The Cool House: windows
Showing posts with label windows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label windows. Show all posts

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What now?

I love when a long renovation comes to an end, the feeing of tranquility that descends when you know you don't have to be dressed and decent at 7:30 AM, when the day will no longer be interrupted by shouts of "You did want the molding removed, didn't you?" or worse "Can you come here a minute, we may have a problem" and when all the power tools have finally been silenced. Even the mental anguish you experience knowing you went over budget despite swearing you wouldn't or the nagging feeling you overpaid for something trivial, there is, at last, a moment of peace that you, in your naivety, imagine will last forever.

At some point, though, this security blanket of home repair denial will be rudely snatched away from you, leaving you exposed and shivering in the cold light of reality. For me it came with the trifecta of the garage door that would no longer close properly, the loose mortar on the chimney and the holes in the fence the fencing guy swore didn't need replacing because it was "good for at least two more years". We set to work. The garage door was repaired by us and when the temporary fix no longer did the trick an "expert" came to fix the problem... and caused another bigger issue that blew the motor. Needless to say the firm's promise to make good meant they ran in the opposite direction and for the whole summer we parked the car outside. But winter will be here before we know it and neither of us fancied digging the car out of a snow bank so I gave in and called another firm. The garage door was fixed without further drama and at a better price than the first guy quoted. The chimney cap blew off in the hurricane, so we locked in a date to fix that and the crumbling cement pronto, except every time the masons came to start the pointing it rained. And by rain I mean tropical storm downpours. Today they found a few hours of sunshine and got the job done. The fence? Well in a rerun of this scenario, we braced and secured the fence. I was promised two more years and I will make sure I get those last few months, if I have to stand there and hold the thing up day and night.

So all was done and I was singing a happy song until I heard a thud that seemed to come from under the dining room floor. Just as the last issue had been taken care of, just as I was thinking we were done for this year, one of the basement windows, the one that had been nailed in place seven years ago by a contractor who thought it wouldn't open and then found he couldn't get it shut, one of a suite of four, fell off its opener. Just because it could.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I am thankful that I beat my neighbor to the finish in the great ground floor renovation: New kitchen; redone floors; moldings; windows; paint; bathroom for her, laundry room for me - the same upheavals and stress. She started long after me, but her crew is bigger. We were both behind schedule but the last coat of paint dried on our back stairs while her guys were still going strong. November 11 2010 at 4 PM was the exact moment I closed the garage door on the last contractor, which marks the official end of the project. Unless, of course, you count that missing baseboard in the closet...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Everything AND the kitchen sink

This bugs me on so many levels

Take the back wall: The sink off-centered between two windows - although the faucet seems dead centre; the tiny backsplash that serves no purpose. But most egregious to me is that the windows are cut off a few inches from their base. This looks odd from the interior and will look even more bizarre from outside. Believe me, I know; I lived this in the original kitchen, it's why I fought the carpenter to get zero backsplash on the new sink wall and at least my windows were sealed units.

Then there are the finishes. There is so much going on in this room: saltio floor, Calcutta Gold marble, glass tile backsplash, stainless steel, white and Anigre cabinetry, glass pendants, drum pendant, suspended pan rack and two kinds of wood furniture. Contemporary/traditional, cool/warm, square/rounded - this kitchen doesn't know where it's going.

Individually I love most of the fixtures and fittings but together it doesn't work for me. It's tagged as a Showhome Kitchen. Would you go for it?
via Houzz

Friday, October 15, 2010


It took four entire months to convince the carpenter that not having a backsplash was a viable option for the kitchen renovation. That's not four months for the project by the way, that took six months from the moment Contractor 1 mismeasured the windows to last Friday when Contractor 2 finally gave up trying to convince me that a windowsill four inches up the window was the way to go and put in what I'd asked him for on June 15th. To allay his fears over the whole water/wood issue I sent him up to the guest bathroom to see what three years of continuous water have done to the window in the shower - it looks as good as it did the day I finished the polyurethane coat - no damage at all. He still wasn't happy so I showed him my inspiration shots:

image by Caesarstone

image by Caesarstone

Eventually, after going back and forth for months with the countertop fabricator and much muttering under his breath he agreed to trim out what I wanted. And what did he say when he stepped back and looked at the work? "That turned out really well..."

