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Update on the home projects…

02 Oct

I’m taking on the last major, inside project this weekend. I am having the hot water heater replaced and unfortunately, I’ll have to bring in an electrician to redo the wiring because what’s here will not pass code. I had to pull a permit for this and tomorrow I have to get it notarized.

In terms of the windows, I brought in 2 companies that did quotes and I brought in someone who owns a small aluminum company who used to work for the manufacturer of these original aluminum windows.

I’m a thinker so I always do my research and mull it over if there are a lot of issues to consider. There are definitely issues to consider. Some good points have been raised.

On hurricane impact windows, if an object hits the windows, the outer pane of glass will still break. The film is in the middle of the windows. So without shutters, you’re still replacing glass.

In terms of vinyl vs. aluminum – I go to my own personal experience. I worked in the plastics industry back in the late 80s and my dad was an electrical engineer for an aluminum manufacturing facility for over 30 years (the same company and facility) and five years at one of their other facilities. If I have to choose between a plastic and an aluminum – I would choose aluminum. But here’s the caveat – when I was a kid (35 to 40 years ago) my dad gave me lectures about how this was all going to go to China and how bad it was going to be for the U.S. because Chinese Aluminum does not have the strength of American Aluminum. He explained to me how only his plant was the only plant in the U.S. that was allowed to make aircraft aluminum because only they could produce it strong enough. The Chinese products he said were cheap and they would break. How right he was about what happen. How many times have you ordered a product online only to have the cheap screws or parts bend or break.

As you might have read, I spent 18 hours on Saturday working on 3 of the windows. These were Pan Am windows. They were made in 1970 or 1971. When I got the aluminum restored down to the finish, they are shiny aluminum. They don’t make windows out of this kind of aluminum anymore because the aluminum pits or tarnishes over a long period of time. If you get aluminum windows now that are metal colored, they are not shiny – more of a flat grey. They are not the same metal at all. But this shiny kind of aluminum was produced for aircraft back in the 1970s. I’m pretty sure that the metal these windows are made from came off of my dad’s plant. That means that this aluminum is stronger than modern day aluminum. I would bet money on it. Next time you’re at an airport look at the shiny aluminum American Airlines planes.

So what to do? My aluminum guy worked for Pan Am Windows years ago. He can get any parts and knows these windows well. He’s going to remove the glass sliding doors and replace the wheels underneath. He’s rescreening some of the frames and there will be some rods and cranks to fix. I’ll do the cleaning and resealing.

So that leaves a question about what to do for a hurricane. He brought up a good point that even if you have a brand new window, if that window doesn’t stay in the frame, the window goes. The safest option is still a hurricane shutter. And even if I decided to do new windows in five years or so, I should still use a shutter with a new window because that exterior glass is just glass. Excellent point.

The next point was that he didn’t think the hurricane film was worth my time. “What’s your objective?”

“No to have flying shattering glass if the windows breaks.”

“The tint you have now will keep that from happening.”

Good point.

This is why when you’re looking at a lot of money for something, it pays to talk to a lot of experts.

My immediate plan is to have him fix all the parts that need replaced and fix the screen damage. I’ve also asked him for quotes on different kinds of shutters. That I need to do some thinking about because different shutters have different levels of difficulty for putting up. They also have different price points. I’ll wait and evaluate that when the quotes come in. The ones I have now have to be replaced. They are made of fiberglass, which will do more harm than good if actually hit by an object at high speed. No one makes shutters out of fiberglass anymore. It was always a bad idea.

But in terms of the look and strength, I really like the look of the shiny aluminum. It’s a little industrial and it works well with modern. I also think I’m right about where the material comes from. Back in 1970 and 1971 there were only 3 aluminum production facilities in the United States. My dad originally started his career at Alcan before he jumped ship to Kaiser.

The interesting thing about my dad’s work was that although his college degree was in electrical engineering (and he did that for the plant), they mostly used his abilities for mechanical engineering. It was his job to make sure all the machinery in the plant ran. If it broke, he had to fix it. This was a huge facility. That’s why he could fix anything in life. I had no idea that repair people actually existed because none of them every came to our house.

But my dad was right, because companies went to China forĀ  aluminum and steel production in order to save money, we don’t make anything of our own anymore. And what you buy today is not the same quality.

I was probably the only second grader who could tell you the difference between fabrication and reduction and strength grades and properties of aluminum.

My dad had a nice big office at the plant with glass windows and this really cool aluminum door. They made all the doors in the offices from the aluminum. You would go into the office and there were all these mechanical and electrical drawings of all the machines and wiring, printed on the size and kind of paper that architects use. Then there were all his notepads of mathematical calculations everywhere done with his mechanical pencil. There were no computers back then. It was all brain power.

I can remember my dad going all the way to England to buy used equipment so that he would have parts to fix things.

There were so few people with his level of experience in aluminum engineering that he made really, really good money even by today’s standards. They really couldn’t have replaced him if they wanted to.

I think his era in aluminum was like my era in plastics. Back in the late 1980s, we made General Electric Plastics into a company that worth a lot of money. It makes me ill to think that after Immelt took over they blew a half a trillion dollars that my era collective earned for General Electric.

Yes, I have seen the rise and fall of some great and profitable companies.

But you have to keep in mind that I think through all this stuff about materials because I grew up reading Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines that my dad had tossed aside.

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