Sunday, January 27, 2008

StuccoHouse Lite

My last post sucked the life out of a few readers, so today's post will be StuccoHouse lite.

A while ago (ok, a really long time ago) someone posted a comment asking to see photos of the tiger & bird's eye maple floor boards in my upstairs sunroom.

Hard to imagine that at one time this was considered inferior flooring, covered with very dark stain to hide the "flaws" and used as a cheap solution in out of the way rooms.

A while back, Petch House did a very cool post about tiger redwood.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Windows - Getting the Glass Back In

When last we left my windows, they had been stripped of many layers of old paint and the glass had been carefully removed and set aside. I had treated the bare wood with BoraCare, a borate wood preservative, for good measure. Now I was ready to put the whole thing back together.

At this point, I carefully inspect the little inset bed where the glass once laid. Every minuscule bump, every piece of old putty, every little sliver of wood, every broken piece of a glaziers point (the little metal tabs that hold the glass in place) needs to be removed and the bed needs to be sanded smooth. An old dental pick helps here. Tedious work, but it will save untold anguish later. Turns out old glass is very fragile and when laid in an uneven bed, can crack.

Next comes a coat of primer. I use Zinsser's oil-based Cover Stain. It's an interior/exterior primer that sticks to just about anything and dries quickly. I prime both faces (inside & outside) of the sash, the bed where the glass will rest, and the top and bottom edges. I don't prime the left & right sides of the sash. I let the primer dry for a day or so.

Now I veer off from normal instructions you find online. I paint the interior face of the sash. I've been using Benjamin Moore's oil-based Super Spec in a semi-gloss. I use two coats. I'm careful not to get any paint in the glass bed or the exterior side of the sash. I finished one sash before I figured this out. By painting the interior face, you later save yourself the hassle of trying not to get paint in the installed glass. It gives you a nice crisp edge on the interior. I let the oil-based paint dry for a few days. In the meantime, I work on restoring the paint laden hardware. I also clean the glass. I use a razor blade to remove old paint and oven cleaner if the glass has a serious film on it.

Once the paint is dry, I flip the sash over and get ready to reinstall the old glass. Once again, here I veer off from normal instructions. Most people put a small bead of glazing putty in the glass bed. You need something soft there for the glass to rest on. You also want something that will hold the glass in place and weatherproof that spot.

When I first started working on my windows, I found company that made small tubes of silicone to use for this purpose. Of course, once I used up my first tube the product had been discontinued. However DAP makes a silicone product that is very similar, so I have been using that. I squeeze a very thin bead of silicone in the glass bed...then oh-so-carefully place the glass on top of the bead of silicone. Remember, you only want the silicone in the bed underneath the glass - you don't want it on any of the sash face wood. I make a dry run with the glass before putting down the silicone - because pulling glass up from silicone because it doesn't fit will give you an instant migraine.

The pros/cons of using glazing putty to bed the glass: It is easy to use & clean up. If the glass breaks anytime in the future, it will be fairly easy to remove. However, it is not especially weatherproof and will deteriorate in water & snow.

The pros/cons of using silicone: It's easy to apply. It's clear so, it doesn't show through the glass. It is water & wind proof and won't deteriorate. However, it really holds that glass in place...and if the glass ever breaks removing the silicone to replace the glass will be a lot of work (as anyone who has recaulked a tub knows). It also will not hold paint, so if you accidentally get it on a surface that will be will need to be removed.

Once the glass is in, I put very light pressure on the glass to make sure it beds in the silicone. Then I put in the glazier's points. There are a few different varieties. I personally like the ones that have a little ridge that allows you to use a putty knife to slide them into place. I usually space them about 6" apart. Once again, I set the sash aside to dry (are you getting an idea of why this takes me so long?).

When the silicone is dry, I start to apply the glazing putty. I'm going to stop right here and say - if you are going to reputty your windows go out immediately and buy a glazier's tool. They sell for a little over $5 at most hardware stores. One of the old timers at my neighborhood hardware store took pity and me and showed me the trick to using them. After that, puttying became a joy.

I use DAP 33 glazing putty (buy the kind in the metal can, if you can. The plastic tub dries out easily). I tried other stuff, including the type that comes in a caulk style tube - bleuck. One thing I found helpful is to take a big clump of putty out of the container & knead it. I think the oil tends to separate and kneading it helps the consistency so it tools better.

