08 April 2010

Attic windows

We had a close call with the windows upstairs. In February or March, I picked out the ones I wanted. But then I never said anything to Jacques the contractor about them. Or at least I don't think I did.

Sometime in March Jacques ordered the two windows we plan to have installed. They are « fenêtres de toit » in French — roof windows, I guess, or attic windows. They're not exactly skylights, because they are down at eye level and can be opened and closed one way or another.

The glass panes in these windows, which we had installed
six years ago, are about 40" x 30". Each attic window will
be only slightly smaller than one of these big panes.

The opening and closing was the issue. The standard attic windows manufactured by Vélux, which seems to have a monopoly on them, feature glass panes in frames that pivot on a horizontal post located somewhere above the center of the glass. Those are the ones I decided I didn't want.

The standard Vélux windows pivot and rotate to open.

In French, they are called « fenêtres pivotantes » ("center-pivot windows" in English) and they are the ones Jacques ordered. The Vélux web page about them says they use « ouverture par rotation » — they rotate open. Yesterday I realized we had a problem so I talked to Coco, the crew foreman, about it. He told me that the windows had already been ordered and that his boss Jacques was in Paris for three days.

What I want is windows that push out to open rather than rotate. I'm not sure why, actually. I don't like the idea of them spinning on an axis. They use a system called « ouverture par projection » — which doesn't translate literally into English. Anyway, that's what I want. The British Vélux site calls them "top-hung roof windows."

Here's the window style that we are getting.
They are hinged at the top and push open.

And that's what we are getting. Yesterday afternoon, Jacques the boss called Coco on the phone and it all got straightened out. Coco went and ordered the push-out windows. He says it will take three weeks to get them. I said that was fine with me, but would it work for him? He said yes, he has a good three weeks work to do upstairs and the timing should be about right.

Here's what the push-out windows look like from the inside.
See the U.K. Vélux web site for more information and pictures.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for our neighbor the mayor to give us her approval. In theory, when you change the exterior appearance of your house, you have to get planning permission. In our case, we don't foresee any difficulties, because most of the houses in our hamlet already have the Vélux attic windows, including the mayor's.

Yesterday, our neighbors who have the summer house across the street stopped by. I told them what we are having done to the house, and they said they had never asked for permission from anybody when they had their attic windows installed.

Besides, we are putting the windows on the back side of our house, so we are not modifying the look of the house from the street. The three-week time frame should give Mme le Maire time to give us her decision before the actual work of installing the windows begins.


  1. I think you're right about the push-up windows. The rotation ones might be better for ventilation, but if you want to have a look out of the window you'd have to close it, otherwise the top part of the window will be in your way. Ha! ha!

  2. Walt doesn't like that I showed a picture of our laundry drying on the radiator! It's a very practical way to dry clothes in the wintertime.

  3. lol ken, at least there r no purple panties on the radiator

  4. There is also another point that people forget when installing the pivot Velux windows.... when open the bar inside the room is usually at eye-level... and hits you smartly on the side of the head [or worse] if you aren't careful.
    NB: Having experienced both, the top hinged are better at ventilating rooms.... and have the added advantage that they don't let rain directly into the room in months like April! I've had a soaked bed from a pivot Velux left slightly downward into the room.

  5. Tim, you have confirmed and given expression to my thinking. Thanks.

    Melinda, LOL!

  6. Bon sang, Ken, on dit tous "un Velux" comme on dit un "Frigidaire", donc on utilise le nom de la marque, tu m'as donc appris que le terme est "fenêtre de toit", ce qui me fait sourire ! / I didn't know the expression "fenêtre de toit" since most people use the brand name "un ou des vélux"... Et je découvre qu'il y 2 types de vélux, il me semble que les nôtres correspondent à ceux que tu préfères et as commandés, non ? Attention, cependant, la pluie rentre quand même si le vélux est ouvert, mais il y a une position qui permet d'aérer tout en laissant une légère ouverture, il faut cependant veiller à les fermer quand il pleut... / Yet beware of the rain since it enters the room (it quite often happened to us in the past when we forgot to go and close the "vélux"...) Yet, one may leave them hardly open if it does't rain too much...Voilà ;-)

    As for the laundry drying on the radiator, lol ! I couldn't help smiling, but, as Melinda says, they are not "des dessous coquins", lol again ;-) !!!

    Since you give a lot of technical information about the "Vélux", it seems as if this kind of window is not currently used in the USA ? Bises (north winds as our Mike from NY says ;-) !) Mary

  7. Bonjour Marie, tout est arrangé à présent. Non, les vélux ne sont pas très courants aux USA. Nous avons des vasistas ou "skylights" -- on en avait dans nos deux salles de bain à San Francisco -- mais quasiment pas de vélux ou "roof windows"...

    I don't remember how the vélux at your house worked. It was probably raining to much in Normandy for me even to be tempted to try to open a window...


    North winds to you, ma Marie...

  8. I leave almost-dry laundry hanging from the tops of doors. Just before I looked at your post, I'd just removed yesterday's crop, so I got a good laugh at Walt's comment.

    Nice-looking windows.

  9. Hi Chris, the washed clothes come out of our washing machine nearly dry already. Spreading them around on the radiators when we have the heat on mornings dries them pretty fast. The advantage with radiators is that even after you turn the heat off, the clothes can stay there and continue slowly drying.

  10. Ouah, Ken, you couldn't not resist pulling my leg about the rainy climate in MY SWEET NORMANDY, lol ?!!! Your vélux are definitely like mine, na/so there :-) !

  11. The only thing is, the fenetres pivotantes are faciles a nettoyer whereas the others require some gymnastique on a ladder!

  12. I don't like those windows, but you apparently have no choice unless you re-configure your roof. On the other hand, I love those large windows that open to the inside.

  13. Mary, you are right, I could not resist. Je te taquine.

    Jocelyn, no, the top-hinged windows also flip around 180º so that you can wash them from the inside. Very practical.

    Starman, the windows in my picture are sliders. Windows that open into the room, unless they are very small, are a royal pain. You can't put anything in front of them, including lamps and plants.

  14. Tim, I'm glad to hear that you've experienced that Ken's preferred top-hinge type windows offer better circulation and ventilation... I was thinking that it might be the opposite case :)) Ken, how cool is it that those top-hingers pivot for cleaning!!?!?

    More exciting stuff!


  15. Ask the neighbor! I love it. Such a nice easy process as opposed to the daunting permit situation here in Sunnyvale.

  16. Ginny, this is the advantage of living in a village. The mayor is our neighbor. Even so, our village is a large one: 1,100 people or more.

    In comparison, Sunnyvale is a major city and is densely populated.

  17. Ken, I'm glad that you found a window that you are comfortable with.

    Last month, my brother also changed his attic windows. SF and its neighboring towns, usually suffer from air leaks. The change in season and temperature could have affected his window, so he decided to get a sturdier one. In San Francisco, window companies offer different designs of durable windows. The one that we like best are the glass panes. Since there are no permits needed in California, we had that installed right away and up to now, we are still using the same window.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Good luck on your installation projects!


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