A window a day keeps all the drafts at bay. Well, being the overachiever that I am, I went for broke today and ripped 2 big holes in the walls of our upstairs bathroom. It is well known that to remove a draft, you must first embrace the draft. And for a while there, it got a bit breezy in our throne room. Good thing our new downstairs bathroom stood ready to serve our throne-like needs without a hint of windchill. The Mrs, while she likes to talk about growing up with an outhouse, now, wants nothing to do with cold and you know what.
This would be my fifth window that I have installed in the last week or so, and have learned the ins and outs of how to remove the rotting old window frames and not take the whole dang wall with it. It is hard to tell how old these frames are. I am pretty sure what I am taking out is from 1900 to 1930. The square nails and joinery is consistent with that time frame. Every one of the frames was rotted on the sill and most of the windows allowed plenty of fresh air, for your health. Who wants to live in a stuffy house.
The first frame I took out was our North bedroom window. The interior walls of our upstairs are all horse hair plaster over stone walls. After 140 years, some of the plaster was not stuck to the stone walls as firmly as it used to be. When the window frame came out, a good bit of plaster around it decided to come out, too. After the dust cleared and after getting a good look at the damage, I was pretty sure that wasn’t gonna rub out. Fortunately, I was well practiced at plaster and sheet rock repair from previous projects in this house.
I had gone to one of the big box stores and purchased a dozen 10 foot 2X12’s and made the new frames from that. Yes, it was a bit of work, but you need stout frames for a stout house. The new frame fit in the hole in the wall just like a new denture that was installed where your front teeth use to be. Flossing is important. They didn’t have caulk and didn’t bother to paint, at all. As your Dentist reminds you, rot takes work to prevent.
By now, you are probably wondering, just how do you fasten a wood frame to a stone wall. Well I am glad you asked. Back in the ‘80s, I was watching Tommy Silva from This Old House install a new window in a brick building. Tommy said to use spray foam and it will stick the window to the building and be plenty strong enough to keep it in place. The old way was to have a wooden key fit into the wall and nail the frame to that. That’s what they did with the frames I was taking out. The old mortar was turning to sand, so the key came out with the frame. Once the new frame was plumbed with shims, I foamed it in and let it sit for an hour. The new windows are all plastic, and with 4 screws and a little more foam you have a nice new window sitting in a nice new painted frame.
So, got the bathroom all buttoned up in time for me to go downstairs and pinch the wife’s behind and ask for another slice of date nut bread. Did you know today is National Date Nut Bread Day? We had no idea that such a day existed, but the Chef of the house has been making coffee bread type things and just happened to have date nut bread on hand. The convergence of National Date Nut Bread Day, having date nut bread on hand, my getting done early on a 2 window job and getting handsy with the Chef, while wrangling some more date nut bread, made me think I should run out and get a lottery ticket. However, the Mrs didn’t slap my hand so I figured I better stick around for a bit.
Once the windows are finished in the stone part of the house, that leaves the real fun part left to do. Making all the moldings for where the windows meet the frames. Window stop or brick mold. The stuff they sell at the lumber yards is too modern looking and/or to puny in scale. I figure my Christmas vacation will be in the workshop making saw dust, followed by my New Years vacation, installing all the new moldings I have made. And by the time I get done with this house, I’m gonna need a real vacation. However, the Mrs is looking at affordable housing in the frozen North and all of them need some sort of rehab. Ho ho ho!
Have a Merry Christmas everyone.