new kitchen window

Saturday, June 19, 2010


After all the drama around here recently I'm looking forward to a little peace and quiet. Just a little, mind you. I don't want to settle for a half-finished kitchen and I certainly don't want to be microwaving store-bought soup for the next few months while we wait for the countertops to arrive and den flooring.
But I am enjoying the thought that on Monday morning I won't have to get up early to be ready for the contractors or wonder what new problem will be discovered before lunch. On Friday, for example, I discovered 8 soft-close drawer glides and 6 door bumpers were missing. Did someone count order wrong or were they thrown away by mistake? I don't know but I have to fetch replacements. Then, after lunch, we discovered a hole in the framing of another window that had to be filled and painted before the end of the day. The guys wanted to get it done because we don't know how quickly the fabricator will be installing the counters and exactly when the new wood flooring will arrive. They won't come back until one or other happens so they wanted to make sure the external problems were taken care of and The Cool House was watertight.
It was a bittersweet moment when they packed up all their tools and trash, got into their trucks and headed out of the Village, There may be no noise and no fuss in my immediate future but the house is going to feel empty for a while.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting a grip

on the kitchen renovation... and my sanity.

Yesterday was not a great day on the house renovation front. Not as bad as the previous week when the contractor ordered the wrong size window, tried to install it anyway and then phoned in drunk the next morning, nor the following two days when he was a no-show, and the subsequent hiring of a new contractor who basically re-did everything the first one had touched.

No, it really wasn't so bad: the hardwood for the den floor turned out to be not so much "select and better" as knotty and mismatched and had to be re-ordered; the window supplier didn't have Marvin aluminum for drip caps (because that's a siding/roofing thing); I discovered the deep shelf I wanted for the kitchen has been discontinued; I found out that the only way to make the kitchen window both watertight and aesthetically pleasing was to trim 2" of redwood siding along its length and we know how obsessed I am about the siding... Still, I avoided a repeat of last Monday evening's total meltdown, rolled with the punches and looked on the bright side:

A roll of flashing the right shade was procured for the drip cap and the window was framed out. It looks better than I could have dreamed - I just hope it's waterproof!

The new full-light fir door was installed in the mud room. There's so much light in there now I keep thinking I've left the door open.

The cabinets now have skinny Linea rail pulls from Atlas homewares. I can open and close the drawers now - and I've tried out every single one just to make sure they work.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Maybe it's time to wash the windows again

Is it me being more slovenly than usual or are the spiders more dedicated in their web building endeavors this year? It seems that every time I remove one web (usually by walking through it) another two or three spring up in its place. On the one hand I am itching to get the Windex out, on the other I'm enchanted by the size of the web... and Halloween is nearly upon us...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Window Replacement: what I know now

