Windows of the year

When you’re lucky enough to have a dozen or more old windows left in your old house, you become acquainted with the some-now-more-later approach. So this year brings me to the big, bad, fixed bay window on the front of the house, as well as the smaller, transom-size window above it and its mate from the south side that I didn’t have the cajones to climb up and do in place a couple years back.

The first part of the adventure was removing the sashes—all of them fixed, not designed to slide up and down, and all of them painted in. Our plan was to pull them out from the inside, but they’ve all got storm windows on the outside and there was the reality-laden likelihood that we would have to remove the storms to break the paint seals and loosen the windows for inside removal. So we started with the big one, which is about 3.5 feet by just over 3.


After removing the stops, it was clear that we had to haul the ladders out and approach this from the outside. Removing the storm for the bay window turned out to be more of a big deal than breaking through the paint, since it was almost all cracking like crazy anyway:


Old, old glazing:


But even after pulling the storm and busting through the paint seal from the outside with scraper and razor, it still wasn’t completely free. We took off some of the inside casing that it seemed to be nudging against, but that still wasn’t enough. It turns out that because of the house’s nearly 100 years of settling, the window was sitting in its frame slightly askew. So we had to get out a planer and take some of that great, old-growth wood away to let the sash slide out freely. This was done in a part of the framing that won’t be seen when all the face trim is put back on.


Then, after a few taps from the outside, it was easy to pull the whole thing out from the inside, and we got it upstairs to the worksite with no problems. The smaller, transom-size windows were a cinch to remove. They were free-moving as soon as we pulled off the casings around them on the inside. So here’s the big sash upstairs waiting to be operated on:


I started out working on one of the small sashes and was very pleased to get all the old, petrified glazing and points out without breaking the window. I used a heat gun and plumber’s heat-guard to avoid cracking the glass. On the second small sash, my luck did not hold up. I broke the glass and was crushed. I wasn’t sure if I had gotten careless in covering the glass while heating the glazing or if, perhaps, the problem was that I was using a different heat shield—a black, fluffy one—than on the first one (the beige, multi-woven one seen in the linked entry above). A few days later, I realized that the glass I had broken was not wavy! It was newer, flat replacement glass. This realization made my week, as only an old-house aficianado’s week can be made. In any case, there was still the big sash to contend with. And I was nervous because that was without a doubt vintage wavy glass that belongs in that front window.

So I set out slowly on the day that seemed right to try to start. And I took a tip from my partner in this folly and tried breaking the seal between the paint and the glass with a razor blade before trying to pry out the glazing.


As I was doing this, I found that I could slide the blade completely under the crusty glazing and loosen it by degrees. I ended up getting all of it out like this. Didn’t even turn on the heat gun. And the whole, huge pane has been preserved thus far.

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