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What Kind of Windows Are Needed for Excellent Insulation?

What Kind of Windows Are Needed for Excellent Insulation?

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  #1  
Old 08-15-15, 04:34 PM
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What Kind of Windows Are Needed for Excellent Insulation?

My husband is enclosing an old 3 season porch in to a much needed sort of family room. One end is sort of "utility" - you want across it to get in the house, and on one side of you is a laundry/closet, the rest of the room is a sitting room. We are struggling with how to insulate this (I posted our insulation question on that here which includes a couple of small pictures.

Also we are hoping its doable to install radiant floor heat, which I am asking about here.

That latter post includes advice by Norm. He says there that our #1 concern is the windows, and that it is our greatest loss of heat. He says we need high-end thermo pane windows. Oh, dear. How high-end does it have to be??

I am in charge of researching windows. We are probably going to use a local dealer we have used for our lower-budget windows we have used in the rest of the house, that work fine. (This dealer works with all kinds of windows and his prices are competitive. We were willing to go a little bit more expensive for this room which we want to be extra nice. But I do not know what to ask him for, that's why I am asking here).

The goal is a room that is full of light and windows looking out onto the snow that is perfectly warm and cozy even on icy cold stretches of Connecticut winters! A winter oasis room.

My question is - how high end to I have to go with these windows for this winter-warmth I seek? What do I need to ask for? Also we need a front door with side lights, and I want to paint the front door with "Fine Paints of Europe" paint, and a back door - a narrower one probably, and I am preferring a french door for that, if its not too foolish. Otherwise a half-light door maybe. For the entry door, I was hoping for wood, but if its a really terrible idea than I can go with another. Please advise me!

Windows for the room:
The room is to have a large bay window on one end. The opposite end, by the entry, will have a large window over the washer and dryer. Then the long side against the house will have a 36" wide entry door with two side-lights, and all will have window for approximately the top 3/4 (or 2/3rds, or 3/5ths - whatever I can find bigger than 1/2. A trip not too far from here will take me to "House of Doors" where supposedly we can get any door. It will be simple, for our simple house). Also the rear door which I hope to be a French door. Also that long side with the entry will have a row of three windows of the same size.

A further question, for those interested in architectural design: I am not an architect but I am really into art and design. (I think I have looked at houses my entire life, forming opinions on what looks right). My preference is for windows with divider lights for this room. The rest of the house has none. I thought it would look nice to have this be the one "different room". I would appreciate an opinion from someone also interested in how windows fit in a house design. I am also now considering making it to have only some with divided lights (like the doors and the bay window), and some not. To have an opinion on this, it might help to see the design plans my husband made, all to scale. I tried to post it but its too big to post and way too hard to make smaller. So I can email that to whoever is interested in seeing, also the floor plan.
 
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  #2  
Old 08-15-15, 05:57 PM
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Reduce the size of the pictures to about 1080 x 640 or thereabouts and it will work. We do like to work off visuals, and the other pictures in the other posts are "meh". If you like looking out over the snow, then you don't want divisions in the glass. "High end", will depend on the name, basically. Most windows are quality built, with a few exceptions. I would look for LowE366 coating, vinyl, since metal transfers heat and cold really bad. Look at your situation. Will you be installing replacement windows or new construction windows? Again, pictures help.
 
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Old 08-15-15, 06:38 PM
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Just a thought to the mods. I really think these two post should be combined. It all centers on one room being made into a winter retreat type family room with lots of open window space and needed warmth. Just say'n.
 
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Old 08-15-15, 06:44 PM
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Norm, she actually has three going, but they concern different aspects. One is about insulating the floor, one is about radiant heat, and this one. Luckily she is referencing the other threads. I'll keep an eye on things. Thanks for the heads up.
 
