(Photo courtesy of http://www.PopularMechanics.com)
As loyal readers know, I live in an old house. It was originally a two-room summer bungalow that was sold several times, expanded over the years and eventually became a permanent residence. One of the benefits of having an older home is that many of the rooms possess the beautiful, original double-hung, six over one, true-divided light wood windows. Problem is that the storm windows were never installed properly over them to protect them (they were caulked all around without any weep holes) and allowed moisture to work its way in and the glazing and paint are shot on the exterior faces of these windows. Every time I vacuum inside the sills, chunks of glazing chip off and rain down. Nevertheless, there was no way in hell I was going rip them out and replace them with those soul-less vinyls with “grilles between the glass.” I could never be happy looking at or through windows like that for the rest of my life.
In my desire to be environmentally conscious, preserve beautiful, well made windows, and save money, I decided to attempt reglazing them myself. To give you an idea of the reality of cost, I recently replaced four (4) windows in the dining room. They were 56×36 aluminum framed jalousie windows that let in tons of light but were very cold even with interior glass storms. We replaced them with wood interior/vinyl exterior double hung insulated Andersen’s with simulated divided light (about 56×32). The cost for the windows alone was $4000 even with installing them ourselves. That doesn’t include the cost of the staining and wood trim I have to do to match them to the others in the house. Hence, the attempt at d.i.y. reglazing. By the way, don’t buy the custom Andersen wood trim. You’ll save a ridiculous amount of money if you just pick up trim pieces at your local lumber yard.
I am a fairly handy person and can follow directions so I felt that with enough reading and watching of videos that glazing a window should be something I could handle. After having completed one window (upper and lower sash) I am ready to give my thoughts about the process.
This is not a hugely difficult process overall but it requires the right tools, materials, tons of prep work, and time to get the hang of working with the glazing materials. My first sashes don’t look so hot, but I think as I go, I will get better. Who knows, when I’m done, maybe I’ll be good enough to have a little side hustle reglazing wood windows and make some bank.
In my quest to keep it non-toxic and natural, I chose to use Allback natural linseed oil glazing compound and linseed oil paint. To strip the old paint and what was left of the putty I purchased a Speedheater (similar to the Silent Paint Remover they tout on the Allback website but had better reviews and quality control according to many online comments). I also purchased all the paint scraper tools and putty chaser, shellac flakes, linseed oil, linseed soap, chalk etc. that they suggest using. i wanted to follow their instructional videos to a T. I’ve included links to the videos I followed. (Opens in new tab.)
Paint and putty removal:
The Speedheater works great but you really want to do this outdoors or in a super-well ventilated workshop away from your living space.That shit smells when it gets hot. It also works better on a hot day so that the heating time isn’t being extended by lower external temperatures. The technique issue I had was in using the scrapers. Those blades are hella sharp and I unfortunately found myself gouging the wood several times. Definitely a learning curve.
Removing glazing points:
This was very easy and I didn’t crack a single pane, Be super careful in handling this glass as the edges are sharp, and part of the old window’s beauty is contained in the antique, wavy glass that you can’t get if you break a pane and have to replace it with new glass.
Preparing the rabbits to receive new putty:
I cleaned these with steel wool as they suggested but this was a mistake and I only did a few passes before realizing that bits of wool lodge in the wood and will fuck up the finish. Don’t use steel wool. Keep scraping (gently!) and use a scour pad and microfiber cloth instead that won’t leave particles embedded in the sashes. I wiped the whole shebang down with the linseed oil and let it sit and soak in. I came back days later and shellaced the rabbits and let them dry overnight. Easy peasy.
Backbedding and laying new glazing putty around the panes:
This shit was hard to get right. I had to heat the putty in the microwave as suggested to get it to a workable level. It was gooey, sticky and oily. Very hard to work with and get it smooth. It would drip everywhere and stick to everything despite letting it sit on wallboard to soak up some of the oil. Also hard to get off your hands so I suggest working with tight fitting latex gloves. I probably laid the putty and scraped it back out 3 or so times for each of the panes trying to get it just right. Still looked like the dogs dinner on some of them but at a certain point, I was over it and needed to finish. I may try working with a different brand of putty for the next window (thinking of Sarco M glaze).
Painting the exterior:
Since the interiors of my windows are stained, I only had to paint the exterior. Allback linseed oil paints are a bit tricky to work with if you’re only used to latex paint, though I really believe from all I’ve read and everyone I’ve spoken to that oil paints are the way to go for keeping the sashes protected. Make sure you have mineral spirits/paint thinner to clean up your hands and brushes because this crap ain’t washing off with their dinky linseed oil soap, Dawn detergent, Lava soap or anything else you had planned to use. Better yet, don your latex gloves again and make your life happier. One major benefit to using this putty and natural paint combination is that the smell is tolerable and you don’t have to wait for the putty to “skin over.” As soon as it’s in, you paint over it and an 1/8th of an inch onto the glass to make a seal. Folks, take the time to do the prep work and mask off the glass with blue painter’s tape so you won’t be doing the scraping and cleaning later. Cutting back the paint was a huge pain in the ass and didn’t go as smoothly as they made it look in the videos.
Huge note – drying time for oil paint is waaaaay longer than you’d think. It actually doesn’t “dry” because it doesn’t contain water. Instead, the oil oxidizes slowly and it “cures.” I made a huge mistake of placing the sashes outside temporarily while I cleaned up inside a bit. Dozens of tiny black gnats were attracted to the paint and stuck themselves to it. Not fun picking them out when the painted hardened. All told, I think it was a good ten weeks before the sashes were no longer tacky to the touch and the paint wouldn’t mar when I handled them. I’ve been told that heating the wood can speed curing time but I don’t have the set up for that and I worried trying to gently heat it with the Speedheater would instead loosen the paint bond.
Do not attempt this if you’re impatient, clumsy, or have trouble following directions.