Tag Archives: the Pink House

Anatomy of a window

From foundation to finishes, Bower Haus has done a lot of work on the Pink House, but the most transformative work so far in terms of the atmosphere of the place has been replacing old windows and installing new ones. A south-facing window on a sunny day ranks pretty high on my List of Things Needed to Survive the Winter Blues and Grays, and this house has some great south-facing windows.

Windows are so great! They provide us with protection, natural light, and sweet metaphors. (And who doesn’t love sweet metaphors?) But they are also way more complicated and finicky than I ever imagined.

Do you know how a window works? I had never really thought about it before, but behind all that decorative trim and sill is a fairly complicated little machine that hangs on the the frame of the house. A sash window—one with sections that slide up and down—is basically a box, called the casing, that holds the sashes (sections of the window that slide, made up of a single pane of glass or multiple panes separated by strips of wood or metal called muntins).

You want to install a window so that it’s both plumb and square; that is, horizontally and vertically level and untorqued so as to measure the same length measured crosswise from both pairs of opposite corners. Those suckers are surprisingly flexible and this is surprisingly difficult. You also want them to lean just slightly outward so that moisture doesn’t get into or under them, which is obviously bad for your walls and frame. When you insulate them, you have to use non-expanding foam, or, if using fiber glass, stuff them tightly enough to block air flow but not so tightly that you squeeze the casement. If you do squeeze the casement, the windows won’t open or close very easily because of the pressure on the sides.

Add to this pages of building code regulations (and historic commission regulations in our neighborhood) and you’ve got a pretty tricky little gadget. If you’ll excuse me, windows can be a real pane in the sash.

Still: worth it and wonderful. Always.

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Make straight the bent

As the least experienced member of the crew renovating the Pink House, I am often the doer of the least skilled work. OK, I can handle that. Frequently, I sweep up whatever saw dust and other gray sediment is filling the corners and threatening the vents, and I’ve found an awful lot of old nails in among the dust. I picked them out, brought them home, and tonight (off the clock, boss), I began to straighten things bent. As my pal AKC likes to say, this is not a metaphor.

Lacking confidence, I did what any self-respecting woman who’s made a resolution to trust herself more would do, I Googled, “how to straighten bent nails,” and found a great DIY site that assured me that straightening nails is a work of finesse, not strength. GOOD NEWS, especially given my recent underperformance drilling furring strips to the ceiling, which used up most of my weekly allotment of strength. Finesse I’ve got. So I poured myself a glass of wine, Hulu’d me some network comedy, found a piece of 2×4 in the basement to use as a work bench, and went to work hammering those spikes aright!

I do not think that the men I work with will choose my admittedly-still-a-little-crooked nails over new nails, but there is something inherently wonderful in saving something from the dustbin and making it useable again. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be working on this house in the first place.