When you’re building a new cottage or undergoing a major renovation, it can feel like you are making a thousand decisions a day. From the sheen of the paint to the colour temperature of the lighting, there are countless tiny details, each of which will make an enormous difference to your enjoyment of your new home.
That is certainly the case with the doors and windows. There is a seemingly endless range of options – not just in appearance, but in function as well – and a corresponding range of price points. The decisions you make here will have an enormous impact, particularly if your cottage has a more modern design.
“One of the defining features of Modern design is the ‘wall of glass’ look,” says Ken Kussen. “It can be a magical way to create stunning views out over the lake. But getting it right means paying attention to some critical details.”
Ken and his sons Jeff and Brad own Great North Windows & Doors. They have decades of experience in the industry, and are adept at guiding homeowners – and builders, designers, and architects – through the range of options and features to select the perfect doors and windows for each project. Here are some of their tips.
Modern design – as well as related styles like Transitional and Modern Farmhouse – emphasizes tall and wide door and window openings. That trend is partly driven by incredible advances in door and window technology. “With the right product, there are almost no limits on how big your doors can be,” says Brad. He points to a display door in the showroom which is nearly four feet wide and 12 feet high, and yet swings with perfect ease.
Great North Windows & Doors works closely with Marvin, which has been in operation since 1912. “Marvin makes incredible doors and windows – they look amazing, and are excellent in any size opening,” he says.
“Even though they are a billion-dollar-a-year company, they’re still family run, owned by people who pay attention to all the details. They really are the best of the best.”
Keep the profile small
One thing that makes quality windows and doors stand out is that they have much more glass and smaller frames than lesser brands. “It’s really noticeable in a Modern or Transitional design style, where you might have a 30- or 40-foot doorway, with sliding or bifold doors stacked up beside each other,” says Jeff. “If each of those doors has a four-inch frame, then you have eight inches of solid material between each piece of glass. That’s just too much.”
Marvin’s doors and windows – particularly in their Modern product line – are known for having much narrower profiles. “Architects notice this right away, and really appreciate it,” he says. “They can design a ‘wall of glass’ look and it really is a wall of glass. The homeowner is looking out at the view, rather than looking at the door and window frames.”
Pay attention to the hardware
The aesthetics of your windows and doors matter, but it’s just as important that they perform the way you need them to – not just when they’re newly installed, but 20 years down the road, after they’ve been opened and closed thousands of times.
“You should never need to struggle to open or close a window or a door,” says Ken.
The hardware is particularly important in larger openings, for the simple reason that it needs to support more weight. That 12-foot-tall door in the showroom weighs hundreds of pounds, but it’s hung on just two massive hinges. “That gives you less resistance than four or five smaller hinges, and less chance of anything shifting out of alignment,” Ken explains. “It’s just a superior approach.”
Details count with other kinds of doors, too. Marvin’s sliding doors, for example, can be equipped with low-profile sills, allowing a smooth transition between a Muskoka room and a living area.
Frames are typically made of fibreglass, aluminum, or wood, and all have their uses. Aluminum frames are particularly popular in modern and transitional styles, because they allow the sharp, clean lines that define the look.
But aluminum frames can allow winter’s cold to penetrate into the home. “A better option is to have fibreglass outside and aluminum inside,” says Brad. “It offers the same aesthetic, but much more energy efficiency.”
And think all glass is created the same? Think again. “There are different kinds of coatings, different ways of constructing the actual panes,” says Ken. Windows are graded on factors like solar heat gain, u-factor rating, visible light transmittance, and more.
“Marvin is at the top in every single category,” Ken says. “They just build a superior product in every way.”
TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN