Adventures in Self-Taught Window Glazing

window glazing

(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.)

http://youtu.be/OXIauqrMCWU

http://youtu.be/zpJhVnc9zTE

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.

Stupid finance articles that don’t provide an accurate picture of what is really going on in America.

uncle-sam-taxes

I saw this in a Yahoo News article this morning:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-worst-states-taxes-2014-110000784.html

It was talking about the worst states for taxes and of course, New York topped the list.  The figures they quoted were:

Top State Income Tax Rate: 8.82 percent
Sales tax: 4 percent
Property taxes per capita: $2,280

These numbers are completely misleading.  Yes the state sales tax may be 4% but when combined with the city sales tax, it’s significantly higher.  For New York City, there’s a website that breaks it down and talks about how different consumer goods are taxed.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/business/nys_sales_tax.shtml

Take a look at these samples of city sales tax:

New York City– 8.875%

Buffalo – 8.75%

Congers – 8.375%

Ithaca – 8%

Liberty – 8%

Lake Placid – 8%

Greenburgh – 7.375%

Saratoga Springs– 7%

From this sampling and looking through lists of sales tax by city at this website, http://www.sale-tax.com it’s plain to see that most of New York State is hovering around 8% sales tax.

http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/current_forms/it/it201i_nys_tax_table.pdf

Looking at New York State income tax rates for someone making $40,000 as a single filer, the taxed owed is $2,256.  Assuming all $40K is taxable income, that would give a rate of 5.64%  This seems like an awfully high percentage for someone making a less-than-middleclass salary (and yes, I understand that tax is calculated in brackets and the higher percentage rates only apply to the amount of income over the lower bracket).

lego home

Now on to property taxes.  Oh boy.  As a resident of New York, I know for a fact exactly what some of my neighbors are paying in property taxes.  Most are average middle class people with reasonably sized homes (no McMansions) who are pay between $8000 and $10,000 a year in property taxes for a moderately-sized  family home on 1 acre of land (2-3 bedrooms with parents and two children).  What is even harder to believe is that this amount is considered LOW for the area we live in.  When taking to the local assessor’s office, many of them have been told to suck it up and forget about a tax grievance because “Have you seen what your neighbor with the newly constructed McMansion is paying?!?!?  Stop complaining.”  I’ve heard that new construction in the area is often upwards of $15,000 a year in property taxes.

It really frustrates me that no one is reporting the facts of just how much people are losing from their hard-won salaries to try to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  What also bothers me is all the reports about the numbers of unemployed.  My parents always told me: whatever the reported percentage of unemployment or number of jobless, DOUBLE that number.  The jobless rates reported are only taken from the people receiving unemployment benefits so it will never capture people who are unemployed but no longer eligible for unemployment benefits, people who were in jobs that didn’t qualify them for unemployment when the job ended, or they are working but so under-employed (a day or two a week, working sporadically) that their income is negligible.

The reality is so much grimmer than is even being discussed and I can’t believe that articles like this pass for factual news.

unemployment

Furnishings.

I have been working on getting my new old home furnished; obsessively poring over online catalogues and blog posts talking about sustainably forested wood, low VOC finishes, organically upholstered pieces.  It’s a nightmare.  I feel like everything you get, no matter what, is filled with some kind of poison.

Still, I want new pieces as I have never owned new furniture or even had the vicarious joy of new furniture via my parents while growing up.  Everything was inherited, from a tag sale, donated from a neighbor, or picked up off the curb.

Interior design was not my family’s strong suit needless to say, nor is it mine.  Still, I am trying.  Not that every single thing has to be brand new either, but a few key pieces would be nice.  When I have time off around the holidays I plan to hit up some antique and thrift stores to see what I can find.  If there’s anything noteworthy, I will update accordingly.  Though I don’t have great skill at putting together a room, I still want to do it without a professional so it’s my style and it looks like a real home.  I would hate if my living room looked like I lifted it directly from page thirty-six of the latest Pottery Barn catalogue.  I think when people leave all the decisions to interior decorators, they can run the risk of having their style dictated and homes can end up looking too “done” or “showroom.”  It’s more museum than “maison.”

Fortunately, I have an ace in the hole; a wonderful friend who took apart an old farm house and put it back together and self decorated with all sorts of fantastic, one-of-a-kind antique and thrift finds.  I was admiring a lovely, ornate sideboard in the kitchen.  When I asked from whence it came, I was told, “Imagine that it used to be 8 feet in the air.  Now guess what it used to be.”  Apparently, it had been part of a Victorian style half-canopy bed.  Genius.

Here are some of my finds and preferences:

THV-113S30_0002-685x487-expgry

sherwin williams color forecast

Calista table

A glutton for punishment.

I must be one because I still want to fix up my old, rundown house.  Structurally, it’s sound, but there are oh-so-many problems that will equal a lifetime of repairing and maintaining.  And no, my home is not as bad as this one pictured, but sometimes I feel as if it were.

 

I was convinced that the red squirrels were back in my ceiling as I could hear a constant chewing sound all through the day.  The pest control people said no, no squirrels are inside.  The chewing got worse as the week wore on.  Yesterday, I pressed my ear to the wall near the ceiling to see if I could ascertain where exactly the sound was located.  I tapped and knocked on the wall and ceiling.  Then, the ceiling opened up with a small flap and a swarm of close to 100 yellow jackets flew out and flooded my living room.

Apparently, whoever built this house used some sort of paper-based pressboard which is a wonderful material for chewing up and turning into a yellow jacket nest.  After a thundershower of Raid (which said on the package that it was fine for indoor use but I still think I’m getting cancer) and taping up the hole, the room was wasp-free, and I managed to escape un-stung.  I spent today washing curtains and cleaning every surface and item in here for fear of poisoning my cat, my family and any guests who deign to enter.  Tonight I will put more chemicals up in my attic to ensure that the hive is destroyed.

If you are in the market for an older house (circa 1940 or earlier) be prepared for all sorts of shenanigans and fix-ups for things that weren’t done right.  Then again, I don’t trust modern contractors either.  While codes are better, I think a lot of new construction is just shiny stuff that looks nice but will crack and crumble piece by piece in 20 years or less.  The glazing on those double and triple-paned windows will not last more than 20 years and will require an entirely new window.  I have to reglaze many of my old wood windows, but with that maintenance, their expected lifespan is 200 years.   That laminate flooring won’t hold up like true wood or natural linoleum flooring.  And if you think you can breathe new life into your vinyl siding with a coat of paint, think again.  It doesn’t like to hold paint at all and you will be replacing that as well in 20 years.  Spend more money on long-living natural or better engineered materials.  It’s healthier for you, more economical in the long-run, and environmentally sound.

I know someone who bought in to a brand new, gorgeous and expensive condo development.  The place is gracious, spacious and clean but before even moving in, the contractors were called back to fix the crooked sheetrock in the living room and repair the shoddy flooring work they did on the stairs.  Just recently there was a problem with the dishwasher leaking into the ceiling and causing damage in the finished basement. I don’t think the place is even 5 years old.

I would be super-angry if I bought new and had to deal with that nonsense.   Maybe I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but at least I know what I’m getting and I know to expect certain problems.  In a world where everything is made to be disposal and single-use, it does give me some gratification to know that when I’m done with it, this house will be better than even its former glory.