Musings From Window Woman

Where I gather my thoughts on the days window restoration projects, old houses, and rants. Hopefully, providing some education on antique windows along the way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Window Woman on This Old House

First I got an email from Tom Silva looking for ballpark pricing on restoring some 6/6 windows. Then I got a call from the This Old House producer. After looking at the project in Bedford, MA and learning some about the way the show works we signed on to restore 14 windows.
The challenge will be how to work with the new EPA RRP rules and still make good television. Also challenging is that the windows are old but the openings don't match the windows. Not sure quite how we are going to deal with that. For sure it is not a pure restoration project. I think it will be more of a "living with an old house" story of how to deal with what you have and make the best of it while being respectful to the house.
Filming will begin in a few weeks, episodes won't air until OCtober 2011.
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Moving a shop

If you've ever moved your household you know how stressful it is. Moving a workshop is in someways a lot worse. The entire flow of work has to magically stop, everything get moved, and then start up again. Magic. Yes, that would be nice.
Nice would also be that everything works the way it should. Lighting, heating, phone, internet, etc. Our new space has almost nothing that works the way it should. Well, and we like things to be nice, too. Bathrooms - gutted and updates. Well, one is, the other is waiting for one silly little plumbing connection to be finished. Electric? Well, the wiring is done. Not exactly sure what is what in our panel as nothing was labelled. And there are pesky things like the extra breakers that go to the lights in the space below ours. Are we paying for those?
And then there is the heat. Our new space (3600 sq ft) is divided into three zone. The front "office" zone has a furnace that mostly works. The back zone has a Modine heater that is working fine even though it's pretty loud. The middle furnace has not worked since day one. Many people have looked at it. At long last the duct work was cleaned up, but those guys did not notice that there was no hot air coming out of it. They found a defective part and ordered a new one. That part came in, but now there is another part that is needed so another day of waiting.
Meanwhile my crew huddles in the back with the Modine, inadequate lighting, and horrendous acoustics.
This space will be great eventually. We've been working on it six weeks and we're darned close.
Except that my internet connection has been dead for two days....

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's time to close your storm windows

Here in New England, the weather has turned decidedly colder. Before you turn on the heat, close your storm windows. And if you get really crazy and ambitious clean the storm windows before you close them.
The majority of storm windows have two glass panels and one screen panel. The proper way to close them is to have the outermost panel at the top, the middle glass panel at the bottom. The screen, your choice where you leave it for the winter. Or, if your screen is torn, ripped, loose, hard to see through, take it to your local hardware store and have them put in new screening so you'll be ready for those bugs next Spring.
If you get ambitious and decide to clean your storm windows, remove the screen panel first, then the glass ones. Depending on the manufacturer, the panels have tabs that fit into slots and there is always a way to slide them up or down, angle them to get the panel out of the frame. With the panels out, clean the gunk in the channels and at the bottom. Spray some WD 40 in the channels. Check to make sure there are weep holes for the water to run out at the bottom of the storm window. If the gap between the bottom of the storm window and the sill is big, fill it in with caulk, but again leave weep holes.
Closing your storm windows correctly will save you lots in heating costs and make your winter more comfortable. Oh, and lock your windows! The lock is not just for safety. It pulls the two sash together and closed and forms part of the weather sealing system.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Every day a little paint

Lately I seem to be trending putty failure that turns out to be paint failure. A few estimates I've been on lately seem to have what looks like chipped glazing but is in fact the paint separating from the glazing putty. In my experience, the glazing companies are not exactly forthcoming about what "top coating" to apply to their products. Sarco recommends oil primer over their glazing but when asked "what about if I'm doing a shellac/varnish finish with no paint?" they have no answer except to use an oil primer. I guess if I were painting windows I would use oil primer as a default. My guess is no one has told the painting companies this recommendation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Making 'em work

Will I ever get tired of watching customers delight in opening and closing their windows once we have worked on them? Probably not. It's really sad that so many people put up with windows that don't open, are hard to open, crash down when they are opened, etc. when a little maintenance is all that is needed to get them back to full operation.
Today we replaced broken or frayed ropes in a lovely 1920's condo. The owner had previously thought she had to replace her windows since they wouldn't open or stay open. Yikes! And, for about $75 a window she has all the functionality restored. Not a bad investment after living with dangerous windows for about 8 years now. I would have liked to put in weather strip and reglaze the sash, but the homeowner was on a tight budget so we did the minimum to get the windows to work better. This is what you do in these economic times. And hey, the smile is still rewarding!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How gullible are you?

I've been collecting brochures from replacement window companies and it astonishes me the claims that are made. "Attractive, durable, virtually maintenance free and professionally installed" is the boast of one major manufacturer. Attractive? To who? Durable? Well, I just saw some of this brand of window that were ten years old and the lower rail on the upper was falling off. Maintenance free? So what about the chalking plastic that is leaving white streaks down the glass? Professionally installed? Is that what you call a guy with a can of spray foam? I know, I know, there are some good installers.
And I just love the brochures that tout the benefits of one company over another. The Marvin brochure shows a picture of "the view through typical replacement windows" and the view through their Infinity series. Either way you got big heavy areas of frame where once there were light delicate profiles that let in the maximum amount of light - something builders of old accomplished through well built windows, not just more and more windows. And isn't it a scary thing to know that Fibrex is stronger than Ultrex? What exactly are these substances and what nasty processes were involved to make this stuff? Trees I understand... pultruded fiberglass? Wood flour and resin? OK, I know I'm crazy to want things made out of real substances just like I'd rather eat popcorn with butter rather than "topping."
My favorite is "Never think about replacement windows again." Yes, this is in a brochure. Talk to anyone who put in replacement windows five or more years ago. Do they never think about replacement windows? Usually what I hear is "the plastic clips broke and now I can't get the window open so I will have to replace that one." Or "my windows are fogged and I'm tired of not being able to see out of them so I will have to replace them soon." Most people just move so they probably won't have to think about replacement windows again ... in that house.
What really gets me is that almost all of these window manufacturers make storm windows, but they spend no money marketing storm windows. Why? I suspect the margin on storm windows is a lot lower than replacement windows. And no one wants to admit that the same or better energy gains can be had by replacing storm windows and leaving the beautiful old windows in place rather than contaminating your old house with pultruded resin flour ultrex products.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Historic vs. Antique Windows

I love having our work publicized (like the recent article in the Salem News) but I worry that we talk about the big, fancy projects and the public gets a false impression that only the Important (with a capital I) houses are worthy of restoration or have budgets big enough to afford this kind of work.

In reality, 98% of our work is average, everyday houses. The cost for average windows is a lot less than quoted project prices in the newspaper. But, there is no way a reporter is going to come out and write a story about Average Joe and his typical restoration project windows. And certainly I don't expect to have a story written about my ten minute fix of a 1979 casement window I did for a woman who couldn't get anyone else to come out for such a small project. We call these goodwill projects.

Historic windows, or those that are in significant houses and press worthy are good for the portfolio, but antique windows are our bread and butter, and quite frankly I like them better. I like houses that people are living in and opening and closing their windows and admiring how well they work after all those years.