The trauma that the owner of casacaudill (a fellow houseblogger) is going through with her windows reminds me of the months of anguish we went through three years ago when we were replacing our windows: sleepless nights, contractor bids, disbelief at the price, more sleepless nights.
Before we bought the house we knew that we would have to replace the failed double paned windows that were so fogged you couldn't tell if it was rainy or sunny outside and the huge single pane, single hung windows in the dining room, den, study and master bedroom if we were to keep warm in the winter.
We tried to get rough estimates before we bought the house but it proved impossible. My best guess, as everything had to be custom, was $40,000 for all the windows, triangular, square and rectangular. As soon as we moved in I had contractors come and quote. It turned out that no one likes to install windows - not enough profit. Most contractors walked in, looked around and disappeared, no quotes there. One only wanted to install vinyl, and I couldn't do that to this house. One told us we needed to get Marvin windows, but he would only install Andersen or Pella. One wanted to remove all the siding to install. I was seriously freaked out they would reduce my house to a pile of redwood planks.
Then there were the design problems. Marvin could do the custom sizes we needed cheaper than the other two big window manufacturers and their product seemed better but Town Code meant we couldn't put single hung windows in so we spent a lot of time coming up with a solution that would be the same on the exterior but would fit code. Having everything architecturally correct was very important to us.
In the end we did get a quote for everything and it was almost exactly my guestimate figure. But a few months in the house had opened our eyes to what else had to be done and the thought of spending that huge amount of money just on windows was making me sick. We decided that we would replace only those windows that absolutely needed it: 2 8"x3" fogged double paned windows over the garage, 2 4'x 3" in Steven's study that let water cascade in when it rained, a cracked 4'x4'window that a bird flew into the day we moved in and 8 6'x4' single pane, single hung windows.
We decided we would replace the other windows as and when we needed to. This year we put in a new tempered glass window in the boys' bath as we remodeled that space.

This seemed like a great solution at the time but three years on, I'm not so sure. We are still having window issues, a few of the old windows have started to fail: there are signs of moisture in the basement windows (above) and in the master bedroom; a couple of others had rot that was treated but they're now draughty and they don't operate well; we are still having trouble with design of the 6'x8' replacement window in the den (below). The cost of Marvin windows has gone up, as has the cost of labor. The fallback in real estate prices makes me nervous about return on investment so I'm reluctant to do more than I have to.

The price that originally made me feel sick now seems more like money well spent. Our heating and airco bills have been lower since we had the large windows replaced and I appreciate the quality of these windows. From the outside it's almost impossible to tell which are original windows and which are the replacements. Any issues we had with the windows were to do with the installation and not the windows themselves, so we will be even more careful about choosing a contractor in the future.
We will have to replace eight windows probably next year or the year after and I wish I had done them all at one go so I don't have to worry about them now. Hindsight, it's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A little moment of madness

The newspaper phoned this afternoon to ask if they can send a someone to photograph our house for the article on Andrew Geller's work tomorrow at 9 am. As I had so much spare time I decided to wash the windows, at least on the inside.
I really don't know what possessed me. I can't wash windows. I've tried, believe me. Many, many times.
I've used Windex and Glassex and white vinegar. I've used soft cloths and paper towels and newspaper. I even bought one of those microfiber magic window cleaning cloths. It didn't get my windows clean but at least 10% of the price is donated to help stop domestic violence.
I would think the problem was me, my technique is lousy, except that last year Steven washed the windows outside and he did an even worse job. So bad, in fact, that I wouldn't let him clean them this Spring. I said I'd do it myself. And I have done, in the last hurrah of Summer. And they are horrible.
Other people have clean windows. How do they do it?
All window cleaning tips gratefully received.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The new window, same as the old window

bath window exterior
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
But without the fogging, with low argon, and fully operable. An open window over the shower, it's going to be a huge novelty. We only have to work out a tiny design dilemma, to wit: how to finish the tiles neatly around it. I'm leaning towards a small trim abutting the tiles rather than the 2" piece by that was there before. Small is usually better. If a bullnose had been available, I might have been persuaded to go with that but luckily, because I hate bullnoses, Porcelanosa doesn't have anything that will match the tiles.
The new window, like all the replacements in the house is by Marvin.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Renovator's Remorse

We have begun to get quotes for the bathroom renovation. I can see that this is going to be a long process. We've already started with the "what ifs". The first what if was really quite sensible. What if we replace the window before we re-tile the bathroom? The window isn't failing but it nearly forty years old and has had some repair to rot outside. It is also a sealed unit. It would make sense to replace it now with a venting one and I think we should have another Marvin awning installed. So the budget expands, and the timeline extends.
Then there is the vanity question. We have a floating vanity in this bathroom that I love. My original plan was to keep the unit and junk the marble top but we have to take the unit out to strip the tiles behind it so will it stand up to this treatment bearing in mind it is laminate? Can I find another floating vanity that I like at a price I can stomach? And as for a not-hideous medicine cabinet, why are these things both ugly and outrageously expensive?

