Posts Tagged ‘windows’

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Out with the old: Final 2009 house resolutions check-in

December 30, 2009

To wrap up 2009, here’s the status of this year’s resolutions. Look for the 2010 list next week!

Here’s the original list: My New Year’s House Resolutions

…and here’s where we are in the waning days of 2009:

1. BETTER WINDOW INSULATION.
Mostly done. In the end, I ordered 1 3/8″ spring bronze weatherstripping  from Kilian’s Hardware, since the stuff I got from our local Ace was too narrow. They shipped promptly and have everything under the sun on the old weatherstripping front. With instructions from Working Windows, a phenomenal guide, I’ll hopefully finish up the last of the weatherstripping soon. Pictures coming once I remember to take some. (I’m doing a modified version of it without removing the sashes—not the recommended way, but so far it seems to be working decently, and significantly reduces the likelihood that I’ll screw it up and need to call in the pros. But it also means I would be much happier with a staple gun, which the Tool Library has—except that they’re closed till after the new year with all the budget cuts…augh.) And the bedroom window issues will be resolved by early 2010—yay!

2. DROUGHT-TOLERANT LANDSCAPING.
Mostly done. We successfully killed the grass, but then went to war with the oxalis. This isn’t done yet, but it’s mostly because I’ve been lazy and preoccupied with other things. I think I can safely say it’s a weekend (and a few hundred dollars’ worth of DG, stones, mulch, and plants) away from being complete.

3. PRODUCTIVE VEGETABLE BED.
Done! The garden did quite respectably this year, though it’s definitely still a work in progress. I continue to be in awe of the huge yields from some friends’ gardens, so I’ll keep at it. I put cover crops in this winter, so hopefully that will help, too.

Lettuce bed

4. NEW POWER STRIPS.
Done! Pictures are not exciting here, so you don’t get any…

5. CLOTHES LINE.
Done! But no photos till we get the landscaping done, since right now the yard looks pretty icky.

6. NO MORE LEAKY TUB.
Umm, done? We got stuck on this one, so I’m not even sure it counts as done. Technically, it doesn’t leak anymore. But in the process of trying to fix it, we broke it more, had to hire a plumber to fix that, and then discovered that it had been fixed incorrectly. Fixing the new problem turned out to be an even bigger project that will entail retiling the bathroom, so for now we’re living with a slightly imperfect faucet setup. Moral of the story: hire people who know what they’re doing, especially when you don’t!

7. RAIN BARREL.
Mostly done. After trekking all over town looking for the specific parts D. had in mind for this, we finally found them at Grainger in West Berkeley. He’s off this week, so with luck this might be finished before the new year. Pictures and maybe an instructable to follow once it’s all installed and caulked in, but Gene over at DIY Insanity has some great photos up of the barrels pre-holes on the new platform he helped us build last month (and by “helped” I mean walked us through pretty much step-by-step—thanks again!!)

Gene's photo of the barrels on their brand new platform!

Gene's photo of the barrels on their brand new platform!

8. RETAINING WALL & FENCE.
Done!

Another view

9. DISHWASHER.
Not done. But…WE ARE GETTING OUR FIRST BIDS ON THE STRUCTURAL WORK IN THE KITCHEN! This is my most exciting news. It won’t make the 2009 list, but it’s within reach at long last. (And it better make the 2010 list…)

In fact, it might be fortuitous that it took so long—if Obama’s Cash for Caulkers program really gets rolling, we’re all set to buy both our dishwasher and new refrigerator under it! And we may apply to be guinea pigs in Oakland’s version of CaliforniaFIRST, which spreads the cost of energy efficiency improvements over a number of years by rolling the cost into property taxes. When we take out our furnace chimney, we’ll have to re-vent our furnace and water heater, and it might be the ideal time to replace both. (They still have a few years left in them, but both are aging, neither is high-efficiency, and D. is itching for a solar water heater.)

So we’re 8 for 9 for 2009—not too bad, actually!

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Winter! (Or: All the things we said we’d do before the rains….)

October 13, 2009

The first snows fell in the Northern Sierras last week—and this week, winter arrived in the Bay Area with a bang, shattering the rain records as the remnants of a Pacific typhoon swept in.

This is happy news for our garden and our fruit trees, which have been gasping for water the past few weeks. (I’ve been holding off on any big watering efforts because our clay soil stays moist for a few weeks, and, well, the rains were coming!)

This is less happy news for other members of the family:

You're serious?

You're serious? Umm, that's okay, I'm good here, thanks.

And even less happy news for:

  • Our rain barrels. Yeah, they’re still in the garage. We just need to build them a platform, but unfortunately neither of us knows how to build a platform. Bleh.
  • Our rafters. Umm. A few of them have been Bondo’ed where the knob-and-tube electrical wiring used to be attached….but the rest still need to be patched and painted. Maybe this weekend, if things dry out enough before then (and we finally find a ladder that’s tall enough!) We lose major points on this one since it’s actually a leftover project from last summer….augh! (We replaced the wiring right after we moved in to placate our insurance company.)
  • Our bedroom windows. We still have not replaced these because I haven’t had time to go debate the whole permit issue with the City. (I did finally talk to people there, but got two completely contradictory, mutually exclusive answers from the two departments that are ostensibly supposed to approve our window replacement permit. Ugh. I hate bureaucracy!)
  • Our baseboard gravity registers. I took these apart three months ago to try to strip the paint off of them. Then I discovered that they’re actually broken (from being forced open and shut, I think). Then I discovered that when the heat was installed, someone creatively stacked a bunch of wood together to “frame” the register, and when I took the register off, the wood moulding fell apart. Then I ordered new registers only to discover that the size is off by half an inch. Argh. Somehow this needs to get fixed before we have to turn the heat on…

So I guess a busy work weekend lies ahead!

