So You Want To Go Into The Window Business…

The business is so simple, yet so complex. Any complexities with the windows have all been removed, making the windows so simple to work on, yet finding the simple tools, materials and supplies to do so can be so very complex. Try going to the home store to get the, mandated by law, HEPA vac. Router bits to make parts are intentionally engineered just a little off so what you make is a little off as well. The readily available glazing compound makes it near impossible to to make any progress.

It’s just a sash. It goes up and down, swings like a door, tilts up from the top, opens side to side. How hard could it be? Yet the house that give the sash it’s context is anything but simple. The house is crooked, gently crooked. This sash fits this opening, not that opening. The hinges of this casement are keyed to this particular window. Take all the hinges off and rearrange them after I clean them? Now the windows don’t work like they did. This window is painted. That window is stained. The other window has paint over what used to be stain, and the window in the other room wasn’t ever stained, it was painted from the beginning, yet the client wants everything stained – a light color.

This house has simple one over ones, that house has six over sixes and the former sleeping porch has four over ones mounted in jambs borrowed from the house next door and the trim isn’t on right. The attic? Up there in the gable facing the street on the south side is a nice diamond lite with extreme sun damage – the muntin profile is almost gone. In the back of the attic is a sash where the squirrels were trapped and tried to chew their way out.

The house across the street has three very nice round top casement windows in the sitting room. One looks like the fungal rot has eaten the sash to the point of no return. It has a nice ogee profile. But the one next to it has an ovolo, and the third has yet a third profile. How did nobody notice this before? Which profile do I replicate?

I find that on a simple house, it has a complex weatherstripping, yet on that complex house down the way, there’s no weatherstripping at all. One house has bronze weatherstripping, the other galvanized interlocking. Most windows are caulked shut. Weatherstripping?

The windows are simple, yet they are infinitely complex. Do they need a carpenter? Yes. Do they need a painter? Yes. Do they need a carpenter and a painter at the same time? Yes. I hired a painter. He brought a roller. He says he rolls everything. What do I know, I am not a painter. And the carpenter? He brought something that looks like a sledgehammer with claws on it. He says he’s never operated a portable planer and he doesn’t really have any tools. I feel kinda weird about loaning him my extension cord.

Now the window stop is busted and I’ve never seen anyone use a table saw like that before. Is that safe? And that painter who’s leaving paint chips all in the yard assures me that he knows what he’s doing. Who’s going to fix that window stop? I’m not sure if the carpenter or the painter did it. They both just kinda shrug. Glue? Maybe I just replace all the stops because apparently the painter doesn’t know how to strip the paint off very well and the paint that’s on there now? I don’t think we can leave it that way, can we? I mean, look at it.

What kind of wood do I use? What kind of paint? Where do I get it? Can I use blue tape? What kind of primer? Is this wood even salvageable? When do I do a wood repair? When do I use epoxy? Wait. Do I even know how to do a wood repair? What’s this I hear about a dutchman? Who’s that and what does he know about chisel, block plane, rabbet plane and hand saw? Is this a chisel or a screwdriver? Can I sharpen my screwdriver and do that? Maybe there’s some combination of epoxy repair and woodworking I am supposed to weave together – and what’s the ratio?

Glass. This piece is wavy, that one isn’t. And all of them are caulked in. Client hopes they can all match. They said they have an extra sash I can use, but that piece is too small, and it’s not actually wavy. Dang. Just broke that good piece of wavy. Who sources the “new” wavy glass? Client didn’t like the piece I picked. Apparently it wasn’t wavy enough. And that new wavy, how do I get it out of the sash it’s in (click here)? What if it breaks when I am trying to get it out? Dang. Broke another one. Didn’t mean to. Get another one? The architectural salvage place has them but they are $50 minimum.

Oh boy. This job is going to be delayed. I told the next client I’d be there in two weeks. Now it looks like three or four. The client after that? Good question. Now my current client is asking if I could also strip and restore the front door like am the windows – because the windows look amazing! Yes. They do look amazing. Hold on, the phone is ringing. Don’t recognize the number so let it go to voicemail. And there’s another voicemail. They got my number from a client I did a year ago. What year did you say your house was built? Yeah I understand but we don’t work on houses built in the 80’s. Your house is built in 1927? Awesome? Oh, no, we don’t work on Pellas. That vinyl? Yes, that can come out and you can put replica sash back in. Sorry, I know you want to get it done sooner, but right now it looks like I am easily a year out….

Of course. I can make a bare sash so you can do the glazing. How do you measure? Maybe I can make it this weekend after take my daughter to swim lessons and before my son’s recital. Yea I’ll stop by on the way home to get the measurement. Sunday? I am hoping I can edit that video or finish that blog post. Monday is the 4th of July! A free day! Maybe I can make that batch of sash then! I can sneak into the shop. Nobody will even know I am there. I’ll pump it out. Oh, the family is going to who’s house? Can I meet you there? Oh, I am sorry. I just have so much on my plate. No I don’t want to miss that. You are right. I’ll get to those sash maybe next week in the evening, hopefully before I fly out to teach the next class in two weeks. Shipping? I don’t even know anymore. Surcharge. And another surcharge. And glass just went up 50%.

Oh that door, of course. Let me work up a price for that. Oh, it’ll be fine. I’ll make it work. Oh, and she just sent in the deposit for the storm windows. Oh, and then there’s the screens in the corner from that lady who’s been waiting – and that sash that has spiderwebs and dust – when do I fit that? “Just get to it when you can” she says. Hmmm. Yes ma’am.

So you want to go into the window business? It’s so simple! Yet so complex…. Get ready for a ride!