Homeowner seeks advice on quality vinyl products

Q: We have aluminum siding and single-pane aluminum windows. We would like to replace the old windows with new vinyl ones, but were wondering if that's possible with the aluminum siding. Also, how do we find a quality window? --Hugh S.

A: The difficulty in replacing windows in homes with aluminum siding has to do with how the windows were originally installed. Aluminum windows are usually installed by attaching them through a flange to the wall framing, and then the flange is covered with the siding. To reach the flange, you need to remove the aluminum siding trim around the window, but that may prove difficult. You can also cut the siding back far enough to reach the flange, and then install new trim around the new window.

The third option is to cut between the side of the window frame and the edge of the siding with a metal-cutting reciprocating saw, which will cut through the installation flange and releasing the window. All of these operations really should be performed by an experienced, licensed contractor.

Once the old window is out, any window company can make up new vinyl windows that will exactly fit the opening. As to quality, you want to look for a wide air space between the panes, and good weatherstripping, solid latches and smooth operation on operable windows. I would contact an experienced window dealer in your area -- stay away from the home centers and lumberyards on this one -- and have them come out to look at your home and discuss your options. Also, ask to see a house where they have done a similar installation. That way you can see the quality of both the window and their workmanship.

Q: Your column is one of my favorites, and now I have a question for you. We live in a retirement community and are having trouble with moisture in our indoor pool and spa area. Some members want to put in a hot air heating system to eliminate the problem. Will a gas furnace do this? --Francis G.

A: Theoretically, the installation of a gas-fired heating system will help to some degree. Any appliance that burns a fuel -- gas, wood, oil, etc. -- utilizes oxygen in the combustion process, so it pulls in room air to support the burning and tends to remove some of the room's existing moisture in the process.

This would not, however, be the proper solution for the situation you describe, since the amount of moisture being removed would not be sufficient to alleviate the problem. Also, the amount of moisture removal could not be regulated, and wouldn't be occurring at all when the furnace is off. What you need instead is a ventilation system that is properly sized to the area of the pool room and the amount of moisture being generated. This will remove the moist air from the room properly and under complete control.

I would strongly recommend that you contact an experienced commercial heating and ventilation contractor in your area. They can evaluate the room and the existing building, and assist you with a ventilation system that will meet your needs.

Q: Is there any reference delineating the pros and cons of different types of vents for ventilating an attic? --Todd A.

A: There have been numerous studies done over the years about attic ventilation with different types of vents, but what I have seen and read does not indicate any substantive differences in vent types, other than appearance. As long as you are meeting the required amount of ventilation area for your particular attic, the choice primarily comes down to one of aesthetics. Some people like the continuous ridge vents since they are more hidden under the ridge shingles; others like gable-end vents because they offer a large vent area, they don't require cutting into the roof, and there are some great shapes and styles available that can do a lot to complement the exterior of the house.