I'm beginning to regret starting this and there is a long way to go. Renovation should be fun and I'm not feeling it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Labor Day is for........

working. Of course. It is if it happens to be the only free day of the summer when you're at home, it isn't too hot to move, it isn't lashing down with rain from the latest tropical storm and you don't have visitors.
So it was that we spent all day yesterday washing windows, inside and out, including the screens. I hate washing windows because they usually look worse after I've done them than before but we still had some wood stain on the window panes from last November so we had to so something before the bad weather sets in again and the stain becomes permanent.
I've tried every method of window washing from newspaper and vinegar to Windex and paper towels. The current method involves a sheepskin mop dipped in a light solution of dishwashing liquid and really hot water and a squeegee to wipe off outside and Windex inside. I throw the upstairs screens in the shower and wash them there and put the hosepipe on the downstairs ones.
The first couple of hours flew by and then we made the mistake of taking a lunch break. That's when the sun came out and revealed that what had looked like sparkling clean upstairs windows were in fact streaked with grey. There was some heated debate about whether the marks were on the inside or the outside and who was therefore responsible but a redo was in order. We finally finished at 5 pm with the kitchen window. It is so badly washed it looks as if it is fogged. We didn't care, we didn't have the strength to go over it again.
Steven has promised to clean it next weekend but I think he will have forgotten all about it by then. It only looks bad when the sun shines on it so if I avoid the kitchen between 4 and 6 pm I won't notice it either.
The plan was to jump in the pool when we finished to cool off but as the water temperature was only 70 F I settled for cleaning the pool and Steve for a hot bath. We were in too much pain to light the bbq so we settled for chips and beer. And we didn't make it to the informal gathering down at the beach to celebrate the end of summer either.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

New windows are worth it

We just got the last oil delivery of the winter so I was able to do a definitive comparison between winter 2004-5 and winter 2005-6. Although this winter was much milder than last and we would have expected to use a lot less oil, March has been colder than normal. Our lovely oil guys, Dole Fuel, also do a projection of gallons you need based on the temperature and use last year. We used 312 gallons less than they predicted we would. We spent $153 less on oil this winter than last, and this despite an average price increase of 50 cents per gallon. I feel this is worth repeating: fuel prices increased and we still saved money.
Of course the windows were horrendously expensive and we would have to have savings of this level for the next twenty five years to pay for them, but we are much warmer than we were last year, and now I've got used to them I can see they are rather nice.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Window woes

Tax season is crazy time here. Every year from January to April 15 the media relentlessly presses the message: the government has your money and you need to get it back or they government wants their share of your money. If it's the latter, you hold on to it until the last possible moment: 11:59 pm on April 15.
My misfortune was to hire a contractor who owes the government money. Of course I didn't know this when I hired him last November, when he was interested in getting the work and told me it would cost nothing to install the windows. I didn't know it until January when he installed the windows and told me his accountant said he had to buy something or he would have to pay the IRS. Taxes are paid on income earned in 2004 so it didn't register much with me anyway, what's done is done, it's good to be successful, I naively thought.
His mistake was to turn up at 1:40 pm, finish at 3:40 and expect to be paid because "it was tax day" even though he hadn't completed the work. He gave me the bill and said "your painter can sand down the skim work". Alarm bells went off so I examined the windows. Bits of insulation were hanging out of one window, another had nail holes that hadn't been filled, another shavings all over and all had uneven plaster all over the frames. I told him he wasn't finished and refused to pay him until it was as good as the work he did last time. (At $500 a window it had better be excellent work. I'd already paid him for 11 windows and he'd installed 13 so I didn't think giving him the rest of the money was an incentive for him to come back and make good.)
I tackled him about the damage on the two windows from last time that he'd promised would be taken care of and he firstly denied all memory and then when I told him that I'd contacted the wholesaler about it he got partial memory recall. He phoned the wholesaler, who is sending a rep out to look. Then he asked for $1700 for today's work as he had sorted out the problem. That is way more than we agreed for the job in the first place so I refused. I was clear: no money until the work is completed to my satisfaction; I don't know that the window people won't say he did the damage and must pay. Where would that leave me. His idea? Give him the money, and go after his licence. I don't think so.
He phoned me later, he was "hurt" I was keeping the money back. It implied I didn't trust him. That's rich coming from the man who told me he wasn't going back to one client because she was too difficult.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Patience is a virtue...

