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Window Repair…Replacement

We bought a house with wood windows. Some of those windows were in better shape than others. Those others needed peeling paint and bits of rot chipped out and re-puttied, painted and sealed. Being the sensible people we are (ha), we planned to fix the windows to make them last longer until we could afford to replace them. There were two sets of awning windows in the office/library that we hated. Some didn’t open, some didn’t shut; it was a hot mess.

Three weekends ago while I was working on painting the garage doors, Bryan was working on the windows. He’d spent a while scraping everything he could/should off of the windows and was going to start working on the sill. To do so he needed to take out the window sash. Catastrophe struck. The window, though definitely not to heavy for him, was heavier than he expected and it slipped the 5 inches to the deck and shattered. He came out front to get me and show me what happened.

At this point, we were experiencing two very different sets of emotions. He was ticked, angry, annoyed and all bent out of shape because it was (in his words) stupid, aggravating, annoying, and an expensive mistake. I was calm and unruffled. Why? Well I hated the windows as much as you can hate an inanimate object. They were eyesores and ugly. I was excited we’d get to put something nice in their place, but slightly worried about the cost, and how we would go about doing it. I also couldn’t be doing fist-bumps around the library yehawing like a crazy person because Bryan was upset. So I just said, ‘hey, it’s ok. It’s only a window, and we aren’t going to the hospital right now.” Then I added, “besides we didn’t like them anyways so think of it as a good thing.” All the while the Hallelujah chorus is blaring in my head. I kept a straight face through all of this, I have a very good poker face.

Thankfully, even though the glass shattered, they were double pane windows and there was only one small sliver where the glass fell out in both panes, so we packing taped that window up and shut it for the time being. Β (Here is where i should have at least one picture, but I deleted them thinking I had already uploaded them. Just picture a large grid (80″ x54″ total) of four windows that crank out. Hideous. Expensive. We knew we didn’t want awning windows anymore, but to replace just that sash from Anderson was $400. Heck no. We could buy a really nice window to replace a pair of awning windows (turning them into one double hung) from Home Depot for $317 (the only option in our size, just glad there was one!), or Home Depot could install one not as nice double hung window for $800). That’s not even getting into what an 80″x54″ inch solid pane window would cost. (We have two of those in our kitchen, praying now they never break!)

So what did the two of us who had never replaced a window decide to do? Watch some installation videos for replacement windows and get to work ourselves. Dun, dun dun.

So Sunday afternoon (never start a major home renovation project on a day when you work the next day) we started on the windows. We decided we’d work on just one window at a time, to make sure we didn’t have a huge hole in the house when it was time for bed. We quickly removed two sashes, and hardware and started cutting center bar of the frame out so the window would fit. We were set to go, our rough opening matched what the window needed. We opened the box and once we got over how much nicer this window was than the ones we just removed we realized this wasn’t a simple replacement window where you install inside of the existing frame (making a smaller window) this was a full frame replacement. And to do this right we needed to remove the entire 4 sash window and lift up some siding and really tear our house apart. At three thirty. And we couldn’t just put the windows back in because we’d taken out the hardware and the crosspiece. It was scary. And overwhelming. And we already had the hole in the wall so I couldn’t just curl up in the fetal position, we had to get to work.

So we re-did our measurements. Watched some Anderson full frame replacement windows for the 400 series windows we had. Bryan sent me off to Home Depot to get some 2x4s to frame out the windows, some flexi seal water barrier, some roofing nails, and a miter box. Right around this time a been-there-done-that couple from church reached out to see how we were doing with the project. I told them we were caught by surprise with the full frame replacement, that I was heading out for more supplies, and if they had any tips we’d love it. They did one better and offered to come help. Not sure if this was a we’d-like-to-come-help offer, or a we-are-being-nice offer, we replied, “we had watched a couple of videos, but would certainly welcome your tips and advice but we don’t want you to make a special trip for it.” They said they were on their way. WOW! We just went from to pretty near clueless and relying on help videos to a veritable pro helping out.

photo 1

By the time I got home from HD, Bryan had gotten the entire window out of the wall, and our friends had just shown up. Not only did Bryan get a hand from someone who actually knew what they were doing, I got to hang out with his wife and two sweet kids. Together the guys installed the windows, getting them to the point they could be left for the night, and we celebrated with some take-out pizzas. Certainly not payment enough for their help, but it’s a start at least.

photo 3

Last night Bryan did the final waterproofing and stuck the existing trim back up. It’s ugly, but it does look a little more finished that totally exposed flexi seal stuff. Though the grubby areas where the previous owners caulked with off-white are pretty bad…. still it’s infinitely better than before! And we are at a good place to figure that out. No holes, no leaks (it’s rained both of the last two nights) We have working windows!


So, in a nutshell, unless you have friends who are going to show up and help who know exactly what you are doing, don’t tackle major home repairs like this one on a Sunday afternoon. Hopefully I remember that. We do have another set of these awning windows on the other side of the room, but they are not broken (well cracked, some still don’t close all the way, or open) so we aren’t fixing them. Yet. Maybe next month. Maybe in the spring. When the budget allows, and we are feeling up to it. It was trial by fire, but I’m sure Bryan could do it again.

Anyone have any crazy, survived home repair by the skin of your teeth stories?

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