Successful Window Shopping

When you're looking for windows instead of through them window shopping tends to be an expensive excursion. Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as expensive as it would have been if Jane had sprung for new windows. She decided to use salvaged windows for her tiny house for several reasons: she's interested in reusing materials to give them a second chance and keep them out of the landfill, she wanted to save money, and she enjoys the character of found objects. We're not going for the cobbled-together look that characterizes so many house trucks, but we knew that using some salvaged materials could give the house some quirky character. Jane likes Britt's Bungalow but feels like it's a little too straight-edge for her style.

So this week Jane and I made a trip to a nearby window liquidators to scout for windows for her tiny house. We had our wishlist in-hand but since we were looking for salvaged windows we knew that we'd have to be flexible about exact dimensions. We also knew we'd be taking a risk that some of the windows wouldn't be in ideal shape. So we set out determined to inspect everything carefully and to set some standards.

All salvaged windows must:

  • Be in good working order with all their necessary components
  • Have wooden interior frames or wood-clad interiors
  • Be double-paned and have screens
  • Open in the proper direction according to the tiny house layout

We found a fantastic 5-foot wide sliding door which will be the main door for the tiny house. We snagged a pair of windows that will make good dormer windows in the sleeping loft. We also selected several windows that will work for the kitchen windows. Jane considered purchasing one large new window for the window seat so that she could have exactly what she wanted, but she ended up deciding that going with a fixed picture window and two operable windows on the side walls would provide nice cross-ventilation while saving her several hundred dollars. All-in-all the windows and door cost just over $1,000 (about a third of what they would have cost new).

The design process is, of course, iterative, but having some constraints can actually help make the process more manageable since we're not starting with an endless series of choices. Besides, it's sometimes easier to design around a neat found object than to try to find exactly the right piece to fit into the plan, so the windows are a great find.