There are a number of tax credits available right now for installing energy-saving things in your house. You can get 30% of the price of energy-efficient windows and doors as a tax credit up to $1500 in 2009 and 2010. I started researching window replacements and when I got serious, I called Mom so that she would make it happen. She quickly found a window installer who came by to give an estimate and talk about windows. I knew the specifications for the qualifying windows were very high, possibly so high that the price of those windows would be more than $1500 above normal windows. But the installer also pointed out that the tax credit only applies to full window replacements, but I could replace just the sashes (the part that moves up and down) for a lot less money that would also be very efficient. That seemed to be the way to go.
I told Mom we needed two more estimates and I wound up finding a local guy and Mom found another guy, both of whom showed up but never gave me an actual estimate. Mom’s guys said we needed to run the whole plan by the city because there are a lot of rules (only because it is a city, these are called “laws”) about getting approval of projects in the historic district.
One morning while walking the dogs I saw a lady with a CODE ENFORCEMENT jacket on and asked her what she thought about the window project. She said as long as I didn’t use vinyl I should be okay and could submit an application with a couple of pictures. She said I should call to be sure, but that I should hurry because that Friday was the deadline for the next meeting. I called City Hall later that day and they said that yes, I should submit an application to the Historic Preservation Committee. Here’s a general rule: If you ask whether you need permission, they will say yes.
I took a couple of pictures of the windows I would be replacing, downloaded an application, converted it to Word so I could fill in the answers, printed out 8 copies, went to Walmart and printed 8 sets of photos, and delivered my application that Friday. Within a day or so I got a call that they needed more pictures, but that I could e-mail them, so I did that. Also a sign showed up in my yard saying a public meeting would be held regarding changes to my house at 7 PM on November 2.
I went to the meeting this past Monday. There were a handful of people sitting in chairs and four guys around a table. I saw they had a printed agenda. Item 1 was Meeting Called to Order, 2 was Approval of Minutes, 3 was Consent Agenda. Here were listed 3 addresses and names with a few words about what they were doing. My project wasn’t there. Next was Old Business which included another address and name. Then there were 4 more projects under Item 5, New Business. This included my project.
I start thinking about this. “Old Business” must be the people rejected from the last meeting. “New Business” is probably the people that are going to be rejected from this meeting and become “Old Business” next month. “Consent Agenda” sounded like the place to be, and I wasn’t on it.
My fears were soon realized as the meeting started and the guys at the table were all smiles as they called everyone on the Consent Agenda at once and told them they were approved and would be getting a form in the mail saying so. Then they said they had mistakenly included one project on the New Business that was supposed to be on the Consent Agenda, so they passed a motion to move that person to the list and let them go. This person was adding a second floor and a garage to their house. Pretty major work! Anyway, I’m thinking that person’s check for the bribes didn’t clear as quickly as the others.
About this time a guy comes walking in asking for the Architectural Review Board meeting. They said it was held after this meeting (it was printed on the back of the agenda I had). But then, because he was the only project on that agenda and he was on the Consent Agenda, they temporarily adjourned my meeting and convened the Architectural Board (same four guys). At this point the guy pulls out pictures and pieces of paper and says these are the changes he is proposing. So they start talking about this and that and what kind of material he will use and on and on. I think they realized pretty quickly they had made a mistake in adjourning the other meeting even though there was only a handful of people left from the first meeting. So eventually they decide they will approve only what he has already submitted and he can submit his changes for next month’s meeting.
Getting back on track, they go to the Old Business, ask him a few questions and give him an approval. It’s like getting across Monty Python’s Bridge of Death. Then they move on to the first of the New Business which happens to be a window replacement project as well. They ask questions about why the windows need to be replaced and tell him they don’t usually allow this or that, but they are going to go ahead and give him an approval with a few stipulations and also explain why they are giving him some exceptions for his special case, and off he goes. This is interesting. He won’t be Old Business. Now I have some hope.
They do the second person for what seems like a while, but eventually get to me (dead last). They say that my house isn’t historic and really all they want is for the front of my house to look like it did before by using SDL or TDL windows. I knew this meant Simulated Divided Light or True Divided Light. Thermal windows are two big pieces of glass, unlike the little panes I have now, so SDL adds wood that looks like dividers. The first window man actually gave me estimates for this, but I decided it wasn’t worth the extra money. TDL are actually divided (and way more expensive). I had decided at some point that on the street-facing windows I would put dividers on the inside where I could get the look of divided windows, but the removable grids wouldn’t be exposed to the weather. This seemed like the best low-maintenance solution. Anyway, I agreed they would be SDL. Then they pointed out that SDL meant there would be dividers on the outside of the glass. So I said okay. And they said they would give me an approval with that stipulation. And I was done. It seemed like it had been a while, but actually the whole meeting only lasted 45 minutes.