Can I get my landlord to install new windows?
November 25, 2009 12:35 AM   Subscribe

I rent an apartment in the bay area- The bedrooms have old style glass slat windows- aka jalousie or louvered windows. While i understand there is a certain charm to them they do a horrible job of insulating our bedrooms as well as for keeping noise out/in. It's getting cold (for CA) and our rooms are freezing. I'm wondering if there is any way I could convince my landlord to replace them with more energy efficient design, perhaps some building code requiring efficient windows? Alternately, if anybody has ideas on DIY fixes that don't violate my lease terms I would be very appreciative!
posted by ryaninoakland to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Something like this, perhaps?

You put it over the window and then use a hairdryer to make the plastic stretch tight, causing the wrinkles to disappear.

(I have the same problem here, same area, except it's a fireplace that leaks air. I just taped a sheet of plastic over it, which helped a bit.)
posted by joshu at 12:57 AM on November 25, 2009

It might be useful to research tax rebates that your landlord could get for installing new windows — here are a couple links my sister found while looking this up: Energy Star's page about Rebates and Tax Credits for Windows and New $1,500 Window Tax Credit Has A Catch.
posted by dreamyshade at 12:58 AM on November 25, 2009

Same problem here. Same location too. Maybe we live in the same building. Anyway, I recently purchased an insulator kit. I haven't installed it yet, but if I gather up the courage to do so (or it gets too cold for me not to install it), I'll inform this thread of the results. The disadvantage, of course, is that you wouldn't be able to open your windows anymore.

On preview: Yes, what joshu said.
posted by spaghettification at 1:00 AM on November 25, 2009

I think there is actually a specific clause in my lease about not using said plastic wrap as an insulator (I guess because it might look tacky from the outside?)

I'm almost tempted to throw a tree branch through my window and say the wind did it... maybe they'd install a normal window as a replacement.
posted by ryaninoakland at 3:01 AM on November 25, 2009

Sash windows definitely suck. It won't help with the noise, but if there's a gap between the panes letting a draft through, you could fill it with backer rod. I had the same problem with my living room windows, and it worked a treat w.r.t. the heating. It's probably four of five degrees warmer in the room now.
posted by Kreiger at 4:11 AM on November 25, 2009

Lifehacker had a piece a little while ago on using large-cell bubble wrap as a quick solution, one which can be quickly taken down. The instructions called for using plain water to allow it to adhere to the glass. This would probably not work for slat-type windows, many of which use glass with a pebbly rather than smooth texture. For yours, double-sided tape would probably work.

Building codes typically apply to new or renovation construction, and do not require retrofits.

I would put keeping warm at night as a higher priority than a clause in the lease. If it can be seen only from inside, I doubt anyone outside will even know.
posted by yclipse at 4:13 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest the shrink-wrap plastic as well.

Double-check your lease to see whether that's really prohibited or not. My guess is that, if it is, the problem is not with how it looks, but that condensation will collect on the interior of the window. Over the winter it will drip onto the sill and pool. If there is a plastic barrier that water won't evaporate as easily (or you won't get annoyed by it and wipe it up). Having water sit there all winter will promote mold growth and rot on the sill/frame. Since that style of window is pretty outdated, I'm guessing the windows are showing their age structurally anyhow and that kind of treatment won't help.

But--freezing your tail off all winter isn't acceptible, either. You could use the shrink-wrap anyway, although it would be a shame to get in trouble by violating your lease. You could also look for window treatments that insulate--there are fabric shades with a "honeycomb" structure, with one or two layers of air pockets, that do a great job of insulating. Of course, they have to be down to do the trick, which means you can't look out the window and even the translucent ones cut down on light coming in. Bubble-wrap could be a cheap, funky, DIY equivalent. Maybe cover it up with some inexpensive but decent-looking drapes and call it good.

Good luck!
posted by Sublimity at 4:43 AM on November 25, 2009

Floor-to-ceiling heavy curtains, along that entire wall.
posted by aramaic at 5:32 AM on November 25, 2009

Curtains, or if you're sticking around long enough to make a small investment, make storm windows. It's easy if there's about an inch of lip all the way around the inside of the window frame (which there probably is with louvered windows). They can be made with nothing more than a saw and a hammer.

