Monday, June 23, 2008

Windows 1.0

I promised a home improvement post some time ago... well, I actually improved my home over the weekend. This is the tail end of my now 6-month long kithen renovation project. But in fairness to myself - after the 3 months of hell that was January through March, when the counter finally went in, I felt I deserved a break. Now, I feel I deserve a kitchen that is finished - so back to work.

Kitchen Counter 1The project at hand is replacing the windows over the countertop in my new kitchen. To be more accurate - the countertop was over the window, which was the problem. The bottom of the original windows is a good 2 feet below the top of the counter, visible in this picture from a few months ago. So I needed to replace them with smaller windows, so it doesn't look completely ridiculous.

Kitchen Window
My nemesis: The window from the outside.

All the windows in my house are pretty ancient, and in the end I will replace some of them anyway, so this bit of work fits into the master plan. (Hah! Bet you didn't know I had one of those... ) While I love the original windows, many of mine are in bad shape due to neglect. I'll probably end up keeping (and repairing as needed) the four street-facing windows, to preserve the facade, and replacing the rest.

Here's a quick photo tour of how this project went down.


First the old window was summarily removed. This is the first time I've done a wholesale deconstruction of an old timey counterbalanced double-hung window. I have to say, the pile of wood that resulted was pretty impressive.


This is the new window installed. It was actually a piece of cake to get the new one in - but finishing it was a bit more time consuming. The window has a flange around its perimeter which is the white strip visible between the framing stud and the window frame on the left side. This is (apparently) a new construction design, which is not what I intended to order, but as it turns out worked out perfectly. I built a simple frame for the window out of studs which you can see on the left and right edges of the rough opening, and horizontally between those two below the window. The window flange is secured to a piece of 1x4 pine behind the vertical studs that I ripped down to make an opening exactly the same width as the window (minus the flange). Once that was in place, all I had to do was pop the window in, square it, and screw the flanges on the left and right into the pine. There is a flange on the bottom as well that's screwed in from the outside to the horizontal stud.

Window In, Needs Brick

Here is the window from the outside. Ah yes - slight problem with replacing a big window with a smaller one. That little detail of the gaping hole in my exteriour wall where there once was a window that needs to be bricked up.

I had actually been thinking about this for a while. I needed to get my hands on some old bricks to make the result not look completely silly. "Modern" bricks are smaller than the type used to build my 1913 house, and any random bricks I might find, even if from the same era, would probably not be the same color as my house. I looked around for a while on craig's list and local discussion groups but didn't come up with anything.

I realized that the answer was right in front of me: my own house.


This column is vaguely supporting the addition on the back of my house. As it turns out, this is a remnant from the original sunroom (or deck or whatever was here when the house was built). The old frame was left there when they built the current, larger additon, which is supported from the corners of the frame in several places by steel columns. I wasn't exactly sure what the consequences might be of knocking this thing down to salvage the brick, so I ended up replacing it with a post to be on the safe side. This was accomplished by jacking up the structure next to the brick pier, tearing it down, and the installing the new post in its place. When I lowered the jack onto the new post, the structure didn't even settle. The column was basically doing nothing. In the end, I netted about 70 bricks - almost exactly what I would need to fill the gaps on these two windows.


Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!

I haven't had a ton of experience with masonry. I tried to do some repointing on my last house and it ended badly. That is to say, it looked like crap. The mortar color didn't match at all, and I left sloppy drips all over the place. This time I was more careful about cleaning up the work as I went.

I put in the seven rows of brick below the bottom of the window. The fourth row, you can see, the bricks are laid end-in. Although my little wall is not structural (it's just one brick deep) I mimiced this from the original structure so it matches. I also took out the half-bricks on the edges before starting so it would look as if this had been here originally, rather than just filling the opening. That is, since a window opening has perfectly clean edges, every other brick is a half-brick. So if I just left those there and filled it, the regular alternating pattern would be broken. In the end, I am very happy with the way it came out and I have definitely improved my technique since my last lame effort!

Still to do: replace the sill, install brick moldings, caulk & seal. The old sill was not in good shape so I couldn't salvage it. I picked up a 4x6 timber, which is unfortunately pressure treated. And wet. Very wet. The wood is swollen almost 1/4 inch more than a dry piece. I want to cover this thing with polyurethane to protect it from the elements (and make it look cool) which can't happen until the wood has dried out. Hopefully it will be dry enough by this weekend. If not I'll go somewhere else.

Oh yeah. And when that's done, I get to do it all over again on it's brother.


Me, tired happy.


I just like this picture.


HouseHistoryMan said...

Funny, I just did this same project for a house I own in Baltimore....when a recent concrete counter top went in. Nice job!

Shannon said...

Funny, I did nothing of the sort for my weekend...thank heaven for crappy studio rental apartments!

Anonymous said...

Nice job Jamie, your pretty competent carpenter and brick layer. Second times the charm and no fear!

Jamie said...

I did the 2nd window over the weekend (I'm about to summarize on the blog) and it definitely went faster. And I appreciate the vote of confidence on my masonry skills!