Post Your Problems/Lawrence Walsh: The trouble with windows

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A Mt. Lebanon woman thought a pellet gun or a rock created the "large hole" in the outer pane of glass in one of her double-pane kitchen windows in 2005.

So did a Mt. Lebanon police officer when he came out to look at it.

She paid to have the glass replaced "and didn't think anything else about it," she said.

But when the outer pane of another window "exploded" a year or two later, she called Traco, the Cranberry company that manufactured the window. She gave the company the numbers on the window.

She was told the windows were no longer under warranty and was given the name of someone to replace the shattered glass.

"This became a regular scenario every year since, and Traco has refused to do anything about it. They say they are a different owner and not responsible," she said.

The 59-year-old woman, who requested anonymity because she lives alone, bought her home in 2003. The Traco windows had been purchased by a previous owner. She said at least six windows have "exploded" since the first one went to pieces in 2005.

She emailed several photos of the shattered windows. No one would want to be anywhere near them when they let go.

"Sometimes the inside pane explodes and sometimes the outside pane explodes," she said. The inside pane of one of two windows behind her sofa exploded last year, and the inside pane on the second window did a few weeks ago. She said she was sleeping on the sofa at the time.

"It is scaring me to death and I fear I may get hit in the eye or my kitty could end up dead," she said. Her cat likes to look outside from the comfort and vantage point of the top of the sofa.

She said she didn't bother calling Traco this year because "they know who I am and won't do anything about it. I feel someone needs to take responsibility for these windows. I am living in fear daily.

"What kind of business sells hazardous windows and thinks it's just fine and dandy that you live in a glass war zone?"

It turns out that Traco sold its residential window business in December 2008 to Echo Windows of Red Oak, Iowa. It sold its commercial window business to Alcoa in 2010. That business is now a division of Kawneer, a component of Alcoa's global Building and Construction Systems.

In a 2008 news release announcing the sale of its residential window business to Echo Windows, Traco said Echo "will assume all Traco residential vinyl manufacturing and sales operations."

"Echo will continue manufacturing Traco's Sienna Series and Power Two Composite Vinyl/Aluminum windows in the Red Oak facility which was purchased as part of the agreement."

In the news release, Robert P. Randall, Traco president and CEO, said the decision to sell the vinyl division "was a difficult one" because Three Rivers Aluminum Co. "was founded by my parents in 1943 to service the residential market."

"But we are certain that we have chosen the best fit for our long-term residential customers."

The "best fit?"

Not at all.

In February 2009, two months after the sale, Echo Windows went out of business. The company, owned by the Richard and Sharon Gillman family of Chicago, which also owned Republic Windows in Chicago, cited the economy and labor problems in Chicago as the reasons for its decision.

The family's sudden closing of Republic Windows in 2008 prompted its workers to stage a sit-in to demand severance and vacation pay that they eventually won.

So where does that leave the Mt. Lebanon resident and her exploding windows?

Angry and frustrated.

"I just don't have the resources to have to constantly dig up money for exploding windows," she said. "I would never have bought this house had I known the hazards of its windows."

If you or someone you know has had a similar problem with Traco residential windows, call me or send me an email with all the details.

yourbiz - larrywalsh

Lawrence Walsh can be reached at pyp@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1895. Please include your name and day, evening and cell phone numbers. Due to volume, he cannot respond to every email and phone call.


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