New Windows – Our First Big Project Begins!
After a very long, very expensive, first winter at the little Simon Nuthouse… Farmhouse, we confirmed what we already suspected – we would be replacing ALL of the old windows with new windows. A quick look around revealed a few windows replaced at some point in history. Unfortunately, the frost buildup, cold drafts, and exorbitant liquid propane bill, solidified that even the who knows how old replacements were in need of replacement.
This would be no cheap or easy undertaking.
Starting the process
Thankfully, we know some people in the home improvement biz, so I knew right away that I would be comfortable contacting my ‘people’ to get quotes on some new vinyl windows. I’m an introvert by nature. Cold-contacting people is not exactly my specialty and I feel like the world’s largest goober when I try to explain something on the phone.
Clearly I’m going to have to get over that, but it did make the process easier, and I really appreciated knowing that the recommendations given were both professional and courteous. If you are in the central Minnesota area and looking for a wonderful home improvement store to work with – I can highly recommend the crew at the Milaca Building Center. They truly went out of their way to make sure that everything was correct on our order. Tell them I sent you.
Tip #1 – Become friends with someone who owns a home improvement store.
Obviously you’ll take action on that tip immediately.
We actually made our first phone calls and emails back in March. The sooner we could mark something big off the list, the better.
Step #1 – Measure all the windows for replacement
Sure, this should be the easy part, right? Wrong. First, I measured inside frame to inside frame. No problem, easy peasy. Got our new window quotes.
We were originally planning to replace our bay window with another bay window. The only problem with that brilliant idea was that a replacement bay window was going to be something like nearly a thousand dollars more than replacing with a large sliding window. Now, I don’t personally have a lot of thousands to spare, so I thought we could save some money and replace with a great big sliding window there instead. Much better. My wallet actually sent me a thank you note.
This window is ‘clearly’ going to be a huge problem. When we took the trim off, it appeared that the whole window would need to be reengineered and rebuilt. Fantastic.
Step #2 – Measure all the windows for replacement again
We were ready to order the new windows and it was time to remeasure again. We definitely didn’t want to screw up the measurements. It really is true what they say – “Measure twice, cut once”. The same goes for ordering new windows!
My husband and I went around the entire house and removed window trim. Remeasuring the windows once again. Also, confirming when I completely goofed and wrote down the measurements backwards. I had a newborn, so let’s just assume that was the reason.
I really was a pain about this measurement process –
“Are you SURE you’re sure??”
“Is it supposed to be measured from THERE?!”
“What if none of these fit?!”
“What if the world ends because we drop a ton of home equity loan cash on these windows and we screw everything up and our children can no longer eat or dress because we are now destitute from screwing up the window measurements!?!?”
These were clearly not all equally legitimate concerns.
Tip #2 – Measure your windows multiple times. It seems like a hassle, but it really will make all the difference on installation day.
Finally, confident in our measurements, we prepared our list.
Step #3 – Picking out the windows – upstairs
We decided to replace our hodge-podge of windows with beautiful vinyl windows from Thermo-Tech . That’s not an affiliate link and this is not a sponsored post. I’m just genuinely smitten with our windows.
We replaced all of our upstairs level windows with white double-hung windows. They are so crisp, and lovely. I can open them both from the top and the bottom, which I definitely wanted for safety. That way, I can open the top in the boys room and the baby room and I’m not extremely worried about them falling out of the window.
These little beauties are easily cleaned on both sides too! I’ve lived in a world where dirty windows are the norm for many many years. Finally, I will be able to clean them if/when the mood strikes because Thermo-Tech engineered the process to be as seamless as possible. Mmm mmm mmm, window love. It’s real.
On the windows facing the street I added some sweet grids to the top half of the windows.
I knew we would be ditching the fake, plastic, shutters. No offense if you have fake plastic shutters that you love, but they absolutely make me shudder. No joke.
After reading a lengthy diatribe on what shutters should look like, and how they should be attached, I can no longer look at them the same. Plastic shutters that do not look like they would cover the window when shut, or are not even attached to the window frame, make my skin crawl. Just one of my little weird pet peeves. Moving on.
Step #4 – Picking out the windows – downstairs
Downstairs, we are replacing a slew of casement windows and the piece de resistance (don’t forget to say that with a French accent) is the big sliding window overlooking the front porch.
I’ve been dreaming about this porch forever. What it’s going to look like. How much fun I’m going to have drinking adult beverages. How big of a megaphone I’m going to need to yell at the people driving too fast past the house.
There is an entry door to the porch, but it’s tucked into the left side, and ultimately interrupts the flow in our living room. The more I looked at the dining room sliding window, the more I realized it needed to be a dining room sliding door.
