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attic, part 9: redoing the windows

06.05 - 07.05 eyes, windows, soul, yada yada yada

click to see the full photo galleryThere are two windows in the attic: a double-hung window facing east that gets gorgeous morning sunlight, and a wide and low casement window facing south (onto a two-story apartment building -- eh, there's always a catch). Like the windows in the rest of the house, they're original. Even the glass is original, and you know how we love that imperfect, wavy old glass. The casement window even has two side panels that swing out, with screens on hinged frames on the inside that swing inward. Obviously, there's no way we were getting rid of them. Of course, this is Hall House, which means they'd been a tad, er, neglected and something needed to be done about them in the course of renovating the attic.

The casement window has some serious weather and water damage on the outside and will probably need to be replaced like the dining room window was a few years ago. But that's time and expense we just couldn't afford right now. Both windows have the original 6x2 hardwood trim in long, heavy pieces. They were both stained in the same dark color as the trim and paneling downstairs but the finish had long since dulled and since we wanted the room to be light and airy anyway, we decided to prime and paint them.

The window trim and sills came down during the demolition phase and were set aside for later. Translation: "carried down to the basement and stacked against a far wall until it was time to work on them". And that time, as we all know, didn't come for nearly a year. In the meantime, we pretty much got used to the windows looking like this:

By the time the priming and painting commenced in the rest of the room, we'd all but forgotten exactly how all the trim fit back together on each window. Note to self: label trim pieces as you remove them for easy assembly later. It's like we never learn our lesson or something.

The double-hung window, other than a hole in the upper glass that looks like it may have been made with a BB gun (and that we'll reglaze at a later date) was in decent shape. We didn't even have to replace the sash weights or cords. The screens on the casement windows were seriously nasty -- years of dirt and grime weren't helped any by a year spent in our basement. But some hardcore scrubbing with dish soap and a toothbrush (or ten) and those suckers were looking brand spanking new. Brand Spanking New, dudes.

And then there was the hardware. The double-hung window had no fastener or handle. The screen hinges were as grimy as the screens, which meant even more scrubbing with toothbrushes. And one of the window hinges was missing a hinge pin so the window hung cockeyed when you swung it out too far. There were no handles to make opening and closing easy and the only way to actually fasten the windows was with a cheesy and oft-painted hook-and-eye.

After two coats of primer and three coats of our trim color of "Coconut Milk" (that stain was seriously dark), the trim was ready to be reinstalled. Of course, we'd forgotten to take into account the new thickness of the drywall vs. the old thickness of the paneling, which meant playing around with added thicknesses behind the trim itself and strategic cutting of the sill pieces. And because the trim hadn't laid flat before we removed it, let alone when we put it all back together, there was experimenting to be done with "L" brackets and 45° angles. Geometry rulez!

It took a week and a half to reassemble the trim pieces and put them up. The double-hung window took the longest, which is odd considering it's the smaller and less complicated of the two. By the time it was all put back together, the south window trim was another inch thick and so heavy that that end of the house will probably start sinking.

Next it was time for the hardware. The hinge pins in one of the side windows still had to be replaced, which required a dirty two-hour dig through the boxes of hinge pins over at Hippo Hardware. But worthwhile, because Sal found what we needed and the window now works like it should. He also spent a considerable amount of time in dirty bins at Hippo digging for matching window handles and latches. (Upon telling a friend this, she declared that we're both insane. Like that's news.) He came up empty on latches for the casement window, but scored on everything else.

Luckily, we found what we needed at Van Dyke's Restorer's, where we found the window stay arms (for casement windows that open outward -- the arms let you control how far you open the window) and some great latches. I know I say it all the time, but seriously, how did people do this before the internet? Seven to ten business days later, we had our hardware in hand and not long after, installed. At which point we declared the windows Officially Done.

click to see full photo gallery