  #5  
Old 08-16-15, 09:42 PM
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Thanks for the replies!
Chandler, my husband followed the instructions in the link you gave and the great big house picture ended up being that small - really "meh". I was not able to post the plans, but my husband was able to get URLs for them so here they are. You have to refer to the photos in my insulation question to the little photo of the actual house in "before" mode. Here is the plan with the portico added, from the south, or front side of the house. You can see the new portico extending out. Here is the plan for then new finished west side, where the new front door and portico is. And here is the floor plan that shows the new room. We are moving the washer out of the kitchen (the empty spot by the door in the plan) and into the new finished room (the dryer has been on the 3-season porch and will be moved next to it), against the south wall, under a nice window, which you will walk by there on that "business end" of the room. As to the exterior, particularly the west side, we worked extremely hard on that. We both have firm ideas about design and aesthetics, particularly me! I am really picky about proportions, and staying true to what the house seems to "call for". Our house is simple, so the portico has to be, but also it needs to add some presence. Hence its width, and the wide columns. The arch in the portico is an oval arch, which will go with the horizontal oval we want to add in the attic later. The third set of curves will be in the porch railings. Because designing in 3's is always good. Thence, three new simple curve aspects are added to our boxy simple house. Those are the kinds of things I think about, and my dear husband has all the know-how for making it work. (and I know how to research if he has a question!).

So yes, we will be using new construction windows. Okay, I will look for LowE366 coating, and for vinyl. I will ask our window guy about that specifically.

Norm and Chandler, let me know if I should be posting it differently. I think all three posts have links to each other. The insulation post is dauntingly long and I might edit it, now that my next question is more specific. Because it seems more direct questions are appreciated.
 
  #6  
Old 08-17-15, 07:01 AM
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I'm not a window expert. But I did just install new windows in my home. Straight vinyl over a wood sash is not a good choice (not sure if their still even made that way). Especially since temp changes may be significant. Vinyl will not expand and contract at the same rate as the wood or aluminum and will eventually delaminate. Look for a window that has Fibrex (Renewal by Anderson) or Ultrex (Marvin Windows). Don't settle for less. Especially for the type of room your designing. Supposedly the Ultrex is bit better. I opted for the Andersen because of price and service in my area. The Fribrex can be had in big box stores so your not tied to Andersen although it will still be an Andersen product. You can go here for a brief comparison from a company that will sell and install either band. They recommend both.

Ultrex vs Fibrex Windows | Designer Sash & Door Systems

I noticed an immediate improvement in the A/C temp in the upper floor. Much cooler than last year. Also they boosted about a special finish on the glass to keep it clean. I just assumed it was sales hype. But in fact the widows do have a "self" cleaning ability when water hits them.

Another important aspect of the windows will be the warranty. Andersen offers an owner to owner limited lifetime and the only company that offers a 20 year thermo seal guaranty. However, there is one company that offers a true lifetime warranty, Milgard (not available in all areas). Don't know what Marvin offers.

Just keep in mind that next to your choice of heat source, the next biggest and important purchase will be those windows. Wrong choice and all your other work is for naught.

Good luck.
 
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Old 08-17-15, 07:52 AM
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I didn't want to touch this thread with a 10' pole because the whole concept of "winter warmth" and windows is flawed. Yes you want the best window and best glass you can, but don't expect the room to be much warmer just because of the windows.

A window will never be anywhere close to the warmth of an insulated wall no matter what stats salesmen try and tell you. The only way for your room to be comfortable is to concentrate on how much heat and energy you are willing to throw at it. Cuz that heat will radiate right out the glass no matter what kind of glass it is. The only difference being that a quality window and glass package that is "energy efficient" will be fractionally warmer. If your heat source can't keep up with the amount of heat loss, the room will seem cold, period. So in my mind, heat supply is #1 and windows are a close 2nd. Heat loss is the reason why heat registers on exterior walls are almost always located directly below windows. If they aren't, the window gets colder and colder and you have condensation problems from the lack of heat and lack of airflow.
 
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Old 08-17-15, 08:36 AM
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I have to respectfully disagree with you. Fractionally warmer by how much? Of course an insulated wall is better than a window. But local codes require windows and so does the whole point of this discussion. And I will also refute your comment that a room will not feel significantly warmer or cooler (summer A/C vs winter) due to the type of window. It will, and I'm proof of that. I'll even go so far as to say that in the purchase of a new home the window condition should be considered as much as the roof, structure, plumbing and foundation. The only saving point is that a window can be readily replaced at low cost compared to the other items.

Today's thermo pane windows do in fact insulate and reflect to a very high degree vs whatever else you want to compare it with. It is demonstrable via the heat lamp test that most window sales people use. Is it a gimmick? Yes and no. There are in fact statistics that prove this (and no I did not bother look them up, but I have seen them). Also in general terms price will reflect quality and insulation ability of a window, regardless of brand. Installation will also greatly affect the insulating characteristics of a new window. One of the reasons why most window sales prefer to do the install in order to backup the warranty. (And to increase the cost and profit margin). There is a window that can achieve the desired results for every budget as well as the type of heating being used.

