:  Armed with crucial information about Staten Island the task of choosing a reasonably good window treatment becomes simpler:

  • Privacy is a crucial factor, and chances are that most new and affordable homes belong to the ranch and semi-detached category.
  • With an average $ 500,000 budget, money will be very important.
  • Hot summers and cold winters make it important to choose products that are good thermal insulators retaining cool air in summer and warm air in winter.
  • With 205 sunny days material with solar efficiency will be an advantage with its ability to deflect UV radiation in summer and take advantage of the free heat provided by the sun during spring and fall and crucially in winter. The material should also be able to offer years of service without losing color.
  • 43 inches of rainfall and a comfort index of 47 indicate humidity levels that can affect both man and material. The product should be able to handle this aspect and have the ability to withstand the effects of dampness and mold and last for many years without deterioration due to these factors.

 

Assume that the requirement is for a Ranch type house with a living room, two bedrooms, kitchen and two bathrooms and a small study with a private view.  A probable sequence of the window treatment project would be as follows:

 

Decide on the treatment types. 14% of the population of Staten Island being over 65 years old and the percentage increasing annually means that they have probably grown up with curtains and drapes. So the large window confronting the window and predominating the living room can do well with a curtain or drape and accessories that can convey the aura of softness, warmth, coziness and richness. It can be layered to allow the sun and light through when the weather is amenable and hang tight when it is stormy and cold.  The side windows can use blinds, or shades that can be operated efficiently to filter natural light and give a view of the outside and help inmates keep in touch with their vibrant and active environment right through the year. They can be expensive to maintain and replace. Since curtains and drapes are mostly made of natural fiber like silk and cotton or blended with man-made fiber like rayon it is easier for us to have a general idea of their specification. However, when they are coated with chemicals to acquire thermal, anti-fading properties, mold resistance and fire resistance we need to check whether the chemicals used are tested and  entirely safe for installation in homes. To a large extent, we need to look for certifications of approval from accredited laboratories that are equipped to test and certify products for the related parameters.

 

The 42% below 18’s would still be at home looking for convenience and comfort rather than opulence. The bedrooms can use  bottom up top down roman shades  can be full drawn or adjusted to allow the right amount of light or for block out and blackout purposes.  These types of window treatments are simple to install, and convenient to maintain and has become very child-safe. Since they allow for innovation, they are being continuously modified and offered in the market with additional features and properties through which manufacturers try and address the users concerns.

 

The kitchen and toilets and vents have special requirements revolving around moisture, grease, dust, fumes and to a large extent comprise the traditional material like aluminum, vinyl and other man-made material that have properties to withstand moisture and grease. They are generally cheaper and can be maintained and operated more efficiently.

 

The point being made is that most of us like to have at least one large window in our living room and bedrooms. Most people work out of modern offices that provide a down-to-earth minimalistic ambiance and install window treatments that are economical, easy to maintain and operate while being energy efficient and able to convey an atmosphere of comfort that will enhance productivity.  These same people go back home aware of the treatment types but look for comfort, efficiency and convenience  in an atmosphere that enhances the quality of their life by providing an environment of  rest, relaxation and genial communication. Safety and comfort are of paramount importance within homes. It is here that sleek products come into play. Unlike in the work spot where the task of deciding on window treatment products is taken by experts assigned the task, at home the buck stops with the homeowners. It is in their own interest to be thorough and being thorough means being acquainted with specifications.

 

Specifications:  Almost all manufacturers make detailed specifications for their products that they will provide their outlets with. For various reasons these may not be available in the public domain but most dealers will provide them on request once they ascertain the genuineness of the enquirer. A typical example is Graber Blinds whose dealer was happy to share the information on request. The Perfect Vue blinds, part of their new range seemed ideal for a home project for a ranch style home bedroom. The over-riding concern was safety followed by a desire to take advantage of the weather conditions and enhance the quality of life by feeling at one with nature which is available and evident all around if only one had a view. The Perfect Vue construction itself was interesting being a combination of two types of shades – Cellular and Pleated blinds working together in a Bottom-up Top down configuration.

 

The specification sheet provides information on the following:

  1. The variety of fabric used in inches  for single and double cells. The level of light control and privacy that each fabric provides i.e. light filtering, room darkening or blackout  and the content of the fabric, whether woven or spun lace, etc. each of which have their advantages for particular purposes.
  2. Size consideration from the point of view of the control mechanism. For example, the maximum and minimum width and height of a Standard Cord controlled shade made with a fabric called Cambridge. Likewise for Cordless, Continuous loop and Motorized lift for both Inside and Outside Mount.
  3. Measuring considerations for Corner windows, Bay windows, Cutouts, and Skylights.
  4. General information related to Energy performance, Energy performance ratings, U.V protection and Sound absorption.

 

Specifications, crowded with figures, scientific terms and symbols seem daunting at first. With a bit of patience and effort, the columns and rows filled with figures reveal pertinent facts that enable Staten Islanders to install window treatments meant for their climate and their environment.  Facts emerge from specifications sheets. Study specifications before spending.

 

 

 

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