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Remodeling 101: Steel Factory-Style Windows and Doors

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Sep 04, 2015 01:03 AM
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by Janet Hall last modified Sep 03, 2015

Last week Michelle inspired us with 11 Facades with Factory Windows . The aesthetic harkens back to the greenhouses, factories, and warehouses of the 19th century. And their elegant, narrow sightlines offer unobstructed views, blurring the lines between indoors and out. What's not to like? They're expensive, for starters. Read on for everything you need to know about steel factory windows. Above: A steel frame window wall and folding doors blur the boundary between indoors and out, effectively doubling the living space. A project by Design of Wonder of Melbourne, it is featured in  Steal This Look: Black and White Indoor/Outdoor Terrace . Photograph via  Design of Wonder .  What are the benefits of steel frame windows? Due to the material's strength, steel windows have very slender sightlines. A minimal amount of framing material is needed for structural integrity, offering clean and clear views.  Steel frame windows span architectural styles, working well in both traditional and modern houses.  All corners and joints of steel windows are welded, galvanized, and powder-coated, forming an unbroken surface around the frame. Extremely durable, steel frames are resistant to decay, weather, and fire. They are galvanized (coated with a layer of zinc at very high temperatures) to prevent corrosion.  Unlike wood, steel window frames do not contract and expand in response to weather conditions. They require minimal upkeep, compared with wood windows and doors.   Above: The framing around industrial-style steel doors can be pencil thin (unlike wood, which requires a large beam to support a door). London portrait photographer Abi Campbell's kitchen renovation included new steel frame doors and windows with large openings to bring in as much light as possible to the north-facing room. Photograph by  Matt Clayton .  To learn more about the project, see  Reader Rehab: A Photographer's Kitchen in London .    Above: Requiring minimal framework, steel windows are a great solution for open corner windows, such as this steel entry door and surround. Photograph via  Portella Iron Doors . Above: In a Brooklyn renovation,  Elizabeth Roberts Design/Ensemble Architecture  opened up the back of the house with a double-height wall of windows that includes an indoor/outdoor dining room with the open feel of a greenhouse. The entire window slides open to create a double-wide opening to the garden. The windows are custom powder-coated steel from  Optimum Window  in Ellenville, New York. Photograph by  Dustin Aksland .  For a full tour, see Indoor/Outdoor Living, Brooklyn Style . Are steel frame windows energy-efficient?  The bottom line is that metal is a poor insulator, and the thin steel and single-sheet steel factory windows of the past did little to keep out the cold. The good news is that 21st-century technology has caught up, and you can get the same historic looks with better materials and thermal efficiency.  Steel windows are available with insulated glazing panels; two or more pieces of glass are spaced apart and sealed, leaving an insulating air space. Another new technology called thermal breaks (whereby a material is placed between the inside and outside window frames to prevent thermal energy loss), common in aluminum windows, is available in steel windows. Steel fabricators will point out that steel itself has good insulating properties as compared to aluminum and thermal breaks may not be necessary. In fact, there are steel frame windows that meet LEED standards. Refer to fabricators' websites for details. Another consideration is that many fabricators roll their steel windows from 100 percent recycled steel. And the new product can also be recycled at the end of its long life. Above: Like any window, the glass in steel framed windows can be UV-coated to protect indoor furnishings and art from sun exposure. Steel frame doors lead to an outdoor area in a NYC project by Annabelle Selldorf; photo by Mark Weinberg via Food52 .  Are there different styles of steel windows? Steel windows are available in a range of looks from factory-style with a floor to ceiling collection of panes, to Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired style (his  Falling Water House  famously used steel windows), to a modern minimalist look with large panes of glass supported by pencil-thin sleek steel frames. Steel windows are available in a multitude of operable variations including: casement, in-swing, out-swing, awning, horizontal pivoting, vertical pivoting, folding, and hopper.    Above: Steel windows can be used in interiors as light-permeable room dividers; shown here in a project by Felipe Hess, via  Yatzer . Above: Steel doors are not commonly offered as sliders ( Euroline  does offer sliding pocket steel doors). Those seeking a full open outdoor wall experience, as in this project by Sydney-based Hess Hoen Architects , often go with folding steel doors. Above: Not always black, gray factory-style doors complement their adjacent gardens at  Patina Farms  in Ojai (L), and in a Brooklyn townhouse garden (R) by architect  Steven Harris .  How much do steel frame windows cost? Steel frame windows are expensive. Like many aspects of a home remodeling, steel window pricing is very site specific. Is it a single window replacement? A full remodel? Custom or standard sizing? The best way to estimate cost is to get a quote from your contractor or window supplier. In general, expect prices to be at least double that of wood, more than aluminum, but less than bronze. Remember to balance the cost with the longevity (we just had to replace a full wall of 15-year-old weather-worn wood frame windows) and other attributes.   Above: In this  Mill Valley kitchen remodel , architect Brett Terpeluk of  Studio Terpeluk  added floor-to-ceiling casement windows, which flood the kitchen with natural light. Originally the idea was to have custom window frames made of blackened steel with a wax finish, but the clients opted for a low-maintenance—and less expensive—alternative:  Bonelli Series 700  frames of anodized aluminum with a bronze finish. Photograph by  Joe Fletcher . Where can I buy steel factory-style windows? Beware of cheap imitators. Suppliers of fabricated windows and doors that come highly recommended by several architects and builders include:  Crittal l . This venerable company founded in 1889 in the UK has provided windows and doors to Yale University, Walter Gropius, and the New York Botanical Gardens.  Dynamic Architectural Windows and Doors .  Hope's . Located in Jamestown, New York, Hope's  makes top-of-the-line steel and bronze windows and doors. Bliss Nor-Am . This Rochester, New York/Canada-based company makes high-quality, beautifully detailed powder-coated metal doors and windows.  Above:  Torrance Steel Window Co . Based, yes, in Torrance, California, this company's steel windows can be spotted around the US, from the Guggenheim Museum in New York to residential projects (as shown) by Olson Kundig Architects on the West Coast. Bonelli . A Northern California favorite with architects (recommended by Gustave Carlson, who used them in Architect Visit: Gustave Carlson in Inverness ).  A&S Window Associates in New York fabricated the windows in  An Artist's NYC Kitchen Renovation .   Above: Shown here are custom steel frame doors from the Atelier Domingue Architectural Metalcrafts  line. Can I use reclaimed steel factory windows? Yes! Reclaimed steel factory windows can be found at architectural and design salvage yards. Keep in mind that the price of fabulous vintage looks may include needed repairs and re-coating. Reclaimed steel factory windows found at architectural supply yards, such as Recycling the Past , cannot, obviously, be customized to your setting; rather, your setting may need to be customized to fit them.  Steel Frame Windows Recap Pros: Strong Slim sightlines Work with a range of architectural styles Durable and long lasting Low maintenance Cons: Expensive Heavy Not the best choice in climates near saltwater. More protection and proper finishing is required to prevent airborne salt corrosion  For more window and door inspiration, see: The Ins and Outs of French Doors 10 Glamorous Baths: Factory Window Edition The Ins and Outs of Dutch Doors Walls, Windows, and Floors: Steel Window and Door Fabricators More Stories from Remodelista Architectural Elements: Sliding Barn Doors Remodeling 101: Butcher Block Countertops Ikea Upgrade: The SemiHandmade Kitchen Remodel






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