I roll a thin rope of putty and start working it into the bed over the glass. I use the V end of the glazier's tool to run down the putty - keeping on edge on the wood and the other floating over the glass. It takes a little practice, but this will form and near perfect angle. Every now & again I take a look at the putty from the underside of the sash. You don't want the putty to show past the wood on the interior side of the sash. This is my favorite part of restoring the windows. I find working the putty relaxing.

Once the putty is in guessed it. It needs to dry. I generally wait a week or so for is to develop a "skin" on it. Essentially it won't feel sticky when you lightly touch it. It will stay soft. The new putty doesn't harden like the old stuff.

Once the putty is ready, I prime the putty with my oil-based primer. When the primer is dry, I paint the exterior of the sash & putty with Benjamin Moore MoorGlo SoftGloss acrylic exterior paint. I do not paint the side edges of the sash - paint makes it difficult for them to slide up and down in the sash channel. When painting I want the paint to run ever-so-slightly on to the glass to form a seal around the putty. I use a nice angled sash brush to paint this part. When the paint is dry, I clean up any boo-boos on the glass with a razor blade.

When the paint is dry, I reinstall the old hardware - now all clean & shiny.

Next, putting the sash back in the window.......

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Windows - Getting the Paint Off

I have two goals in restoring my vintage windows. First, I want well functioning windows. Secondly, I am slowly removing the old lead paint from the woodwork in my house and the windows carry about 75% of that old paint.

I made the decision early on in this project (and my house for that matter) that I wasn't going to rush. I'm in no big hurry and I want to take my time so it doesn't become a nightmare that scars me (and the house) for life. I also decided that I want to work on these windows once and that's it. So, I'm telling you now, my methods are not always the most efficient. In my last post, I included photos of what some of my windows looked like in the beginning.

It's pretty straightforward removing sashes from the window frame. In casements, obviously you just unscrew the hinges. In the double hung windows, you need to gently pry off the interior stop (trim piece that holds in the sash). If it's painted on, I first take a utility knife and run it down the seam where the interior trim meets the windows frame. Then I use a putty knife to pry up the stop pieces. I've been saving my stop trim pieces, but it's not the end of the world if they snap. Many profiles of replacement stop can be found at the big box stores.

I work on one sash at a time. Once the trim is off, you can swing out the bottom sash while it is still attached to the side ropes. The rope has a knot on the end (and sometimes a small nail) to keep it in a small little cave on the side of the sash. I tie a stick to the end of the rope after I pull it off of the sash to prevent the pulley weight from sliding back down into it's hole and the old rope will be helpful later.

I've been filling in the missing sash space with a piece of plywood and attaching it on the interior while I work on the sash. I also have permanently attached storms which help when working on the windows.

For the most part, I work on stripping the paint from the windows outside or with the windows wide open. The first thing I do is remove the old, wavy glass from the sashes. Don't panic, I reinstall it later. If I'm lucky I can use a dental pick, razor blades....and whatever else to pull off the old putty and very, very carefully pull out the old glass. This is a painstaking process and takes a lot of time. You can't rush it.

If the old putty won't budge, I put some heat reflective tape (find it in the plumbing dept.) on the glass next to the putty and then use my heat gun on low setting to gently heat the putty. Sometimes I can get it to crumble with the heat. If that fails, I brush a little stripper on the putty and let it work for a while. Sometimes I can get the putty to melt with the stripper. Just a tiny warning - some strippers can etch old glass, so you want to be very careful.

Removing the glass is almost always hellish. There will be a point while you are removing the glass where you will seriously consider giving up your will to live. When this happens, go take a little nap and know that you are about halfway done.

Once the glass is out, I very carefully label it and set it aside. My upper sashes have three panels and I learned my lesson the hard way - the glass is cut for one specific space and labeling the glass makes it easy to put it back where it belongs. Just remember, the old glass is pretty fragile. If it breaks don't kick yourself too much. Buy some replacement glass and move on.

Next I take off the hardware, put it into a baggie and set it aside. Trust me on the baggie.

I use a heat gun & putty knife to remove the bulk of the paint on the wood sash frame and Zinsser Strip Fast & steel wool/those little stripper brushes to remove the residue. I also remove the paint from the sash channel....and all of the interior trim using the same methods. But remember, this is lead paint and you need to take your own circumstances into consideration when removing paint.

I'm obsessive about things and I always have my camera ready to document the different paint colors as I remove the old paint layers.