But not one I ever subscribed to. We are still waiting on the second delivery of windows, including replacements for the dinged ones. I hope they can get those in this month as we have visitors April-June. It's frustrating because I would like to get the window frames stained and obviously I can't do that until they have replaced the damaged windows. This also means I can't paint the walls and we have two cans of Benjamin Moore bronze beige eggshell (which is a sort of gold colour) that have been sitting in the garage since November.
We got one quote for the new roof and it was very reasonable, that is it was half what Steven was expecting and a quarter of my worst fear estimate. I am still waiting for the other two guys to come and quote but the weather has been so awful that they couldn't climb the roof to look at the damage. We have had snow since early February and cold temperatures too but, touch wood, we haven't had anymore leaks. I think this is because we have had no ice damming since the January cold spell but also because the temporary flashing the contractor but in place is holding up really well.
We were sent a bunch of free airline tickets by American and as we have loads of Marriott points we have decided to take two cheap as chips minibreaks to get away from the dreadful weather. We are going to Austin, Texas to the SXSW festival this month and to Nashville in May. So it will be all about the music for the next couple of months and that will be it for vacation this year. We will summer here, Steve plans to take two weeks off and spend them in the pool and watching the sunset on the beach. Of course, we have to fix the pool first........

Friday, February 11, 2005

Big, fat bummer

On closer inspection the crew did not do such a good job on the windows. The plastering looks good and the windows themselves seem to be great quality BUT when they installed them they managed to damage TWO of the nine. How the f*** is this possible I asked. The first window the contractor showed me he said was damaged by the delivery guys. So I asked the wholesaler who said they would swap it, it was still in my garage, wasn't it? Well, no, the contractor showed it to me when he had finished installing it. I have told him it has to be replaced.
Then the installer slipped off the ladder carrying another window and fell. The contractor assured me the window was ok. At the time I was more concerned about the installer, who was thankfully ok. But the window has two dings in it. If they were wooden windows they could be filled and painted but they are aluminium clad and the edges are really roughed up. They were also very expensive because they were custom made so there is no alternative to replacing both of them. Extremely frustrating.
Worse though, when they took down the blinds by the chimney in the great room there were a couple of cracks I wanted them to plaster over. Unfortunately one crack was wet. Not good. The installer ran up the roof to get rid of the ice and the contractor offered to come back and run some flashing to stop the leak when the rest of the ice melted. He came back today to put up the flashing over the gutters but the edge of the roof had peeled away with the ice dam. So we have to get a new roof this year rather than next or the year after. Big fat bummer.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Spackle, sand, repeat

I am thankful that we had a good crew to put in the windows because the rot in my office was more extensive than we had first suspected. Both the header and the sill support were totally eaten through (I could poke my finger right through the latter) and someone had patched the side already but not with the correct beams, so we could have potentially lost that end of the house at some stage. Now we are secure right down to the foundation.
All the windows are in now and the ones upstairs look really good. I am gradually getting used to the ones in the den, too. From the outside they all look lovely and immediately the house looks more cared for. Of course fixing one problem gives a hundred more and the area around the windows had to be spackled and sanded and spackled again. So now we have to paint. I hadn't really thought about colour for this room as were weren't originally going to change these windows.
We also have molding on the stairs at long last and they look fantastic now. I got the guys to change the baseboard under the bookcase to one that matches the other baseboards in the house. I still have a laundry list of jobs for them to do by the time they finish tomorrow afternoon. These guys are obsessive about cleaning up after themselves and seem to vacuum every five minutes. I think they are sweeping up more dog hair than spackle and sawdust though. They are about to take down the vinyl blinds in the great room that are double-height and I will be celebrating when they have gone. Then it's just the flashing around the house and we should be golden.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

