Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Windows and cursing

My house was built in 1924 and is a late Craftsmen.  I bought it just 6 months before meeting my husband and it's the best purchase I've ever made.  It's not big, fancy, or particularly distinctive.  There are plenty of places where TLC is required but it's our home. 

In its lifetime my home has provided shelter to dozens of people and pets, seen children become adults, witnessed questionable taste in wallpaper, survived several good-sized earthquakes, endured poorly considered remodels of the kitchen and bathroom, and even housed a pack of college-aged boys while serving as a rental.

Despite the attempts by countless vinyl window companies over the years my home still has its original windows.  When I bought the house in July 2003, I took possession to discover that the windows were painted shut on the inside, painted shut on the outside, and the storms were painted on.

Most of the windows are in decent shape, though painted too many times.  I cut open the lower sashes when I bought the house but didn't realize that the top sashes were actually functional until recently.

The sash cords of the window in the back bedroom both broke this summer, allowing the lower sash to fall and breaking the glass.
Hi, chickens!

A curse upon the head of anyone who paints a window shut.  I hope that the AC in your car breaks on the hottest day of summer.
I had to cut the paint with a razor blade, pound it with a block and hammer, and coerce the upper sash down.  That orange goop is paint stripper.

I curse all people who paint window hardware rather than remove it.  May insouciant nursing home maintenance men dribble paint on your head when you're ancient and mute.
    Why paint a sash lock?  Why why why??
    The left pulley is unmolested (but the sash was painted shut over it) while the right pulley has been painted several times.  Don't do this, people.  Really.  This is what it looked like after a lot of scraping and stripping.
    This sash cord probably broke because it had been painted.
Damn you, lazy guy who installed the windows of my home in 1924, for not finishing the access panels to the window weights and forcing me to cut them open with a saw that was fitted with a metal blade and borrowed from my neighbor.  May you get to the toilet in time 92% of the time.
    I tried to cut it open by hand (see the light-colored vertical line?) before giving up and begging a tool from our awesome neighbor.
You, who failed to build/order a storm window for the one window in the entire house that gets the full brunt of the weather coming from the southwest, shall always be a day late or a dollar short.
This is the window after significant scraping.  The wood damage could have been avoided with a storm window.

And you, who painted over the weathered wood without prepping it, may seagulls poop in your convertible.
Again, more scraping revealed a sill in terrible shape.  The previous owner hired someone who painted over the problem rather than fix it.  I'll have to finish sanding it, fill it, then prime and repaint it.

The broken glass was the final straw: I couldn't allow another winter to trash the window and its frame. While G-man was in Virginia on a business trip I decided to tackle the project I've been meaning to do, but been afraid of, for 7 long years.

I pulled the stops off.

I stripped paint.

I removed the lower sash and cut the upper sash open.

I cut and pried open the poorly done access panels to reveal the weights.

I used a screwdriver bit as a pilot cord and replaced the sash cords.

I listened to our nexi-door neighbor's 5-year-old jabber at me all day: "Miss Jenn, what are you doing?  Miss Jenn, is that Curry?  Miss Jenn, would you get me an otter pop (WTF??)?  Miss Jenn, what are you doing? Miss Jenn, can I hold a chicken?  Miss Jenn, why did you get a dog?  Miss Jenn, what are you doing?  Miss Jenn, why are you drinking?"

OMG.  She never shut up!  My mom says it's vengeance from the now-dead neighbors I irritated as a little girl.

I've gotten new glass for the window and stripped the old paint.  I still have to reglaze the window, sand and repaint the lower sash and sill, strip and repaint the stops, seal the gaps with caulk, and put the window back together.  If we really get our act together, maybe we can build a storm window by October, which is when we normally put the storms up for the winter.

Thank goodness this was the worst window.  It was in rough shape but none of the other windows are this bad.  I'm not done but now have the confidence that I can refurbish the others as needed.


  1. I'm impressed! Sounds like you've made a good start.

  2. So annoying, isn't it?! All of our windows are in the same boat. There are a few that we've managed to open a few meager inches... I got a quote for a house-wide replacement and I just about fainted dead away. Not going to happen! Good luck with the window reglazing!

  3. What an amazing job you did and what a ton of work. Our camano house is very old and we've had to fix an enormous amount of things. Each time we do we joke that the house heaves a sigh of relief. I'm sure your house does to.
    J. Werner

  4. At least she called you Miss Jenn. Those are some nice manners.

    (Reason #452 why I didn't have kids: the incessant questions.)

    Wow - those windows are quite an undertaking. I'll remember to look at windows more closely if we buy an old house. (Our was built in 1952, and we replaced every last one with vinyl, but I would never do that with an older house)

  5. @Carbzilla - I taught her to call me Miss Jenn. She calls other adults by their first names.

    I just love old windows. They're so pretty and give an old house like mine character. Yes, they can be a lot of work, but if kept well they'll serve well.