Thursday, August 21, 2014

I Shutter To Think

Yes. I went there. I titled a blog post with an idiomatic phrase misspelling that drives me straight up the wall.

I'm annoyed enough as it is, so I might as well take it all the way.

In the previous seasons, you may have remembered that we found the old wood shutters for the house in the garage attic, scrubbed the wasp nests and bird poop off them, tightened them up a bit, sanded and painted them. While I didn't get them hung, I was loving the way they looked.

This year I got them out of their storage spot on the screen porch, ready to finally hang them, and get to work on another pair. But while I was at work for the week and before I could get the hardware to properly hang them, this happened.

I know. As the youngsters today say: I cannot even.


The exposure to a week's worth of sun, wind, and variables of moisture did this to the shutters. So obviously they weren't as tight as I thought. And all that time I spent cleaning them up? Poof. I try not to think about that part, or I swear a lot. A lot.

At this point I'm too emotionally fragile for ill-timed advice, so I have generously composed a list to choose from:

1. Here, have a glass of wine.
2. You look like you need a nap.
3. ((Hugs))
4. Who needs shutters anyway?
5. Here, have a glass of wine.

If there are clamps out there, or some neat trick, or oh, they're so worth the work to save those cool old shutters, I don't want to know, please, because right now it will be "blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah can't hear you."

I will apply rational thought later. Right now I'll be working on 1-5.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Progress Report: Windows

The 75-year-old windows in this house are in a bit of rough shape on the outside, but still sturdy. Honestly, they are mostly weather-tight from the inside, which is more than I can say for the lousy and drafty 1970s era casement windows in my kitchen.

After Dad got the old storms pried off, I got to work sanding the face frames and sills. But there were some spots of dry rot on these; small enough that I didn't need to call a carpenter for a replacement, but big enough that trouble was going to continue without some intervention.

So that had to come first.

The wood stabilizer product I bought is made by Elmer's and looks and smells just like school glue. The price, unfortunately, was not just like school glue. In the montage above, I've brushed sawdust and dirt off the surface with a dry brush, and brushed on the stabilizer generously with a disposable chip brush.

In the lower right-hand corner is the sill, dry. It looks like nothing happened, but feeling the wood, it feels as though the fibers have become plasticized, or polymerized. It's encouraging to feel those soft spots firm up in just a few hours, but I left it overnight because it was a super humid day and I felt like I detected some tacky feel to it even after five hours of dry time. The overnight dry is definitely worth it. It may have been our humid weather, but there was a big difference in the result between the five hours it got the first day, and the next morning's results. It's slowing me down, but the step is going to be necessary to prevent these sills from going any further south.

After that I caulked the top of the faceframe, where a little piece of metal flashing runs. The flashing is supposed to run off water, but it seems that it is running the water off and then right under, causing some of the dry rot I'm seeing at the top of the window. I hope this fixes it.

And here is the faceframe and sill painted, with gratuitous hydrangea photobomb included:

And here is the same section of sill, painted with four coats:

The next step is going to be the glazing. Wish me luck. I'm nervous. Really, it might have made more sense to do the glazing first and handle the sills and faceframes last, working from inside out so to speak, but the bare wood and dry rot concerned me more, and I wanted to get them weatherproof as quickly as possible.

This is our end goal. This is the window to the left of the front door, which had a new storm window mounted last fall. The white enamel coating on the window makes it blend in with the window frame, unlike the old unfinished ones, and the newer ones have low-E glass, to make them that much better keeping out cold and heat.

And here's the beginning of the second window, all scraped, but before sanding.

By the next window update I should be able to share my experiences with window glazing. Send your prayers to the DIY goddess!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Late Summer Pleasures

It seems poignant to me that I'm writing this blog post on the night before the first day of the school year. Between making up quite a few snow days this spring and our school district dialing back the start date a whole week in the fall, summer seemed especially short. And now it's gone.

Because of that and a jam-packed schedule, we didn't go on the Big Summer Vacation. I had mixed feelings about it. Because time seems to be slipping away especially fast and my boys becoming men, it felt like a lost opportunity. On the other hand, having a week off at home (let's avoid the word "staycation," shall we?) to sleep in, wear pajama pants, go barefoot, pick tomatoes, and eat ice cream for supper because we felt like it was rare and precious down time for our family.

Which is not to say we did no traveling at all. We journeyed to the local parks. We hung out at the local community pool. We took walks around the neighborhood.

We also did a few short road trips. We visited a zoo. I also learned that uber-agricultural Iowa has six national wildlife refuges. Six. How had I not been to a single one?

So one day, we visited the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. One of the things I love about August in Iowa is the prairie. It is at its sunshine blazing glory-most-high, stretching up to a hot and pale blue heaven.

It smells grassy, dusty, and a little like baked bread. And then there are the flowers.

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge has as a goal the preservation and reintroduction of native tallgrass prairie. It's a place where you can almost, almost squint your eyes and imagine the land before there was a single powerline, building, fencerow, or plowed field.

I am glad that in the decision not to travel far, we instead found a local gem. I know we'll be back.

But by the time you're reading this, the backpacks and lunchboxes will already have been out the door for the beginning of the school year, and I've got to think about what I can reasonably get accomplished before I have to wrap up outside work for the year. Last year it was Nov. 10, and I wonder how far I can push it this year. Last year it was too rainy the first half of the summer, and most of the work happened in the late summer and fall. It looks like that will be the case this year as well. The kids' summer may be over, but mine isn't yet. I'm actually glad that I've got a few more weeks to soak up the sun on my back, even if I'm up a ladder when it happens.

How's the rest of your summer wrapping up?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Paint Season 2014: Progress Report

To be honest, there hasn't been much progress around the doorstep these days. Up until the last couple of weeks, the problem has been rain. And then it has been schedule. Oddly enough, I don't feel frantic about it like I did last summer. Perhaps because I've given up on the idea of getting the entire house done in one season (a lunatic idea when you're working mostly alone on a project of this size, especially with an older and long-neglected house).

Right now, instead of siding, I'm focused on the front windows. I painted the front of the house last year, as you can see from the photo above. And it looks super. But I left the windows for a separate project. That's what's going on now, and progress happens on a far less grand scale.

My dad and I removed the old aluminum storm windows on his last visit. Recently I started scraping and sanding the face frames, so that we can mount the new storm windows on freshly painted and caulked surfaces.

The face frames are the least of my problems though. The window glazing is boiled to a 75-year-old crisp. Or is missing entirely.

So there's another thing I'll be teaching myself how to do. Many DIY sites advise removing the sashes to do this task, but I think they are quietly out of their minds to think that I will have the spare time to remove the sash, remove the old glazing, prime, re-glaze, allow to cure, and paint and re-install all in....what? Twenty-four hours? More? This seems nuts to me. I'll be doing it in place, a stage at a time.

Right now the face frames are sanded, and I'm waiting for some slightly damp wood to dry thoroughly before I caulk. To prevent the wood from getting moistened again in the rain they have forecast for the next few days, I rigged up some temporary sheeting.

Yes, those are clothespins. No, I don't want to hear about clamps working better. This is what I have without making a special trip to the hardware store. It'll do for the short term as long as we don't blow a gale.

I have as a goal to get these two or three east windows done so that they can get their new storms, and to complete one more side of the house, north or south, before snow flies. The north side should go quickly because the siding and paint are still in relatively good condition.

Progress is progress, I said at the beginning of the year. Hope it still feels like it at the end of the year!