This past weekend, we made some real visible progress on the inside of the house. Kristen stripped the paint from the front door while I worked on the living room window trim. (Kristen helped with that too.)
Just a little less green in the house!
We were very happy that the end result came out as well as it did. If it hadn’t, we might still be asking ourselves why we spent SO MUCH time on that one project. Way back last summer we had decided to remove the window trim rather than trying to strip it in place or just paint it. This had several benefits. First, stripping the paint from the individual pieces is much easier than trying to get paint out from all the little spaces between the pieces in place. Second, the previous owners had tried to do some repair of the walls around the windows because of damage from water or settling, but they had done a poor job. Removing the trim would allow us to do a proper repair of the walls. And third, the spaces around the windows were very drafty because of the way the “new” windows (I’m guessing they are about 20 years old) were installed in the old openings. Removing the trim would allow us to insulate the old weight pockets and seal up all the cracks that were letting air in.
So here are the steps we took, from start to finish, and very rough estimates of the time spent. Keep in mind that we started this process in July 2007, intending it to be done before we moved in.
Carefully removing the window trim – There are 14 pieces on each window, and 3 windows. We also did the front door, which has only 6 pieces. Some pieces had been so damaged by various installations of curtains over the past 97 years that they were only held together by paint and caulk. After stripping that away they had to be glued back together. Removing the trim probably only took about one day. I remember that it was a pretty hot day and we had all the windows and doors open, and there were cicada-killer wasps flying all around my head as I was up on the ladder.
Stripping the paint from all 51 pieces of trim – It’s hard to know exactly how much time we spent on this because we were also stripping all the baseboard molding at the same time, but let’s just say it was considerable. I would estimate 30 minutes per piece, on average, for a total of about 25 work hours. Kristen’s mom did a lot of this work too. We thought this would be the worst part.
Sanding, sanding, sanding! – Each piece had to be carefully sanded to remove the varnish and the original dark stain. The flat parts were fairly easy. Our contractor lent us a belt sander, and that made quick work of the flat parts, though the varnish chewed through a lot of sand paper. But most of the molding is made up of concave and convex curves and angles, and that all had to be sanded by hand, with little pieces of sandpaper rolled up into little tubes or folded into funny shapes. This took A LOT of time. I would estimate the sanding at 1 to 2 hours per piece, for a total of, lets say 60 hours of work. It seemed like forever. Again, Kristen’s mom made a large contribution.
Insulating – The original windows were wood sashes counterbalanced with lead weights. When the new windows were installed, the sash cords were cut, the pulleys were smashed flat, and the weights were abandoned inside the wall. This left a clear path for the cold to come in through the empty weight pockets. So we opened up each weight pocket, removed the weights and old cords, and filled the space with fiberglass insulation. Kristen’s dad helped with this. Then we sealed all the nooks and crannies with expanding foam insulation. This made a huge difference when winter came. This process took the better part of one day.
Cleaning up old caulk – The “new” windows had a lot of stray caulk and green paint all over them, which had to carefully removed without damaging the finish on the aluminum windows. This only took a few hours.
Reinstalling the trim, attempt 1 – Our contractor had given us a lesson on how to reinstall the trim the right way. The idea was to compensate for all the shifting of the windows and warping of the trim pieces over time by re-cutting all the miters. The clean cuts could then be fit back together tightly again. Each one would have to be adjusted from the original 45 degrees because the window openings were no longer square and the trim pieces were no longer straight. So it was a long process of cutting a piece, seeing how it fit, then making tiny adjustments and cutting again until it was right. So last summer I started on this process, but unfortunately I started with the worst piece. It was visibly bowed and made it very hard to fit the other pieces together. I was discouraged and didn’t want to touch the project again. Let’s say I spent about 3 hours on this.
Waiting – At this point we shifted our attention to the baseboard molding, then to moving in and other projects. The window trim went down the basement and stayed there until a few weeks ago.
Reinstalling, attempt 2 – Since I’m not allowed to buy any more tools until this and some other projects are completed, it was finally time to knock this one out. Luckily the job was not as hard as we had feared, we have picked up some carpentry skills in the past year, and the two of us working together sped the process up. My estimate is about 18 hours for the two of us over two days.
Oiling – Finally, the last step, applying the final finish! This is pretty easy. You basically just rub the oil in with a cloth. This took about 2 hours. But the sense of accomplishment and completion felt great. You can still see all the damage from yesteryear’s curtains and some white and green paint specs that we just couldn’t get out, but if you step back a few paces, the windows look like the might have back in 1911, and that’s a great thing to see.
So the total estimate is about 125 hours. That would be one person working on it for about 3 weeks straight. Was it worth it? We would have had to pay some one at least $50 per hour if we had contracted this work out, unless we wanted it to look like crap. Multiply by 125 hours and that’s $6250. Maybe a pro could have done it a bit faster. But I’ll just assume we put $5000 of sweat equity into our house and feel good about the whole thing.
There are some good pictures of the team at work here.
There are 14 more windows and 7 more doors in the house. Anyone feel like sanding?