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While most things about building the new house going swimmingly, there are the stray measurements her and there that are confusing. We have our very own Bermuda Triangle where we cannot figure out what happened to 6 inches but not a big deal.  Windows on the other hand, have been difficult. We have to change three windows. I don’t understand windows well enough. That has cost us.

We are building a house of my own design. It has contributions from multiple sources, including some reverse engineering of our old house that burned. Still, it is not like any other house, including our old one. Part of what makes it not like the others is that I am trying to get as much for as little as possible in the window department.

Windows, under the best of circumstances are poor insulators. The smaller the window, the greater the ability to protect interior warmth going out. Windows are pretty expensive to start with and the larger they get the more they cost. Smaller windows affect environmental costs. Smaller means less surface area to loose heat and air conditioning (if you use that). Ventilation is not always as directly related to window size so smaller can still be good.

Smaller windows cost less. The window itself is less expensive and curiously while there is more wall to build for a smaller window, the blocking and framing that goes around a large window is more expensive than building the wall without a window.

Smaller is better, except for the fact that windows link us to our world and while smaller may feel better some days, reducing our connection to the world is probably not good. Certainly there are times to draw back and “set a spell” as the elders around where I grew up said. As I think of it now, that activity was usually done looking out the “pich-err” window. I guess the elders knew at some level resting and staying connected are the same.

What I don’t understand is how big a window looks and works on a wall. I had a 2 ft wide, 3 ft high window in the guest bathroom. I discovered one evening that even though the houses in our neighborhood are set far apart, in the night, you can see the lights from one house to another. While I did not stand on their deck and look down at my house, it seemed to me that our neighbors have a perfect view of our bathtub. Thinking I should address that concern as well as reduce the number of windows on the north wall, and save money, I changed the 2 x 3 window to a 2 x 2 window. When I saw it framed it looked so awful I averted my eyes. I hoped no one else noticed it but I was pretty certain the people who framed it noticed.

After a day of thinking how awful that window looked I asked if we could change it. Of course, change is always possible but change always comes with a cost. In the case of this window, there will be demolition to the lower part of the window framing. We will have to pay to rebuild the window framing after having built it and then removed it. The window itself costs more. The energy needed to keep that room warm now is increased. The curtains cost more because they are bigger.

All of those costs balanced against not hating the bathroom and being able to connect to the world made the decision pretty easy for me. I had to confess that I was the person who made the dumb decision so hat in hand and hand on wallet, I confessed. No one was unhappy about changing the window. No one liked it anyway.

The bathroom window was not the only one I messed up. We have to lower two windows a full 12 inches. I thought I had calculated the sight lines from a chair out the window correctly but I did not. The windows are fine except that you have to look up and out rather than through the window. Since we have two french doors nearby it seems like we could cut this loose like we did the missing 6 inches. Unfortunately, being able to see out the door but not the window next to it made the window make even less sense. You wonder why you can look out the doors and not out that window.

The answer to why you cannot look out that window is because I don’t understand windows well. I actually know a lot of the technical details: Low E, single, double and triple glazing. I know about R factors, U factors and about headers for framing. I know about curtains, blinds and window trim. I know a lot about windows but I don’t have enough experience to know how that window looks in this place.

Which brings me to the metaphor I found today in windows. It is hard to understand how something looks in a particular place when the window spans two different worlds. My windows look from the inside out on the front of the house where the forest gives way to a three range mountain view. On the back of the house the view is from the outside in. It is from the neighbor’s deck into our bath tub. It seems to me that it is important to know what is on each side of the window but perhaps just as important is knowing from what direction the seeing occurs.

It seems to me that our lives are split between looking from the outside in and from the inside out. Sometimes our lives feel very tumultuous and we withdraw into our home-space and look out. The view is one of being protected by being inside and still being able to connect to the outside. Sometimes the view is from the outside in. Looking into someone’s private space can be disconcerting for the viewer and for those viewed. Yet, there is nothing quite like seeing someone’s face light up when you wave to them from the street.

I don’t understand windows which I think means that I don’t understand how to view a big chunk of life. Ultimately changing my windows in the house will cost about $500 and maybe a lost day of work which is not a horrible cost. Curiously, I think not understanding life is a lot less expensive than not understanding windows. Calculating the cost of framing walls and inserting framed glass can be calculated by the materials and time it takes to build the windows. In life it is not so easy to calculate. I have a feeling that the calculations for fixing your windows of live are so difficult because loves can cover the costs.

3D mock up of desks facing large windows overlooking forest and mountain viewThe desk and building are 3D models but the mountain view is real.