Today’s Window Installation

DSC01788Today I finally installed the last replacement sash kit on the first floor. I still have to finish some of the exterior trim and install two screens. and paint. It’s kind of an involved process for each window. The sashes are painted on the exterior sides and varnished on the interior sides. I apply adhesive lead to the interior side of the glass in a craftsman pattern that I devised. On the lower sash, I add faux stained glass paint in the corner squares. Then I add the hardware. I remove the old sashes and combination storms and add wood to the sides to make the opening exactly 28″ wide. Then I attach four cleats to each side to attach the sash tracks. The tilt in sashes then snap into place.

Our house should be cooler next winter. You read right. The thermostat is in this room. It will be less drafty, so now the heat should not come on so often, and the rest of the house won’t be so hot.

Skittles, job supervisor
cleats on spacer wood
The awesome tool was used to trim the bottoms of the sash strips to fit the sill.


Craftsman Stained Glass & Lead

I tend to customize things to make them my own: like the Mercedes-Benz hood ornament and trunk star on my Scion xB. The windows I am installing are plain and undivided. We like them, because they let in lots of  light, but they are plain. I decided to give them a craftsman touch.

Craftsman style is enjoying a revival these days in an ironic form. Craftsman is the shorthand name for the American arts and crafts movement. This movement was a response to the dehumanization caused by the industrial revolution, with its concentration of wealth in the hands of those who controlled the means of production and an erosion of the middle class. The industrial revolution with its mass production meant that only the very rich could afford art and beauty; the middle class could afford cheap, mass produced ornamentation; the poor laborers were left with tenements. The British arts and crafts movement was part of a socialist response to these conditions. At its core, it was a democratization of art and an assertion of the value of manual labor and the human touch.

When the movement crossed the Atlantic to America, the philosophy remained the same, but the forms changed.  True Craftsman decor is to be made of local materials, whenever possible, and made, or at least installed, by the homeowner himself. The artwork is incorporated into everyday functional things. A “trademark” of the work is that much of the time some part of the work is left intentionally and prominently unfinished. This was regarded as the signature if you will that the work was done by the lord of the manor who was free to finish it or not at his whim. It was not the product of a machine or a servant who had to satisfy someone else’s demands. Finally! I have a good, socialist explanation for all the unfinished projects around here! It’s not because I am in over my head, or because I am lazy or too busy. It’s because I am a free man!

Back to the topic. The current revival of the Craftsman style is ironic, because it is mass manufactured and professionally installed. Just about every house on TV shows these days is an oversized mcMansion wrapped in vinyl clad Craftsman accessories.

Back to the windows. Since they need to be insulated glass, I don’t have the luxury to make them true stained glass with lead dividers. So I went to my local arts and crafts big box store and bought self adhesive lead strip on a ten meter roll and several bottles of liquid “glass stain”. They make solvent based and water based stain. so, if you value your health and your indoor air quality, read the fine print and get the water based.


cardboard guide, self-adhesive lead, burnisher and trimmer on sash
cardboard guide, self-adhesive lead, burnisher and trimmer on sash

leading process

I varnished the interior of the window sash frame, then applied the lead using a piece of cardboard cut to 2-1/2″ wide as a guide. I pressed it against the glass, while holding it tightly against the edge of the cardboard. I was simultaneously holding the cardboard flat against the glass making sure it was tight against the frame. Then I used the burnishing tool to press the lead firmly against the glass. This flattens and straightens it slightly and makes sure it adheres to the glass. 

Then I washed my hands with cold water and soap, then hot water. It is lead. You don’t want any of it to stay on your skin. The lead was manufactured in France. Most of the back of the package was covered by a huge label in fine print warnings about lead. Below this there were about five lines of instructions for its use in French. This is where my two years of college French came in handy. Sometimes you need to be able to read a foreign language to do something.

Then I squeezed the faux stain onto the glass a section at a time, carefully smoothing it out as I went. I mixed colors on the glass and experimented with textures, blends and patterns. The first set of sashes I did was for the upstairs bathroom. I could be more playful with them, since I had already decorated the bathroom with a yellow and blue rubber ducky theme. The stain is opaque like Elmer’s Glue when it is wet. It takes between 8 and 72 hours to dry to be more transparent. That is, unless it is supposed to be more opaque when it is dry.


I decided to try a different pattern  for the upper sash, utilizing the double strip feature of the lead I was using.

The bath window sashes temporarily installed in our bedroom.
The bath window sashes temporarily installed in our bedroom.