Measure the inside of the frame and head to Home Depot/Lowes/whatever. Get a couple of 1x2's, some 3/8" thick stick-on foam weatherstripping, a few small nails/brads, and a tube of caulk. Have them cut a piece of cheap plexiglass sized about an inch and a half smaller than the window (both horizontal and vertical).

Go home and cut a frame out of 1x2's that's ~1/2" smaller in both directions. The face of the frame should be the 2" wide side of the wood, the outer face should be the 1" side. Nail it together. You can miter the corners if you've got a miter box, but that's not necessary. Lay it down, put a thin bead of caulk all the way around on the face, and stick the plexiglass to it. Put the foam weatherstripping all the way around the outside of the new storm window so that your previously 1/2" too-small storm window is now actually a quarter inch too big. Once it's dry enough that the plexiglass won't fall off (you can use staples on the corners or put nails into the wood next to it and bend them over) you just press it into the window frame. You'll have to compress the foam to get it in, but then it should stick tight.

You can bang these things out about as fast as you can do the hairdryer-and-plastic method, and they look a lot better. Send the bill to your jackass landlord and he can get some of that tax credit goodness.

Depending on how big the window are, it'll probably be about $50/window.
posted by paanta at 5:56 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've had this problem in several of the shittier apts I've lived in. If the plastic on the windows isn't an option (from what I've seen, it's also the double-sided tape and the potential damage to the paint/frame), you can try cheapo "curtains". In one of my apts I bought a big swatch of inexpensive polyester fleece at a fabrice store and thumbtacked it over the window, creating a "seal" by thumbtacking all the way around (as opposed to just the top). Certainly not an elegant solution, but it fit within the parameters of our lease and the fleece did a great job of keeping the worst of the drafts out.

Also, to save on heating bills, work with localized heating via strategic space heater use. We had two small electric space heaters (the ceramic ones are the best), one in whichever room we happened to be in at the time, and then one extra just for the bedroom. About an hour before bed, turn the bedroom heater on and it'll be nice and toasty in your room. If you have large doorways with no door, you can hang fabric curtains to act as room dividers to further localize the heat.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:29 AM on November 25, 2009

You can get weatherization strips, caulk or tape. I can't stand that shrink wrap, it just looks funky.

I own an old house with sash windows, and I use a product called Seal and Peel. I find it at Lowe's, but not Home Depot. You can find it here.

It is a clear caulk that you can put on the window frames and peel off in the spring. This year I also am using a clear sealant tape, and it is working very well, on the screen/storm windows.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:17 AM on November 25, 2009

I don't know how DIY you are willing to go here, or how much you'd like to spend, but Warm Window Insulated Shade Fabric might be an option. The shades can be done without a sewing machine (instead using "fusible" fabric tape and an iron) and are actually much easier to construct than it may seem at first blush. I can fully attest to the absolutely superior insulation and sound blocking properties of shades made from this fabric. I only have it on about 1/2 of my windows and it's a godsend in the form of much, much lower heating/cooling bills than when i had standard shades (I'm doing the remaining half this long holiday weekend). Noise is reduced dramatically, too. The downsides are that the fabric can be expensive (I got mine at Joann fabric with the ever ubiquitous 40% off coupon), and you would likely leave them behind when you moved out, so you might not want to try these. But I thought I'd throw the idea out there as an alternative to window film.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:41 AM on November 25, 2009

New windows are incredibly expensive. I wouldn't count on your landlord replacing them unless there is a legal reason to do so. I've used the bubble wrap method before, and it worked great.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:26 AM on November 25, 2009

I used the 3M window insulating kit on some breezy 50 year old windows in my rental house (in the bay area, too). It definitely helps.
posted by gnutron at 8:29 AM on November 25, 2009

Fellow Oaktowner here. I would contact Just Cause: Oakland and find out if such a "no-plastic insulation" clause is actually legal. Not being able to insulate your own living space seems unreasonable.

My suspicion is that the law allows the landlord to say "No X visible from outside/ nothing that does damage", but I'm not sure they can mandate what you have inside that's not visible.

As someone who used to do residential maintenance in Oaktown, I'm not thinking your chances of getting the windows replaced are slim in this economy. That's something they'll wait until you move out to do, so they can jack the rent on the next tennant.