Faith and her husband's main objective for this room is an open vista of the winter season. Therefore heat and windows take predominate position of the whole project. You do not need to throw an enormousness amount of heat (as your comment might have suggested) to achieve results. When people come into the store to buy heaters I always ask what type of activity are they going to do in the room. If moving is the main activity then I suggest the typical space heater to heat the surrounding air. And a low setting if activity is high. If sitting at a desk or couch I suggest the Infrared heaters. They only heat line of sight and can be throttle down to a minimum comfort level.

Also furnishings can affect comfort level in any room. Dark colors and lots of fabric will make a room feel warmer in cold weather. And the effect can be great.

Xsleeper, don't take offense, but I think your first thought about not touching this subject was the correct one.
 
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Old 08-17-15, 09:50 AM
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I think an important part of this could include the number of windows in the room. I did several porch enclosures on the same mountain and at the request of the owners installed casements with pictures across the entire room and on the sides with SH. Beautiful view, but glass does not insulate as well as Roxul. That being said, I think the more windows you have you will suffer somewhat on heat/cool. Not as much as single pane glass, surely, but more than an insulated separating wall. To think a bunch of glass will keep out the cold, won't happen. It will subdue it, certainly.

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  #10  
Old 08-17-15, 09:56 AM
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A lot to think about here. I will be researching and getting estimates...

Chandler, i just saw you picture. Nice room with a great view. i am wondering, what size did you make that picture in order to fit the post so well? My husband followed the posting directions as to size and the picture is very small.
 
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Old 08-17-15, 01:04 PM
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Thanks for the reply, XSleeper. My husband had said a similar thing when explaining insulation - that no matter what you do you still have to keep throwing heat at it. Hopefully we will be able to minimize the loss as much as possible with the choices we make.
 
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Old 08-17-15, 01:24 PM
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The picture is sized at 640 x 480. But 1080 x 640 is good, too.Using office Picture Manager I take pictures taken on my phone and reduce them to 25%, or down to a reasonable size.

One summer I did three renovations on three houses sitting next to each other. Moved the jobsite trailer 50 feet at a time. What a hoot!!
 
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Old 08-17-15, 03:19 PM
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Norm, no offense taken.

I think you are blowing what I said out of proportion. There are multiple reasons new windows are better than old ones. Removing an old drafty window for example. Might be a better window, yeah. But replacing the window might also have stopped the draft... better weatherstrip, insulation around the outside of frame, etc. A lot of that is installation related... and the difference in comfort probably has a lot more to do with how crappy your old windows were rather than how stellar the new ones are. What did the stickers say the new u-factor was?

There is a reason windows aren't sold with an r value. Its a bit misleading in a way, because windows do not equal insulation. U-factor is related to r-value but represents tge rate of heat loss... which is a more accurate way to rate a window.

You will hardly find a window sold anymore that doesn't have low-e and that doesn't meet minimum energy star standards. A great window might have a u-factor of .20 while one that barely meets minimum standards might be .32. But I would almost guarantee that almost all windows will be closer to .28 no matter where you look. In that respect, a few decimals here or there (for example in the average range of .26-.30) isn't much of a difference.
 
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Old 08-24-15, 09:04 PM
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Wood vs. Fiberglass Door

Tomorrow or Wednesday I will go shop for an entry door with two side lights at "House of Doors" here in Connecticut. Its to be wood or fiberglass. I am looking forward to my Fine Paints of Europe, Hollandlac Brilliant painting project on this door, so, I really want a nice looking (yet not expensive) door to paint.

As I said here in this thread, I want lots of light in the room, and the entry door has a nice view, so I want 3/4 glass. Or at least, 1/2.

I hope to decide which door very soon (my husband is leaving this design idea up to me), in fact I hope no later than this week, shortly after I see the doors. My husband wants to start framing the room soon, and he needs to know what size opening to create.

Since having a warm room matters (I realize that's in conflict with "plenty of windows"), I was leaning toward the fiberglass because of its greater R-value (R5 vs. R1).

But maybe its not SO much a difference? We will have heated floors, after all, plus that is not the relaxing end of the room; that's the business-end (walk through into house, and by the washer and dryer).

