Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 3)

The paint went on the window today and it looks pretty good. The semi-gloss sheen does a good job of fitting with the traditional look but in a cleaner way since there is no underlying heavy build-up of paint layers.

There is no question that the work in preparation made the painting very easy. The hardest part of the process was cutting along the wall on the right hand side which was still relatively simple.

The stool is clean and smooth now. The only parts that look at all off are the corners where the window stops come together. You can see a gap there which could be easily filled with some caulking but, since I have to take them off again to refinish the sashes at a later date, I’ll leave them as is for the moment.

Finally, I put the blinds back in place, which is important because it makes the bathroom actually usable for the first time since the renovation began. The girls are thrilled with the new digs. Just a bit of tile work, the shower rod and curtain, and some final accessories before we can call it complete.

Why not buy new windows?

So now that the window is finally complete, some people may be wondering why I would spend this much time working on an “old” window. While there is the aesthetic consideration of having proper wooden double hung windows in a Victorian house, the real reason is as follows.

These are original windows. That means that they have survived, in a functional state, for 130 years and, with some relatively simple work, can reasonably be expected to survive another 100 years. Every part of the window – casing, sashes, and trim – can be repaired or replaced by someone with reasonable wood working skills. The same cannot be said for aluminium or vinyl windows that people, unfortunately, all too often turn to as substitutes. Once a conversion has been made, not only do you impact the visual appeal of the house, but it really becomes cost prohibitive to convert back to proper double hung wooden windows in future.

It is true that working on these windows is a bit of a dying art. Most contractors default to replacements when faced with window challenges. It is a quicker path to a short term improvement in the look of the windows. But even the best of the replacement windows have service lifetimes that are a fraction of the life of a wooden window – and that is only considering the extended lifespan of a restored window. If you include the original 100+ years of service these windows have typically already provided and you dwarf the service life of a replacement even more.

Some books on windows…

On the other hand, it may be difficult to find someone to do the work for you at a price you can afford and you may end up doing it yourself (as is the case with me). Luckily, there are lots of resources available to help out. My favorite so far is “Working Windows – A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows” by Terry Meany. Terry is a font of information and writes in a very enjoyable and, in fact, funny way.

Working Windows: A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows by [Meany, Terry]

Another good source of info is “Repairing Old and Historic Windows” by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. It is full of useful information but much drier and not what I would call an entertaining read. Useful as an adjunct resource but, for the average homeowner, I’d say Terry’s book is the preferred source.

Repairing Old and Historic Windows: A Manual for Architects and Homeowners by [New York Landmarks Conservancy]

So if you are lucky enough to have some original wood windows in your house, I strongly urge you to consider restoration over replacement when the time comes.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 1)

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 2)

Bathroom Accessories

Just a quick post here to show a couple of the bathroom accessories that have now gone in. The towel bars and toilet paper holder were actually installed a couple of days ago but I didn’t get around to posting any pictures. The laundry basket we just picked up today but are not 100% sure we are going to hang onto it. Still going to be some additional hooks going up on the wall above the laundry basket.

The accessories so far are all from the Modona Viola series. Not the most expensive stuff but seems to be good quality and really matches well with the light fixtures and such.

Now if we can just find the right shade of grey towels, we’ll be all set.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

The next entry for the renovation can be found here.

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 2)

As I predicted in part 1 of this blog entry, completing the stripping of the paint required another 5 or so hours. I finally finished up around 1 AM exhausted but happy to be done.

I had decided to not use stripper for this window and, instead, rely on the radiant heater and scrapers. While this works well, no matter how careful you are, there is still some gouging that occurs.

As a result of this, and the significant existing damage to the window stool, I had to pull out the polyester resin to skin coat the casing and rebuild the edge of the stool.

It also provides a great way to smooth the transition between the existing casing and the pine extension that was added.