And yeah, this single-pane glass in NorCal is bullshit. It gets COLD here at night. As is commonly said in the business, "Built-to-code just means this-is-the-worst-building-we-could-get-away-with".

Good luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:39 AM on November 25, 2009

Err... make that I'm thinking your chances of getting the windows replaced are slim in this economy.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:52 AM on November 25, 2009

In Chicago we're investigating the plastic wrap for our huge old windows (which include a bay window) and that is interesting to note about damage due to condensation.

In our bedroom we have a metal storm door next to our bed that leads to our deck and as you might imagine a metal door isn't the best insulator. We got one of the heavy insulating curtains and they do work wonders. I believe they are less than $20 at Target and well worth it. If you need to go the cheapo version then I would second the other poster who used a fleece blanket tacked to the walls although maybe consider doing it in a way where you can roll it up to get some light in if you need it.

I've always heard space heaters were inefficient and cost more money than gas heating but maybe they've improved them since I read that. Also, if at the end of the day it is still cold and you are hurting on the gas bills...bundle up with layers. Yeah it sucks that you have to wear layers in your own living space, but if you need to save money you need to save money.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:29 AM on November 25, 2009

My house had jalousie windows throughout when I bought it and yeah, they do suck in winter. The previous owners had taped bubblewrap over several of the windows, which cut the direct breeze coming in through the slats but didn't do much else.

My temporary (to bridge the 2 years before we could afford to install new windows) solution was to have sheets of acrylic cut to the same size as the window screens, apply self-stick foam weather-stripping around the edge of the acrylic sheets, and install the acrylic in place of the screens using the same clips that held the screens in place. It causes absolutely no damage and actually improves the view out the windows because the interior screening is out of the way. Come spring, I swapped the screens back in and stuck the acrylic in the back of the closet for the next winter.

The other thing you can do is fiddle with the mechanism that opens/closes the slats. Over time, they can get under-lubricated, broken or misaligned which leaves gaps between the closed slats (half of mine looked closed but you could drop a quarter outside just by sliding it down a pane). I ended up keeping two floor-to-ceiling jalousie windows in my living room because I was able to fix them to have a surprisingly tight seal for single-pane windows.
posted by jamaro at 10:34 AM on November 25, 2009

There is a big tax credit for replacement windows. They add value to a home. Tax credits are way better than deductions. From a financial standpoint, the landlord can get 30% of the cost back as a credit, and the rest as a deduction. I used to be a landlord, and if I had crappy windows in a house, the prospect of a tax credit would be compelling.

IANATax Accountant, or accountant of any kind, but it's worth checking out. The credit certainly exists for homeowners.
posted by theora55 at 10:40 AM on November 25, 2009

The home I grew up in (also in the east bay) had jalousie windows in one room, and my dad would put plexiglass panels over them every winter. I think Tap Plastics will cut plexiglass to size for you.
posted by zombiedance at 11:14 AM on November 25, 2009

Ditto what paanta said. I had a building technology guy come over and help me figure out how to get my house warmer in the winter.

He advocated making a frame to go on the inside of the windows, much like paanta described. The difference was that he suggested using clear vinyl sheeting instead of plexiglass. You can buy vinyl sheeting on rolls for about a buck a foot for 48" across.

The tech guy said what you are aiming for is 1/4" still air between layers. Any more and convection will transmit temperature across the air boundary. Regardless any barrier will help as more than likely there are air leaks in the old windows.

At his suggestion, I've gone around every inch of molding and caulked it with clear silicone caulk, and put in foam insulating pads behind outlet and light sockets. This alone has made a lot of difference in the livability of my house. I've yet to do the window bits yet, but still plan on making one to see how it goes.
posted by diode at 11:26 AM on November 25, 2009

We have jolicy window next to our front door and had the same problem with apartment restrictions. We took a piece of 1" thick insulation foam, cut it to size and decorated it, and wedged it in the cavity. We're in Northern CA as well, and it works pretty well. Here's a little picture.
posted by chana meira at 5:53 PM on November 25, 2009

I hadn't thought much about a decorative fix, very cool design chana meira.
posted by ryaninoakland at 8:24 PM on November 25, 2009

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