Once all of the paint is removed, it's amazing how rock hard the old growth wood is. I am not exaggerating when I say rock hard. My window sashes are old growth pine and it boggles my mind that it is even related to what we call "pine" today. One can easily see how these sashes will last another 100 years. At this point, I do a light sanding of the bare wood to get to fresh wood, but I'm a fan of keeping some of the dings of the old wood. Call it character. If there is rot or missing wood, I use WoodEpox to repair it. If any joints are loose, I tighten them (although, frankly, I've only had to do that once)

I also treat the wood with BoraCare as a preservative. Some people put a coat of boiled linseed oil/turpentine on the wood as a treatment. I'm not a fan of this mix on exterior wood (I do use it when restoring interior furniture), so I pass on that.

The next step (and post) is to reinstall the old glass.....

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Windows - Square One

Things are a little slow here at StuccoHouse, so I thought what I would do is write a series of posts about the steps I'm taking in restoring my old windows. I have 13 double hung, 12 casement, and 3 stationary windows.

This is not new territory and much information is available online. It has been one of the most rewarding projects I've worked on as an old house owner. It takes a commitment of time, but this is not brain surgery and it does not take much skill.

When I first bought my house, I somehow stumbled upon the book Working Windows by Terence Meany. The book includes nice drawings and a simple way of describing things.....which gave me the (false) confidence I needed to get myself too deep into the project to turn back :-)

I think most of the putty is original (1924) and almost all of the glass is the beloved wavy glass. All of the top sashes in my double hungs were painted shut. 90% of the ropes were broken. The wood was, thank heaven, for the most part solid. My biggest challenge has been this funky textured paint used on the exterior trim (you've heard me whine about this before).

Today I will post some photos of my windows in their original condition (the windows with the tacky flowers are a set of 3 casements).

Monday, January 07, 2008

Where Are You?

I accomplished a few things this weekend. Two of which you probably won't care about and one that is kind of fun.

First, the two you won't care about, because I need to tell someone and let's face are a captive audience :-)

On Friday I was walking by a TMobile store and decided on a whim to go in and look at the new phones. Next thing I knew, the teenie-bopper salesgirl was handing me my activated, free upgraded phone. I've been stressed out since. My old phone was 7 yrs old. It was blissfully outdated and was not audible when it rang - I happily missed 99.9% of my calls. They were shuttled to voicemail. I am not a big phone talker and this worked well for me. Not so well for anyone trying to reach me. The new phone rings loud. Really loud - even on it's lowest setting. I have to peel myself off of the ceiling after every call. But, it is pink and does have a camera.

With my new phone in pocket, I went and ordered two new roller shades for two of my refurbished upstairs windows. Who knew, first, that roller shades were so hard to find...secondly, that they were so expensive (I'll admit to ordering the upgraded version).....and finally, ordering them was so involved. It took me 45 minutes to order 2 identical shades. I want to use my original vintage roller hardware, so the saleswoman had to call the manufacturer to confirm the new shades would fit. They will arrive in 3 weeks. More on this later.

Finally, I ran across a very fun website for historical maps. They have a search function where you can input your address and it will pull up applicable maps. I found a plat map from the 1940's of my neighborhood. Of course, it's now on my wish list.

Go a search of your address....I'm curious to hear what maps others find.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Windows Deferred

After 2 years, I'm pretty sure it can no longer be accurately classified as "procrastination". It really must be called "severe mental block."

Two years ago, I removed the sashes of one of my upstairs windows. I promptly refurbished the hardware. I stripped both sashes down to bare wood, repaired any damage, removed the old, wavy glass, cleaned and rebedded the glass, reputtied the glass and repainted the sashes. I bought the sash rope and oiled the pulleys. I stripped the interior trim of it's lead paint & repainted it.

Then they sat....or rather leaned against the wall upstairs. For two years. I occasionally dusted them and thought about how I really should just reinstall them. And they sat some more. The funny thing is that I fully restored and reinstalled a number of casement windows during this time.

Well, a combination of pure holiday vacation boredom, -10 degree weather, and shame finally motivated me to reinstall the sashes. It took 45 minutes. They look quite nice. If you look closely, you can see the bronze v-channel weatherproofing in the channel of the lower sash. The windows (upper & lower) operate with one finger :-) They keep out the cold. They will last another 100 years. I can't explain the hold up in installing them.

I still have to remove some stubborn spots of paint (yes, I see the old paint in the heads of the hardware screws & the sash channel) and add the interior stop.

I really, really enjoy rehabbing vintage windows. Once I get my photos in order, I'll post about the entire process I take.



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