Why are Steel Windows & Doors SO Hard to Install?

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2Fold Installation of Fixed Units.

Who Does The Dirty Work?

The most common installer of windows and doors is a carpenter.  As a generalization, these individuals are well versed in handling a multitude of wood products and materials.  They think like carpenters.  They think in terms relative to lumber and a certain amount of “forgiveness” that each cut and miter allows.  Always ready to pull out their planers and shave a little here, dado a slot there and saw off a bit extra to make things work.  They’re able to fix their mistakes at any time with a little carpenter magic dust and ingenuity.  However, this theory goes up in smoke when they are asked to handle steel. 

Steel windows and doors are characterized by very thin frames, which appear to be delicate, but are actually significantly stronger than their wood counterparts.  Another sought after trait is that of the smooth, yet powerful transition the sashes take when being operated from the closed position and vice versa.  Architects cherish the look for both ultramodern and classical designs; but this sleek aesthetic comes at a price.

The magic of making operable steel sashes function well is the relationship the steel frames have to the glass.  How the glass is installed and the correct positioning of the glazing blocks, that hold the distance between the glass and the sash edges is the most critical part of the installation.  When done in the factory by technicians who are carefully taught how to do it correctly, with the correct materials, there are no problems with sagging of ill-fitting sash/frame relationships.  However, this rarely happens.

The reason it rarely happens has nothing to do with the factories, their people, their training procedures, or their materials.  It rarely happens because very, very few steel windows and doors are factory-glazed.

Traditionally, steel windows were shipped from factories in standard sizes via railroad cars to warehouses during their heydays in the 40’s and 50’s and were delivered unpainted or primed only.  As such, they needed to be at their final resting place before the painting was done and therefore the glass couldn’t be put in before.  They would then lie dormant as empty steel frames until final painting was complete.  Following that step, a glazier could set the glass into putty around all edges of the glass and cap it with a putty bead to seal the entire perimeter.

Modern steel windows of our day and age come out of factories with terrific finishes applied already, allowing on-site painting/finishing to become a thing of the past.  More importantly, these great pretreatments protect them from rust, using technology that didn’t exist 50 or more years ago.  Finishing might have changed, but unit weight of steel frames being so much higher than other materials like aluminum, wood and vinyl kept the weight down by still field-glazing them.

Another reason for NOT factory glazing is that fixed units are often joined together to form window walls, transoms, sidelights and the like.  The screws that join sections together are in the same pocket that houses the glass; meaning, they need to be installed BEFORE the glass.

Another addition to the glazing challenge is the steel material itself.  While it is strong, the steel sections are not perfectly straight or free of twists & warps when they arrive.  My first trip to the Hope’s Windows factory in Jamestown, NY, shocked me when I saw medieval torture tools being used to straighten bars prior to welding.  The skill required to manipulate the bars into submission was archaic, but necessary. 

Steel sashes and frames are joined in the factory without glass, usually lying flat on a table or work-bench.  The weight of the sash makes it seem like the fit up is just fine, but when they are hung in the field, they need to be coaxed into squareness and plane to make the weatherstrip maintain solid contact.  Installers not trained in the art, just think the product is defective. They shouldn’t have to adjust them in the field.  Technicians trained in the skill of installing steel windows and doors understand these types of problems and know how to handle their finicky friends.  These skilled technicians only exist after training or lots of experience coupled with the desire to make everything work no matter what effort is required.

Decades of selling, designing and installing steel windows and doors have shown me this flaw in the system of supplying them to unsuspecting carpenters to install and have them work perfectly.  2Fold® is the latest technology developed specifically to solve this problem.

2Fold fixed window wall with glazing beads removed exposing mounting screws.

First off, 2Fold® windows and doors are factory-glazed .  .  .  even the fixed units.  They are done carefully with face-bonding of the glass to the glazing leg of the steel sash and corner blocking to guarantee that what is built square remains square and sag free.  The fixed sashes give you access to the mounting even with the glazing process complete due to the ingenious.  Once mounted, the glass and the glazing beads are easily removed to access them and then reinstalled without special tools.  Even large window walls can be installed without ever needing to field-glaze anything.

Squareness of the sashes is also guaranteed by being laser cut out of a single sheet of steel.  There is NO fitting of left, right, top and bottom bars which may or may not have been cut the right size.  There is no operator error in not properly squaring the bars prior to welding.  In fact, there is no face welding of the sashes because they use “box” construction where the depth component is simply folded up to form the sash and the inside joint is welded beyond view.

2Fold® sashes also remain flat without the warping or potato chipping of other frames because the “L” shape of the steel sash is very narrow and almost full depth.  This web is absolutely straight right off the shelf and doesn’t need straightening.  The strength of the deep web keeps it that way.

Pride might be a sin, but we pride ourselves on making the most installer friendly and reliable steel window and door system in the world.  So, if you’re curious about what else is behind our engineering, fabrication, and design curtain, come check us out.

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