Looking at various Hollandic Brilliant doors, the fiberglass ones are sticking out like sore thumb to me. They look pressed-out. (Because they are). I am thinking I will be happier with the wood door. I am also painting the entire portico in a soft white of these paints, and even the floor, in a light blue of some kind. I want to be happy with the door, which will be a deep color, and stand out as the focal point. I don't want to always look at the molding and be sorry I did not go with wood. And since that's my reaction when I see the Hollandic Brilliant painted fiberglass doors, I am afraid that I will be sorry if I go with that.

Is it really THAT bad, insulation-wise, to go with wood??
 
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Old 08-25-15, 01:49 AM
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Is it really THAT bad, insulation-wise, to go with wood??
Yes. But as with every other part of life you need to make compromises. If you really dislike the look of the fiberglass doors then you will likely be amenable to spending a little more for the energy to heat and cool this room. Wanting to see the great outdoors through your windows will mean the cost to heat and cool the room will have to be more than if you chose solid, super-insulated walls.

It is doubtful that you will be able to completely heat this room with ONLY a radiant floor but you can compromise and use enough energy in the floor to keep your feet from being cold and then augment that radiant with another source to keep the rest of you comfortable. A heat pump will save considerably in operating costs over straight resistance (electric) heat although the capital and on-going maintenance costs of a heat pump will be greater than the same costs for resistance equipment.

Being fully informed can help you make better decisions but it can also drive you insane.
 
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Old 08-26-15, 07:12 PM
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Being fully informed can help you make better decisions but it can also drive you insane.
That's for sure, Furd. I am beginning to learn that!

I looked at doors. I was all set to go with nice-looking wood since I did not like the fiberglass, when, on the way out the door, I saw a fiberglass door that was not bad - the single "carved" pretend-panel below the glass looked way better than the two too-small pretend-panels the others had, which looked lame, design-wise. *(The fake dividers on real wood will always look better than those lame plastic fake ones on the fiberglass and steel, but, that is not so noticeable from far back, and one must compromise). Oh, and its at least half as the price! We are talking $1000 at least for the price difference (still waiting for exact quote) for the door with side lights, and since we are adding expenses, antoehr reason to go with the fiberglass. So thank y ou for your frank opinion which helps push me over.

Plus, I have an idea to make the fiberglass door look more hand-wrought... with Hollandlac you add putty, so, if I get this "woodgrain" etched fiberglass, and apply (and sand down) more putty, the end result will look less "manufactured" than a smooth, flat fiberglass.. at least that's my idea. I will run it by the Holandlac advisor-people.

We are going to heat with radiant floor PLUS a run or two from the gas furnace. That should do it. Also in a year or two we have a designated corner to add a tiny wood or pellet stove, too.

The insulation question is still overwhelming but this door is special order and takes 4-6 weeks to come in. Plus I have to choose the right windows. These are welcome distractions while I pray about and look into the Big Insulation Dilemma.
 
  #17  
Old 08-27-15, 02:54 PM
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Question Need advice on which way this entry door should open!

I need to order this door asap because it takes 4-6 weeks to arrive. I was all set to order today, when I was asked which way the door should open. I can't believe I didn't think about this, but now I must, quick. And I am afraid I might miss a consideration. So any opinion to consider would be good.

You'd need to see the floor plan. http://www.bhthom.org/houseplans/60X104PT.BMP You come in through the portico porch and through the 36" door that has two side lights. You are in the "business end" of the room. Immediately to the right is a very small coat closet. Straight ahead is the washer/dryer and just left of that is the kitchen door - the entry to the rest of the house. The other end is for relaxing, a small table, comfortable chairs, the bay window with the seat.

Also next to the coat closet adjoining the dryer at dryer height and depth is a small shelf about, extending that work space. So if you brought stuff into the house, say, you were unloading groceries and have more to go get, or, its Christmas and you have a load of gifts or a dish to share, you can set it there while you pull yourself together.

If you open the door with the handle on your right, you have the closet right there. You have a moment of privacy, to stamp your feet on the mat or whatever. Also, whoever is relaxing in the relaxing part of the room does not have someone all-of-the-sudden in the room with them. Instead, there is a moment of anticipation/foretelling.

If you open the door to the left you are suddenly in the big room. There will be guest hooks on the wall for coats there and a small bench on the right to take off boots. But, you are still right there and can see them easily enough after you shut the door, which you would normally do before you take off your coat. Certainly it feels more relaxed and open to walk right into the big space. But maybe you should enjoy that space after you are in the room, not right as you open the door. A humble version of a mansion's long winding driveway where suddenly the home is revealed... Not sure.