Once everything was set, it was just a matter of some sanding to smooth everything out. A bit of caulk at the joints and things are ready for painting. Of course, this was hours of work but, as with most things you do in renovations, the preparation is everything. The level of effort put in at this stage is directly proportional to the ease of painting and the quality of the final outcome.

I know it is hard to see in this picture but everything is wonderfully smooth and the painted results should be amazing. This also gave me a chance to free the window stops (the stick like pieces you can see in the earlier pictures) which will make things much simpler when I get around to reworking the sashes. For the time being though, I’ll leave them as is in the interest of getting the bathroom in working order sooner rather than later. I can always come back to the sashes but until I get the casing done, I can’t get the blinds re-installed.

Tomorrow is paint and everything should come together.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 1)

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 3)

Can you say Claustrophobia?

As we’re down to the final strokes with the bathroom, it is time to start putting things back together. One of the things that needed to be done was getting the mechanical fan timer replaced with an electronic one.

The electrician was here on Friday to do that. Much cleaner looking and no more ratcheting noise turning it on.

To complete the installation, I checked to make sure that the fan was still behaving as expected but although it was running, there was almost no air being drawn through it. So I popped my head up into the attic space to see if I could figure out what was going on.

There was the duct from the fan, not attached to anything! Now there are two problems:

  • The duct was not attached to the exhaust vent to the outside.
  • No air was getting through anyway, likely due to a kink in the duct itself.

So, no alternative but to crawl into the attic about 5 or 6 feet to see if I could figure out what was going on and reconnect the duct. Now while this doesn’t sound like that big a deal, it is when you consider it is the middle of summer heat and there is not much space to work in… and I mean really not much space – only 11 inches at most.

So I put on my coveralls (it is amazingly dirty in the attic of a 130 year old house though the pictures don’t show it) and wriggled my way on my stomach up to the vent area. After only about 15 minutes of fiddling to un-kink the duct and get it re-clamped on the external vent, I was able to work my way back out again. Funny, it was much harder getting out of the space than getting in – go figure.

But the fan was reconnected and now drawing air so all is good. Hopefully I don’t need to climb up there again any time soon!

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

The next entry for the renovation can be found here.

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 15)

Well things are moving along right on schedule, or even a bit ahead of schedule! The plumbers were in today to hook everything back up including the faucets, toilet, and the crazy shower.

It really is coming together. All that is left is a bit of finishing on the tiles, the outstanding timer for the fan, and the accessories (towel bars and toilet paper holder) – for the trades that is. I still have a significant amount of work to get the window wrangled into shape, trim painted, and the final touch-ups completed on the wall paint that is already in place. But that is for later. Right now I want to focus on the plumbing.

First, is the toilet – not much to say here as we are reusing the Toto that we had in place before.

It was in the house when we bought it so I can’t tell you what model it is. May be buried in some of the paperwork that was left behind but I’m not inclined to go looking. Suffice to say that we’ve been very happy with it so no need to fix what ain’t broken. Beside, with the style of tank cover and the porcelain flush lever, it just looks like it belongs.

I know that I put a post up of the faucets before they were installed but here is how they look in place – exactly what we were looking for.

They are from the Grohe Seabury line in StarLight Chrome (very poetic). I think they definitely capture the Victorian sensibility of the room.  But, as much as much as I like the faucets, it is the Sign of the Crab shower fixture that is my favorite part.

It is as much a piece of sculpture as it is a functional shower unit (complete with thermostatic temperature control). No need to compromise form for function here as was the case with the counter top – this is ticks of all the boxes. Also very much in keeping with the Victorian ethos of making even the ordinary look extraordinary as I’ve written about before. I really want to give it a try though that will have to wait until the silicon goes in for the corners of the tile and we get a shower rod and curtain.

Speaking of the shower curtain rod, we’ve been putting off its purchase because it is another place where we are struggling with form and function. On one hand, a curved shower rod provides a feeling of space in the shower that may otherwise feel a touch cramped. On the other hand, the curved rod definitely has a modern feel to it and will go against the traditional approach we took to the room. That said, we’re at the breaking point and will need to make a decision on that tonight so stay tuned.

