The short answer is, no. First of all, the water in Lake Washington is freshwater, not seawater. This means that there is no brine or salt in it, which greatly limits the possibility of damage of any kind. Second, even if your home is close to the water, the only way the lake water reaches the windows of your home is when there is a violent storm, violent enough to whip the water off the lake and splash it against your house. That’s a rare occurrence, and once which your house is likely to withstand – once in a while – with no damage whatsoever.
Water does affect windows. And depending on the material used to build the window frames, it can affect it in different ways.
Aluminum, for instance, can become green looking. It’s more about oxidization than anything else, but almost any surface can gather moss over time, especially if it is constantly in the shade. A warm, wet place in the shade is perfect for moss and lichen to gather, and a north-facing wall of a house right on the lake can provide that shade and moisture, but it’s usually a bit cooler, the nearer you are to a lake. It takes more than a summer to warm Lake Washington up enough that it is a problem. In warm, humid states, this is a different issue.
Wood frames are subject to moisture damage in ways aluminum frames are not. You could drop a raw, aluminum window frame into the sea and leave it there for ten year, then pluck it out, clean it up, and it would be as good as new. A wood frame window, however, is a different story. Wood likes to absorb moisture. Even with the best of pressure treated lumber – pressure treated lumber is when they ‘force’ the preservative deep into the wood so that no part of it is untreated – will eventually surrender to the effects of water. In a window frame, however, and as part of your home, you have a lot of control of it. Regular cleanings – and the occasional protective treatment – will help make your window frames last a long time indeed. Also, there is wood and there is wood. If you made your window frames from regular cedar, they would be neither strong nor would they protect your window frames from water for long. They would last, to be sure, but not as long as more ideal wood products would protect your home.
A mix of wood and vinyl in window frames
It seams everything is made with vinyl these days. A long time ago, they made car seats an long playing records out of vinyl, but today, it’s a far more versatile product because a lot of experimentation and product development has gone into producing an almost infinite variation of types of it.
When vinyl window frames were first introduced to the market, it was a disaster. They were flimsy and did not stand up to the elements well. Perhaps window manufacturers rushed these new materials to market sooner than they would have had ample time to test the sea change in product manufacturing. The result? Many angry customers demanded a remedy to the situation, and manufacturers were forced to come up with a solution quickly. Those companies with deep pockets were able to survive the costly way out of the problem. Today, vinyl window frames are a well-established and cost-effective material for window frames. They are stronger, slimmer, lighter and more versatile today, offering almost any window buyer a superior alternative to both aluminum and wood.
People still want that ‘wood look’ to match the exterior of their home, but still want the strength and flexibility that vinyl offers them on the inside of their frames. So manufacturers came up with what’s known as a ‘hybrid’ solution: wood on the outside and vinyl on the inside. This hybrid gives the home owner the best of both proverbial worlds. Vinyl window frames allow for precision sealing of windows when they are shut, to name but one advantage of vinyl. You might remember the wood frame windows of a few generations ago, where a perfectly airtight, closed window is a bit of a fantasy. No window in the house would truly close tight, so utility bills everywhere – if you had the luxury of indoor heating – were astronomical. In fact, recently, I saw a picture of a house experiencing a flood on their street. The home was almost perfectly watertight, and one closed, glass window kept every drop of water out, because you could see the level of the water had reached about mid-window!
Vinyl window frames do an excellent job of keeping the water out, but they would make a good window for a submarine, of course. They are perfect for the average window in almost any home in the country, but when water does enter the home – for instance, during a flood – there are plenty of other ways for water to get into the house. Most homes’ front doors are not perfectly watertight. The base of the door, for instance will not be as watertight as a new, vinyl window frame. That’s because it needs to open and close, perhaps all day long, and an imperfect seal is usually enough.
Keeping your window frames clean
Moss, lichen and other types of fungi are often easy to clean with a mild soap and water. You need enough pressure to remove the ‘invaders’ but not so much that you compromise the seals and the applied sealants. Bleach might be great for cleaning the stains out of your tablecloths, but it can damage the seals on your window frames. If you are in any doubt about doing the work yourself, there are plenty of organizations who can do it for you. A modern exterior house cleaner will have the equipment – ladders in particular – to get access to your upper floor windows without putting any pressure on your gutters. Ask, too, about non-toxic chemicals and cleaners. It might take them a bit longer with no-toxic cleaning agents, but it will be better for your house, your yard, and your family. Not to mention the planet as a whole!
More next week!