Monday, June 14, 2010

Hmmm, Glazing, Yum

No, not that kind of glazing. I'm talking window glazing putty. That nasty crumbly stuff on the outside of old windows that is supposed to be holding the glass in but really is just catching dirt and rain and making your house look trashy. My first battle with ancient glazing putty was in CA with ten, yes ten, double hung windows in the back bedroom that were painted shut but somehow still rattled in wind -it was the glass moving in the frame since there was very little putty to hold the glass tight. In truth, little metal pieces called glazier's points are what actually hold the glass in, the glazing putty is there to help the window shed water and to make the sash look nice. There's also a term "double glazing" which means there are two panes of glass but that is usually held in the sash (or frame) by trim, being metal, vinyl or wood. The great thing about a single glazed window is that if it breaks, it's easy to fix, just pull out the broken glass and the old putty and install a new sheet of glass with glazing points and reputty the outside. I haven't figured out how to fix a broken double glazed window pane yet. During Hurricane Ike, only one window in our house cracked, the double glazed bathroom window. The 90 year old glass in the rest of the house held up fine. I just left it cracked. So many years ago when I was rehabbing the ten windows, I had to figure out how to reglaze windows. Dap makes a great product that I now use after experimenting with other glazing putty products. This product comes in a caulking tube and is dispensed using a caulking gun. Someone really skilled, in theory, should be able to lay the putty in perfectly right from the tube with no need to model it at all. After reglazing over 30 windows in the last 9 years I still need to work the putty once it's applied. There's another product that comes in a quart paint tin that I found hard to use, you have to work it into a thick rope with your hands then press it into the glazing channel. I didn't like it and have used the Dap glazing caulk ever since.

Our current house has all double glazed windows but I found myself restoring a very old door to use on the chicken coop that had a glass 12 light panel inset. Most of the glazing putty was gone but thankfully the glass panes were not broken. The old style glazing points, which are either diamond or triangle in shape and flat, sharp metal were mostly still holding the glass in but I did put in some new
glazier's points just to be sure. One of the most important things when reglazing a window, which can be done with the window sash still installed on the house, is to remove all of the accumulated dirt in the glazing channel so when primed, it sticks and seals. Here's the simple steps to reglazing a window: 1) remove all of the loose, old glazing putty, being careful not to chip the glass. Do the whole window once, take a break then come back to it and you'll find more loose stuff. Remove it all. Any that seems really secure can be left, usually the top edge of the glass since this rarely sees water damage. 2) clean out the dirt and crumbles of putty. This can be a challenge along the bottom edge that gets the most wear. I'll scrape it then go back with a small wire brush to loosen the dirt. Vacuum up the dirt dust and debris with a shop vac, making sure the whole channel is clean. Do not use water to clean unpainted wood. 3) paint primer in the channel where the putty will go. I usually prime the whole window at this point. Don't worry about getting primer on the glass, it'll scrape off later.
4) apply the glazing putty or caulk. Be patient! I use a tool (in the picture) to smooth the putty to a nice angle that will shed water. Use a wet finger to smooth where the tool overlaps the putty and creates a bump or drag mark. Leave any excess putty on the window as long as it's not touching the glazing putty that was just applied. It'll harden and be scraped off later. 5) after about 3 days, the glazing putty is hardened so it can be trimmed if needed, like if there's a bump or tool mark. Use a sharp razor blade for this. A sharp box cutter held at an angle also works but keep enough material to ensure shedding of water. Once satisfied with how it looks, it can then be painted with the top coat. I've had situations where I forgot to paint the window after the new glazing putty is in and it makes more work since you then have to clean what you applied of the dirt and dust collected on it before painting (it stays a little tacky so it collects dirt fast).

With a little practice and development of technique, the exterior of vintage windows can look new and be more efficient, or new life can be given to an old door headed for the scrap pile.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Aren't Ceiling Fans Supposed to be Easy?