My husband actually agreed with me.
We are closing up the old door (it’s a sweet door with beveled glass, so I’m hoping to think of another place to use it) and putting in my dream sliding door. I will be able to easily march right out onto the porch with my megaphone and my wine!
Oh Happy Day!
Step #5 – Wait for the glorious news that the new windows have arrived
About two weeks later, the windows arrived in the store and were waiting for us. Woohoo!
My adorable and loving husband and I, removed all the seats from our giant, white, passenger van and effectively turned it into the cargo van it clearly wants to be.
He spent an entire day driving up to the Milaca Building Center, in Minnesota, and was able, somehow (probably because he prayed a lot?) to fit 12 of the 14 new windows into the vehicle. Probably because he had a lot of help from really smart people.
He then drove back and we unloaded them into our scary looking fall-down shack.
Step #6 – Pick a day to begin the window installations
We are installing the new windows with the help of friends and family. Hiring them out just isn’t in the finances. Plus, we are learning valuable life skills for the future.
Our incredible crew – including my parents and an aunt and uncle, came down for a one day affair, and even brought along the scaffolding.
My uncle is seriously a machine. He has clearly done this more than a time or two. He would call out numbers for lumber cuts, and my dad and mom would whip them out so fast my head was spinning. Meanwhile, my aunt was running cleanup crew and there was practically no mess to speak of. It was awesome! I was managing kids, and a baby, my husband and kids were go-fers.
“Go-fer this, go-fer that!”
Tip #3 – Make sure your crew always has a couple of go-fers. They are invaluable!
My husband later told me that he would not have completed a single window yesterday. The first cuts alone he would have spent 30 minutes on.
TGFUAD – Thank God for Uncles and Dads! (you thought that meant something completely horrible, didn’t you?)
Step #7 – Out with the old and in with the new
But First – Asparagus. While I waited for the window crew to show up, I felt like a real farm wife, going out and collecting one of our first batches of spring asparagus.
It was incredibly fun to watch them take out the old windows. After two months of planning, we finally got some project action!
They started with a ground floor casement window to get an idea of what we might be running into without the added complication of the second story. Figuring out the possible kinks, on the ground, seemed like a great idea to me.
After removal, we ran into the first problem. The frame was completely rotted out and had been ‘patched’.
Good news: we had the lumber on hand to replace the frames.
Bad news: this was going to add a significant amount of time to installing new windows.
After replacing the frame it was time to place the window and level it. The new window was leveled with shims. Someone stood inside and outside to ensure it was plumb and leveled. We, of course, wanted the new windows to actually function after being installed.
Tip #4 – Know what plumb and level mean, or find someone who does 😀
We were able to use the nailing flanges on the windows, and nail them into place. I really just wanted to use the phrase “nailing flanges.” Fun.
They then took care of the nitty-gritty of weather proofing and adding PVC trim board to the outside of the window. The more maintenance-free window we can achieve, the better!
On the inside, everything was ready to go and it was time to put in the extension jambs.
The extension jambs were sent along precut for our windows and standard width – which I believe is somewhere in the ballpark of 4 and 5/8ths inches or so. Add spray foam and extension jambs, reattach the trim, and the window would be complete.
Except we then ran into problem numero dos.
Our extension jamb width was anything but standard. And it clearly varied from window to window. We are not dealing with standard anything in our 1907 house.
On the first window, we had two layers of siding, both the original clapboard and an aluminum siding. Two layers of plywood sheathing/shiplap. One on the outside of the studs, one on the inside. One layer of lath and plaster. (FUN FACT: Plaster was made stronger by the addition of horse hair, which can be seen if you look closely!)
Finally, one layer of sheetrock over the lath and plaster.
Our jamb extensions were never going to span the distance to the trim.
We will have to reorder jamb extensions to finish off the windows inside. In the meanwhile, I have to somehow convince my children not to mess with the exposed window guts.
Bribery or electric cattle fencing are my top options right now.
Step #8 – Rinse and repeat
When it was all said and done, we were able to install 5 of 14 windows. There is much work to be done, but it feels great to have some of the windows, that were in a truly problematic condition, replaced.
Even better, we replaced everything requiring scaffolding to complete, so we won’t need to borrow or rent that again for the additional windows.
Last night, I already noticed a HUGE difference in the amount of noise I can hear from outside my windows. The Thermo-Tech windows provided an instantly noticeable reduction in sound. And they are gorgeous. It’s a definite win win win all around.
We are hoping they also provide a tangible reduction in energy bills as the summer proceeds.
I cannot wait to get the extension jambs and put up trim and see the finished product all throughout the house.