They may be ugly, but they should be warmer

Four of the big windows went in yesterday and, although I still think they are horrible, I did a little test last night to see if they will keep us warmer, and thus cut down on the fuel bills. I sat in the dining room, which still has the original single pane units, for half an hour in sleeveless T-shirt and pyjama bottoms and I was shivering with the cold. Then I went into the den and watched TV for an hour or so. It was definitely comfortable. So that's good isn't it?
I wish I knew why they have to make the windows so damn ugly. There is molding after molding on them. Haven't they heard of less is more? Clean, crisp lines, that's what I wanted. I didn't know it was impossible to find but I should have guessed - the most popular style of house here is "colonial". This is code for a door in the middle of the house leading to a foyer and rooms on either side; square, predictable and boring.
The other bad news yesterday was that there is rot in my office. For some reason this does not faze me at all. Partly I think because we knew this is where the termite damage was, partly because I could smell it every time I closed the door and partly because every house on the Island seems to have rot. But it is a little bizarre - my beloved house has rot and am wittling about the architectural integrity of the windows.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Freezing, thawing and re-freezing

Well, at least it's stopped snowing but temperatures remain frigid. When I take the dogs out the oils on their coats freeze giving them white zebra stripes on their black coats. They love to tear around in the snow but I can't wait to get back indoors again. -11 is too cold for someone brought up in rainy, mild climes. I ordered a cord of firewood and it was delivered this morning so I have built a huge fire in the great room to celebrate. It is beautiful- the roaring fire, white snow and blue skies. Almost like being in a chalet hotel in the mountains, except no one is going to fetch me hot chocolate or schnapps to complete the gezilligheid.
Most of the huge icicles hanging from the roof have gone, either the sun thawed them or I took a broom and hung out of the windows and knocked them off. There have been no drips or leaks since yesterday morning but I think this is only because the water has refrozen and I am sure when temperatures rise again we will be running around mopping up.
We also ran out of ice melt for the steps and the local shops have either sold out or are rationing sales to one bag per customer. One bag barely thaws out the length of the garage so we are forced to go out in pairs and buy a bag each, pretending we don't know each other. With our accents that's not easy to pull off. We are forced to take these desperate measure to avoid a lawsuit if anyone slips on the property. I am beginning to think an apartment building with a concierge is going to be the next move for us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

freezing, leaking and updating

Last Saturday's blizzard dumped over 12" snow on us and for half a day after it stopped it looked so beautiful: deep white snow, blue skies, a little sun. Unfortunately, the snow was accompanied by freezing temperatures and that is the perfect combination for ice damming. That's when the snow melts off the roof but freezes at the roofline, especially behind the gutters. Icicles start to hang off the gutters, drip down the siding and reform over the windows. That's when the leaks occur. By Sunday afternoon we had water pouring in through Steven's study and my office. Normally in this situation I would grab the duct tape and effect a temporary repair but a thorough search of the house and garage revealed that the duct tape had disappeared.

The solution we came up with was to decorate the floors with plastic sheeting and black trash bags covered with towels. We had them in the kitchen in front of the slider (that was installed by an incompetent amateur), in the great room (under one of the second storey windows), in the den as well as in the study and office. It doesn't look very attractive but at least the wood floors won't get damaged. This should hold up until the thaw begins and we can solve the problem by attaching flashing over the gutter and under the roof, adding insulation to the roof space and installing the new windows.

Those who have visited my website will recall that back in July I joked that the new windows would probably be installed during a snowstorm in January. Well that's when they were delivered. Now they are in the garage awaiting a few dry days to fit them. It can't be too soon for me, I am freezing as I write this. If I get any colder I will have to wear fingerless mittens to type.