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Window woes

August 11, 2009

So we’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and replace some windows. We’ve been holding off on this in part because we had so many other big (and expensive!) projects hanging over us and in part because the first bid we got was pretty daunting, but now that the last of the costly “necessary” projects is done, it seems like a smart time to do the windows while there’s still a 30 percent tax credit available.

We’re lucky in that our wood windows are all original, a pretty unusual feature around here, where a lot of bungalows were “updated” in the 1960s with aluminum windows or more recently with vinyl. Because of that, we’re not touching most of them—the windows that are in decent shape (which, fortunately, is the vast majority of them) are just going to get rehabbed and weatherproofed in the hopefully not-too-distant future when I actually learn how to do this. (For now, I’m cozying up with Working Windows, a really good how-to book on repairing wooden windows.)

That still leaves three problem windows, though. The double-hung windows in our bedroom and bathroom all face southeast and consequently seem to get the weather in its extremes—sun in the summer, rain in the winter. As a result, the windows and the jambs are all warped and have a great deal of dry rot, so rehabbing these windows is a gigantic project. In the meantime, they let in drafts and rain in the winter months. Add to this that the bedroom windows are the only windows in the house where we have noise problems (they’re a short distance from the building next door with only the garage in between, so there are no trees to buffer the noise) so they seem like great candidates for replacement with double-paned windows that will block the noise and fix the rot.

Getting the bid
So we started down the estimate path. I’m getting pretty good at this now that we’ve undertaken several major projects with contractors, and we’d already decided to try to stick to Oakland-based businesses if we could. Luckily, there are two very well-regarded window places just a mile from our house, so that was a good place to start.

Window Place #1 came out and gave us a very thorough estimate after requesting a series of photographs of the windows from all angles. Their plan was to completely rebuild the windows so that they would be indistinguishable from the originals, but would have the benefits of modern windows. This sounded great, but was unfortunately way beyond our budget. If I had a lot of money to spend, though, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them—they seemed very competent and very invested in the historic preservation of the house. Since these windows happen to be the only ones in the house that are visible to exactly no one but us and our next-door neighbors, though, I was comfortable with not having a 100 percent match. (Plus, I’m planning to put the old windows in the basement in case some future owner comes along and wants to rehab them for real, so I don’t feel too bad.)

Enter Window Place #2, which gave us  a much more reasonable estimate to rebuild the sashes from Doug fir so that they match the style of the original windows, although they won’t be exactly identical. They make the windows locally in their Oakland shop, so we really liked the sound of that. They would replace just the inner workings of our windows, leaving the moulding intact inside and out—another key concern. Best of all, while their windows aren’t cheap, they’re definitely in the realm of possibility budget-wise.

Too good to be true?
Sounds great, right? Except for one thing: because their windows aren’t officially rated for energy efficiency by NFRC, they don’t qualify for the tax credit, even though the glass is the same. The only windows they sell that do qualify are clad window inserts (basically, windows inside a frame, which means knocking out the frame that’s there now) from a national company, which wasn’t quite what we were going for. So we’re in the odd position of choosing between more expensive, not-locally-made windows that may end up costing less with the credit, and locally-built windows that we actually like better that aren’t mass-produced and thus don’t qualify. (Apparently there’s a somewhat intensive NFRC certification process that, I guess, isn’t worth the cost for the little guys.)

I find this whole thing puzzling, given that the whole point of the tax credit is to green the country. Seems like windows that are energy efficient and don’t need to be shipped across the country should be worth extra! Not to mention that they create local jobs, and don’t we have a whole separate stimulus package just for that?? Argh.

Borrowing more trouble….
And then there’s the other big bump we hit. Two of the windows are in our bedroom, and the existing double-hung windows don’t meet modern bedroom egress requirements (ironic given that I climb in and out of them regularly to water the plants on the garage roof!) To do the project with permits, we need to put in casement windows or a bay window, which turns the whole thing into a much more elaborate renovation than we have the desire (or money) to do—and it completely disrupts the architectural integrity of the house. (Even then, we might not meet code, because apparently it specifies that the window needs to open directly onto a street or yard, and ours open onto our garage roof—c’est la vie!) California does have an Historical Building Code which has more flexible requirements for egress (we either just make it or just miss it depending on how you measure), but to qualify we have to be designated a historic structure first. Augh.

The rules around replacing just the window sashes are very vague—basically, the chances that the inspector will allow us to replace the windows as-is are about equal with the chances that they’ll shoot down our project and require us to put in casement windows, and it just depends on which inspector shows up. We don’t really object to casement windows on principle, but it just seems wrong, somehow, to completely ignore the history of the house. (D. is a lot less picky about this than I am, and just doesn’t want the cost of the window project to spiral out of control.) Not to mention that there are two exits from our bedroom, one of which leads into the sleeping porch where there are not one, not two, but THREE huge casement windows that are easily climb-out-able if there ever were an emergency.

Again, this whole thing is just puzzling, given that ostensibly everyone involved (the City, the state, the feds) wants us to be making our house more energy efficient. And theoretically the City even wants us to be preserving the historic features of our house, according to the General Plan. *sigh* Gotta love bureaucracy.

What would you do?
So I’m a little torn on all of this. We can pick the local window guys and just pass up the tax credit. (This might be okay if we end up taking on another project that would qualify, which is a possibility—but by the end of 2010? Hard to say.) Or we can get the windows we don’t especially want because they’ll be cheaper at the end of the day.

Or we can decide not to bother with this project at all and just add the money to the kitchen fund instead, which I have to admit is looking more and more tempting….