Now to just get the window completed…

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

The next entry for the renovation can be found here.

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…”

OK, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the wonderful new lighting in the bathroom has highlighted just what a state the paint on the original window is in. There are a litany of challenges, both simple and complex, to address including:

  • The many, many layers of paint that have been deposited, chipped, and redeposited over the years.
  • The need to integrate the strip of new pine that was inserted between the casing and the trim to adjust for the new depth of the wall.
  • The need to address the flat, unadorned trim itself – it’s not that it needs to be fancy but should at least mirror the trim that is around the door.
  • Repair the multitude of dings, gouges, and chipped edges of the window stool (the flat portion of the frame at the bottom inside of the window).
  • Free up the painted on stop on the left hand side so that I can eventually take the window apart and restore it from its current painted over single hung action to the double hung function it originally had.
  • Other things that I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Unfortunately, I thought of almost none of these ahead of time.

As the trim had come off during the demo, I at least had the foresight to strip them of their paint and re-prime them before installation. This included an epoxy repair to correct some damage to the top right corner from the removal itself. The result is what you see in the picture above – the dark patches are the filler that the contractor used when re-installing the trim. I figured an easy upgrade was to add on some L-trim on the two exposed edges so that the window would match the door.

All good here though I had to cope the shape of the chair rail into the left hand molding since, as I mentioned, I didn’t plan ahead to have this done before the tiling happened. Still the results look good – just need to fill the nail holes and all done, right? Not so fast…

It is at this point that I should warn you to be careful what you start. As I was getting ready to paint the trim, I realized that the casing where the new pine strip was inserted would not look particularly nice if I just tried to slather yet another coat of paint over it and re-install the blinds.

Alright then – guess I’m stripping the side casing so I can clean up the transition between the old and the new and end up with a lovely smooth single casing.

Hmmm, guess that top casing will need to be done too. Oh, and the stool at the bottom, that has clearly taken a beating over the years and needs a bit of love before getting a new coat of paint. And the sash stops, can’t leave them out of the party…

Cut to 11:45 PM and me still trying to finish that “little bit of stripping” that I started. Finally had to call it a night. This is how it sits at the moment (if you’re wondering why it is so light out at just before midnight, the pictures are from the morning after – was too tired to even get my camera last night).

I’m certain this will look amazing when it’s done but right now, all I can see is another 5 hours of heating, scraping, sanding, and all the other aspects of a dirty job like restoring old windows. And that is just to get the paint off! Still need to patch and fill the wood and get everything sanded down. More to come, stay tuned…

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 2)

Window trim or “Be careful what you start…” (Part 3)

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 14)

We now have light! Actually, we have, in a more general sense, electricity. There was apparently a hole in their schedule so the electrician showed up a day early to put in the lights and wire up the switches, outlets, and timer.

Heidi and I both really like the look of the schoolhouse style glass globes so even though they were originally used in kitchens, libraries, and, I assume schoolhouses in the 1920’s we are using them in the bathroom of our 1886 Victorian.

We spent a lot of time looking at different suppliers to try and find a 5 light bar for above the mirror and a matching ceiling fixture but were only able to get a 4 light version. Looking at it now, I’m quite happy with how it turned out. Given the size of the globes, I think that a 5 light version may have been too much.

4 light vanity fixture. The horizontal dark bars in the picture are an artifact of my phone camera being pointed directly at the lights I believe.

For those that are interested, the fixtures are from Sea Gull Lighting‘s Academy line and are remarkably inexpensive compared to other options. We selected the chrome finish as this, along with the details of the metal work, will be mirrored nicely in the faucet and shower hardware once they are in place.

Combined with the white tile and satin white ceiling, they throw a lot of light. Either fixture alone is enough to light the entire room and the two together make it glow!