The upper right square was a failed attempt to blend red an blue to make purple. It reminds me of Spiderman. The upper left is clear stain with champagne swirled in a spiral. The lower left of the upper sash is very nice swirls of blue and yellow making green. 

Anyway, you get the idea.

Most of the windows, we are just adding the lead on the bottom sashes with random colors and textures in the corners.


Simple accent colors and textures to dress up the window.
Simple accent colors and textures to dress up the window.

Screens and Circling the Square

As promised, I made and installed the screen on Saturday. I found a helpful person at Home Depot who actually listened to my description of what I wanted for a track for the screens and knew where the channel aluminum was. I say I made the screen, but I should add, it isn’t pretty. It is functional. I managed to bend the frame because I didn’t have it sandwiched properly when cutting it with a saber saw. I managed to straighten it enough to work. When I attached the aluminum screen to the frame, it ended up not uniformly tight. 

This is where the weakness of the premise of “If you can read …” comes to bear. If the written instructions are not complete or clear, there can be trouble. Or if the activity requires a knack or natural or intuitive skill somehow, instructions will only get you so far. Also you need to have a good idea of what the final result is supposed to be to properly interpret the instructions.

I am very good at reading and following step by step instructions. I clearly remember when I was in kindergarten and Miss Richardson gave each student a square piece of paper. She told us that to make it into a circle shape, all we had to do was take a scissors and round the corners. I followed her instructions with precision. I ended up with a square shape with neatly rounded corners. It looked like a television screen, not a circle. Just about everyone else in the class made something more like a circle. It was obvious to me that they had not followed Miss Richardson’s instructions. I informed Miss Richardson that her instructions were deficient.

Miss Richardson had a lengthy absence that year, so we had Mrs. Carlson for a substitute. I don’t know why she was gone for so long. Perhaps it was a nervous breakdown. Later in my school career, I came to learn that they were fairly common among teachers in the schools I attended.

At any rate, for the rest of the screens, I asked my daughter Rosalie to make them. She is an excellent screenmaker.

Installed my first Window Sash Replacement Kit

Old window interior   

Old window interior

Last month we turned off cable TV. Comcast’s digital on demand was costing us about $85/month. There was nothing on. Well, almost nothing. We will miss Keith Olbermann and some of the DIY programs, but $85?! 

The new part of our house was built around 1845 and most of the windows are original construction. They are all single pane. Most are pretty drafty, rattle in the wind and need to be propped open. Fifteen of the windows are just slightly larger than 28″ x 46″. I didn’t want to replace them with the typical replacement windows, because we would lose too much glass area and damage the look of the house. So I researched sash replacement kits. In the reasonable price range there are two choices. Jeld-Wen Zap Pack sells at Home Depot for between $200 and $300 per window, depending on options, and comes in custom sizes. MW sells at Lowe’s, 84 Lumber and some independents and sells for $80 to $120 depending on options, but only comes in “standard” sizes.

Fifteen of our windows are close enough to the 28″ x 46″ standard size to use the MW kit. I ordered the basic wood window for $80.88. I am planning on replacing a window a month until the job is done. Wood is the better environmental choice. Vinyl or vinyl clad utilize some pretty toxic production processes. Wood looks better on this old house. And I figure some of the existing wood windows lasted more than 200 years and still look OK. No one knows what 200 year old vinyl looks like.

sash kit in boxes
sash kit in boxes

The sash kit came in two boxes. I had failed to specify low-E, argon glass, and I didn’t order it exterior primed, but it came with all of those options. I am not complaining. The instructions were thorough, with the exception of trimming the excess off the foam strips. I had to move both the exterior and interior sash stops. Nowhere in the literature or instructions did it mention that the sash tracks are 3-3/8″ deep. This is much deeper than our antique sashes. Thankfully, the sill lip was shallow enough I was able to finesse this. I had to add 1/2″ plywood filler to either side of the opening. I still have to shave down one side of the window sill a bit so that it will seal across the bottom.

MW only offers a full screen option at a pretty hefty price. We prefer a half screen, since we don’t like to strain our vision. I hope to add that myself on Saturday. It took a total of about three hours to install. I haven’t painted or varnished it yet. The next one should go faster, since I won’t have to spend so much time scratching my head over how to solve the thickness difference.

old window exteriior
old window exterior


demolition complete
demolition complete
new window
new window
new window exterior
new window exterior

 The cardboard packing and instructions will be recycled. The old sashes will be used as part of a room divider in the barn. The plywood spacers were made from salvaged scrap. Well that’s one more thing I can no longer say I never did before.