Change of pace – things are actually going in!

But things are still coming out, too. If you’ll recall from this spring, the back bedroom in my house had only one long, narrow window. And since you don’t recall it, here it is, back when the room still had walls. The ceiling is on the floor, in case you were wondering.

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I scored a really nice pair of windows on Craigslist and figured that since the last 5 feet of that room are wood frame instead of brick, putting them in would be pretty straightforward. Famous last words. Instead it took me and my dad a full Saturday and Sunday and 3 weekday evenings. Two of those even meant leaving work early. Why? Because pulling apart that wall made me finally realize how bad the stucco job on it really was. Sure I knew it was bad, but I naively thought I could get a couple years out of it. Here’s why I was wrong:

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What are you seeing here? The stucco isn’t just horribly bumpy and inconsistently finished. It goes OVER THE FLASHING. This is a great way to get water under it. Now in some places, it’s so thin that the lathe (that steel mesh you see poking out) has made rust stains on the surface, while in others it’s well over an inch thick. On top of that, it’s installed right over three (3) layers of asphalt shingles, including thick decorative trim, making all of it somewhat easy to push around.

Then there’s the bottom, which was covered in textured plywood siding. But what’s really special about this is that whoever installed it finished the edges with flashing installed upside down so that it holds water and channels it toward the interior of the walls. You can see the water stains on the siding, surprise surprise.

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Short story is I didn’t want to install fancy Marvin windows (which are kind of fussy to install anyway) into a wall that’s leaking. Nor did I want to have drafts sealed and wall cavities stuffed with insulation when they’re leaky. This is one of the many reasons why it’s a good thing the house had been so drafty. So, father of the year and I decided to strip the walls down to the original wood siding, which was installed without sheathing, then replace the bad boards in that, and wrap it. Basically the house is now correctly built using old siding in place of the much cheaper plywood that would be used today. So here it is most of the way through that. Now I have a bone to pick with new wood. I know this fast grown stuff is more sustainable than the primeval forest that was probably destroyed to build mine, but the wood warped so quickly that we had to clamp the studs together to get them square. And my dad wants me to point out that his C clamp is bigger than yours.

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Now to install the windows, I used Protectowrap, a peel and stick flexible plastic flashing product, around the rough opening and added a layer of aluminum flashing on top of that under the window sills. That way if the cut edges of the plywood sheathing aren’t sloped just right to drain off any water that gets under the windows, the aluminum will be. The wall was about 3/4″ off level, so we installed them level and will have to shim the wall out. I love them. Obsessively. There’s more sun in just about the entire house now, and they’re really nicely crafted, almost as pretty as an old window and much more efficient. If I ever rent out that bedroom, I might put it in the lease that they have to leave the door open! And here’s what they look like now. Swoon.

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Sorry, there’s so much light coming in now (!!!) and so little in the house that I didn’t do so great getting interior shots. These are all wood, with only a thin vinyl track on the jambs. That’s a great way to minimize resale, methinks. But then, if I were buying them retail I would have gotten aluminum clad windows at least on the back. Coming up soon is external trim around these windows and new siding. I’m putting a lot of effort into adding trim and flashing to carry water away wherever possible.

And this week had one extra bonus. I had another odd change of pace today when I pulled something apart and discovered that the house needs LESS work than I thought. For some reason, someone put that plywood siding that was starting to rot right over original beadboard that’s in great condition, not even peeling! It does need to be washed off. This is the first time I can remember getting any good news from pulling anything open, and I’m still not quite sure if I can handle it. But anyway, here’s my new porch ceiling/cantilever bottom.

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Now shifting gears back to the interior, I got word that I may not be able to get reclaimed wood in the sizes I need for the fake beam in the living room. Maybe I’ll just install wood casing over it. And I’ve decided that the skylight in the kitchen is more bother than it’s worth. I already get a decent amount of sun in there. But in the upstairs hall I’ll put in a regular skylight instead of a tube, which should hopefully work wonders for the living room… and the hall.

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4 thoughts on “Change of pace – things are actually going in!

  1. Mary Elizabeth

    Hi, Chad, the windows are lovely. Everything you are doing to this house is a structural improvement as well as an aesthetic one. Don’t feel bad about the forest primeval being pulled down for the original wood you are using–you’ve just saved a tree or two just by reusing it.
    A suggestion for your fake wood beam. You can cover the beam with a three-sided box made out of knotty pine plywood (or any other grain plywood you want), then stain it any tone you want. to hide the edges of the plywood, cut the insides of the adjoining edges at an angle–like mitering. And your father may or may not have bigger C-clamps than anybody, but he is sure has a big heart. He’s obviously a tremendous support. I’ll wager he’s as eager as you to finally finish the job!

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    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Thanks, yeah I think the windows really look like they belong where they are, even though I found them on craigslist and they were ordered for someone else in a different state. And I wasn’t feeling bad about the destruction of primeval forests per se. A bit cynical, yes, but it’s been over and done with for 100 years. I just want to take advantage of the superior wood my house is built out of since I have it. And the way the new studs warped really does show the difference.

      The problem with the box beam is that I’m trying to match joists in the kitchen that are rough sawn and caked with over 100 years’ worth of dirt. If I can’t get wood that looks similar, I’d just as soon do painted woodwork that will also fit in with what’s already there. And actually, I’m starting to wonder if that look won’t make more sense anyway. I guess that’s the upside of taking my time to do this work myself – I get to change my mind as much as I want! And I’m documenting every time I change my mind. Not too long ago I went back to the early posts when I didn’t think the house needed very much work.

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      1. Mary Elizabeth

        I see what you mean about matching the beam to another older one. With some work, you can match the original color, but not the texture. Painted woodwork will look nice, too. That sounds like a good backup plan if you can’t find a rough sawn beam.

        Yeah, I went back to those earlier posts too when I entered your process in the middle. My husband Bruce is also enjoying watching your project unfold. He is sympathetic about the crooked studs. We have unearthed many of them while repairing a newer construction place we lived in. I have got good at helping him find straight lumber in a whole pile of bent boards. You can also add some extra cross pieces cut to the length the spaces between the studs should be and screw them into the the studs to straighten them.

        When you’re done, and the little crooked house is no longer so crooked, you need to get yourself a crooked cat to catch the original crooked mouse that will no doubt reappear as the weather gets cooler. Keep us posted.

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