I'll admit it, I'm guilty of perpetrating this lie, and I've had it perpetrated on me. Ceiling fans are easy to install. Really, they are, in a perfect world, with the perfect house and the perfect fan. I've made that comment "Oh, you could put a nice fan where that ceiling light is, it'd look great! It's easy, you could do it in less than an hour". Why do I keep saying this to people when I know it to be untrue? Because I want to believe. I've installed numerous ceiling light fixtures and ceiling fans, and very few were zip-zap-done (as Wino says). Here's the basic zip-zap steps: 1) turn off the power at the breaker, not just the switch! 2) remove the existing fixture. 3) install the new base plate. 4) hang the motor and connect the wires. 5) install the housing cover, blades and light kit. 6) turn the power back on! Voila!

But this is how the ceiling fan install went in the master bedroom: 1) turn off power, ok, that was actually easy because I already knew which breaker it was. 2) remove existing fan. pretty easy, just awkward, and I had to be good and save all the bit and pieces since I'm giving it away to be reinstalled elsewhere. 3) install new base plate. Well, this fan has a massive base plate since it's a flush mount and covers the motor housing. That's all fine and good but the electric box installed in the ceiling is crooked and tilts down 1/4" past the drywall on one side. With the base plate installed, that edge hanging down becomes a 1" gap. So I remove base plate then the electric box to investigate. The hanging plate is installed quite securely to a beam spanning the joists. I decide it'll be easier to cut the hard plastic electric box. Down to the garage, attach a block of wood to the end of the box so I've got something to keep my fingers safe. I drew a line and cut about 3/8" off the front with a chop saw. Reinstalled the box then reinstalled the base plate. Phew! 4) hang motor and connect wires. This one is easy, there's plenty of wire coming from the ceiling (not always the case) and it's 14/3 meaning it's a little thinner, easier to manipulate and there's two "hot" wires, red and black, one for the light and one for the fan. With the wiring done, the motor was to be installed next. I pushed it into place but, WTF, the screws for the base plate are too long and prevent the motor from being screwed to the base tightly. Unacceptable. Undid step 4. Found a little hacksaw in the tool box and proceeded to cut 1/8" (yup) off the bottom of the screws. Remember, I'm using the footboard of the bed frame as a ladder and have little resistance while trying to saw off the screws that were quite close to the ceiling already. Grrr! At this point I made an executive decision to take a break and run errands. On my return, steps 4, 5 and 6 went as expected although it did take longer than I thought it would. The instructions on this fan were actually really good but the illustrations of the install steps were dark, indecipherable photos and useless.

Installing a ceiling fan/light is easy, really it is. The challenge is fixing the work of those who have gone before you. Even a new house has no guarantees about what's under and behind fixtures but the good news is, with patience, a few trips to the hardware store and some problem solving creativity, that ceiling fan will go up and look beautiful.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Another Beautiful Door

The bathroom door turned out so well, I was inspired to get the master bedroom door finished too. Now that the floor is finished and the baseboard in and painted, Wino was itching to move our bed and furniture into the larger room and have a little breathing space. I wanted the door done prior to moving in but I could not deny the boy his space. He worked very hard on the floor and deserved to not be delayed any longer. So down came the door and I spent 2 full days cutting, sanding, patching, fabricating trim, and painting. There was a lovely surprise when I removed the full length mirror mounted to the back of the door. The previous owners must have had some anger issues because there were two nice holes in the door, cleverly covered by the mirror. That's the problem with hollow core doors. One tantrum and you're mounting mirrors to hide sins. I was glad to repair the door, and actually one of the cut-outs eliminated the top hole.

Starting with the design of the bathroom door, I modified it for privacy, reusing the cutouts as solid recess panels. Since our hall is a bit dark, I decided to make the top panel the glass and plastic that I used on the bath door. You really can't see through it but it lets in a little bit of light to make the hall less dank. The other two bedroom doors will be done the same way, which will brighten the hall even more. I ended up rehanging the door before it was fully painted since we were having company and I wanted to have a door on our bedroom. In the future, I hope to have the luxury of painting the doors fully before they get reinstalled. With the handleset installed, new floor, color on the walls and the ceiling painted white, the room now looks like what I imagine the rest of the house will hopefully be.