Is there anything else I am not thinking of? Opinions?
 
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Old 08-27-15, 07:21 PM
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My suggestion is to have the door swing into the portico room. You now have a choice of staying in the room to get yourself together and also have the shelf within immediate reach to put stuff on. The door won't interfere with the other room. If you decide have the door swing into the other room then have it hinged to the left as you enter from the portico (handle on the right).
 
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Old 08-27-15, 09:58 PM
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Hi Norm! THANKS for the opinion. The portico is not a room; its actually a porch. It will have belly balusters on the two sides of you when you enter.

So you are voting for the left hinge. Maybe that is the way to go. When we were re-doing our interior, before we were married (I would come for extremely hard-working visits) we were first prepping the house for sale, thinking that was the best thing for us to do. I did not like how the bedroom door of the little "master" bedroom did not open and show off the whole room like the other two rooms upstairs do. I was going for an open, airy look on the bedroom floor and I loved how the colors of the rooms worked together. (The door placement of that bedroom is actually about the same as this new room I am writing about. Except in the bedroom, the wall is RIGHT there by its door.)

But now that its our room, I am liking that you can be relaxing there and the door swings open(because we have an old naughty cat, I keep it closed all the time) and you have a moment of privacy to get used to someone being there (often my husband's early-riser granddaughter peeking to see if I am up yet). In the tiny room, it acts like a mini entry-hall when it's open. Affords more privacy. So, hmm, I think I may go with that.

Later, when budget allows, I am adding a pull-over screen for that. I love those. So the room will be as much like a "screen porch" as possible on nice days.
 
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Old 09-02-15, 08:06 PM
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ordering windows...

Norm, I got window estimates and was glad to see that the Marvin Ultrex was not so much more than the the vinyl ones we priced (I think its Jen-Weld). For one bay, one double casement and 3 single casements with grids its $3,765 vs. $3,185 for the vinyl. That's a pretty reasonable price difference if they are that much better. (We have vinyl over wood replacement windows upstairs, put in 20+ years ago. They are really hard to open now. Still easy to clean, though). I have more questions to ask the salesman but hopefully they will get ordered tomorrow...
 
  #21  
Old 09-03-15, 03:19 AM
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Faith, you won't regret the upgrade on these windows.
 
  #22  
Old 09-05-15, 06:30 PM
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Well, I took your advice on it. The store had nice samples for me to see. They are casement windows, and the crank was real nice. Its all the Ultrex on the outside, and it will be plain unfinished pine inside, and I am real happy with the look. It should paint just fine. I like to paint. I should say, I am "okay" with painting -- I am willing to do it carefully and slowly to get the results I love!

The windows will be here in only 10 days!

The big bay window facing the back yard has my husband questioning, as he is trying to figure out the problem of its seat landing too high, if used as-is. My husband likes to work these things out in his head ahead of time, so he has a plan when the windows arrive. Its too late now to change the order (like ordering a taller window to bring the seat down lower).

The thing is, if we keep the seat bench as is, it will be too high. We want it comfortably low, to accommodate a decent cushion, as well as be something you pull the small table up to (a nice vintage maple table with leaves that hide within it that I'm going to refinish. Perfect for this small room we want so much from). My dh talked with the guy at the local lumber yard (where we ordered them from) today, and the guy thinks my husband will able remove the built in seat board from the manufacturer in order to build a custom seat several inches lower than the window. So he will frame the back to the shape of the window. My husband has been thinking about this all day, and is feeling fairly confident this will be do-able.

If you have an opinion, he'd welcome any considerations!

The only other option of course would be to just put the window in lower to get the seat lower, but that's not a good option. The back yard (with the view to woods in the back) goes up hill, and the roof slants low, and we had to order a special steel beam for over the bay to support it, bringing that ceiling part down even lower, so, we worked to have the window space as high as possible with all these restrictions, which is not as high as would be nice. So we certainly don't want to lower the window any.

Design-wise its fine to have that space between the bench and window bottom. I will make a foam cushion to fill it, to match the bottom cushion. And of course there will be pillows, which now won't be completely in the window this way.

Well, I am very glad my husband sounds hopeful he can do this...
 
  #23  
Old 11-13-15, 06:14 AM
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Faith,

If you're keeping up with this forum, let us know how your remodeling is going.
 
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