There was only one small issue that still needed to be dealt with. It seems that the original mechanical fan timer that we had in the room functioned without needing a neutral wire. Unfortunately the electronic replacement that was supposed to replace it does require a neutral – something that wasn’t picked up during the electrical rough-in.

After 10 minutes, or so, of considering where we would need to open a wall to get the appropriate wiring in place (not having a timer is not an option), our electrician suggested that they will try and source a timer that doesn’t need a neutral. Brilliant – not sure why it didn’t even cross my mind to think of that. A quick look on the internet confirms that such a beast exists and is easily available so should have something that doesn’t require so much twisting and noise shortly. In the meantime, the original mechanical timer is back in place.

Finally, just a note on the light switch. Some of you may wonder why we didn’t choose the more modern “Decora” style flat switches. It is really just a preference on our part and Heidi leans strongly to the traditional toggle style. Neither is remotely appropriate for a house of our era.

In our last house, also an 1880’s build, we started to replace some of the light switches with modern push button replicas by Classic Accents. They are CSA approved and UL listed so you get all of the cool period appropriate feel without any safety concerns. They’re great but we just haven’t gotten to doing anything like that here yet. Not sure that it would work for this bathroom anyway as we would have an ultra-modern fan timer next to a push button switch. Could be a bit of discord there.

One unexpected challenge with all this new light is how it highlights clearly the incomplete window trim. But that needs a post of its own.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

The next entry for the renovation can be found here.

Some side entries on the window can be found here.

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 13)

The tiles are done! The tiles guys were here today to finish the last of the tiles and do the grouting. Things look great! Not much else to say so here are some pictures of where it stands as of today.

Just the final parts to finish up. Electrical and plumbing then paint clean up and trim!

The next entry for the renovation can be found here.

Tech in the bathroom

Although this blog is associated with the bathroom renovation, it talks about something that I did as a result of convenience rather than anything that was required a for a bathroom.

A side effect of working in the tech sector is that you have a focus on technology in the home that tends to excess. As a result of this, and the fact that poor Wi-Fi coverage is something that drives me nuts, I have an array of Ubiquiti UniFi access points throughout the house. Definitely more commercial than the average home owner needs but, like I said, I’m a techie. Also, in my defense, the double brick construction of our house with 18″ solid wall separating some of the rooms plays havoc with coverage – particular at the extreme ends of our long, skinny layout.

So, as we had the walls open and were pulling wire from the basement for an new electrical circuit anyway, I took the opportunity to bring up an Ethernet cable to the bathroom, a part of the house near the far end of the upstairs. The nice thing about the UniFi AP AC Pro is that it uses standard Power Over Ethernet (POE) so that there is no need to have a separate wall wart plugged in to power it. The result is a nice clean installation with both network connectivity and power provided through the same Ethernet cable. As a side note, these access points do require that you run a separate management server to configure them so are likely not a good option for anyone that doesn’t have a reasonably good grasp of tech (particularly networking).

The end result is an unobtrusive installation on the ceiling that provides excellent Wi-Fi coverage to a part of the house that was under served up to this point.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

The next entry for the renovation can be found here.

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 12)

The bathroom is making forward progress again. Today they came and installed the vanity counter top and the under-mount sinks.

They’re pretty efficient – the whole thing was done in well under an hour. Overall the bathroom is coming together quite nicely. I have to admit that it would have been nice to put in a real marble top as you can definitely tell that this is synthetic from the faux grain (closer look below) but this is one of those times that function has to trump form. Real white marble would have had a tough time living with three teenage girls and their assortment of makeup and such (I’m only assuming, that’s not actually an issue yet at all).  I’ve heard a bunch of horror stories about how easily it stains.

For those interested, the sink basins are Kohler Caxtons in white – pretty standard stuff but work really well for what we needed.

The tile should be finishing up either tomorrow or the day after and then plumber and electrician the following couple of days with a target completion of the end of the week.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

The next entry for the renovation can be found here.

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