Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

image of window

My goal today is simple: Fix this fubar attempt I made to replace a window in the garage two years ago. And to chop that tomato trellis to pieces. Two goals. My two goals today are simple: fix the window and chop up the trellis. And clean the bathroom. Three! My three goals! Okay, among the goals I want to accomplish today … wait, I’ll come in again:

The window was rotten all the way around when we bought the house. Not a great big deal, I thought. It’s just a garage, right? But it was in such awful shape that my do-it-yourself gene kicked in and the next summer I knocked it out and replaced it with the least expensive vinyl window I could find at the local hardware store.

The rough opening for the window isn’t a standard size, though, so I had to knock together a frame from two by fours. It turned out all right, but when I nailed it into the rough opening I didn’t push it back far enough. The way it’s in there now, I can’t put any molding around it. The frame should be sunken into the wall at least an inch or the window will look more like a picture of a window hanging from the garage.

When I fixed the frame in place I used nails big enough to be tent pegs. I don’t know why. Probably because it felt really manly to beat them into the wood with my biggest hammer. Tearing them out would take me a whole afternoon and I’ve never worked up the ambition to do that, until now. In the meantime I mitered some cedar planks and nailed them around the gaps to prevent the Merry Little Breezes from blowing snow into the garage during the winter, and so it didn’t make the garage look like a hillbilly shack. There. That was a big improvement, wasn’t it?

First things first: Let’s chop that tomato trellis into teensy-tiny little bits.

image of a demolished tomato trellis

I made it out of PVC pipe and glued it together with PVC glue, a glue so powerful that it sort of melts the plastic pipes and joins them together molecule by molecule. Once you’ve glued them together, there’s no getting them apart. So, I looked around the garage for something that would quickly and easily slice through PVC pipe and, what do you know, I found an electric reciprocating saw! I think I borrowed this from my uncle Jim last summer when I replaced a couple windows in the back of the house. Guess I should get that back to him now, huh?

The great thing about a reciprocating saw is that it’s like a hyperactive hunting dog: it can’t wait to get to work. When you grab the pistol grip on this bad boy, you can’t help but wrap a finger around the trigger; there just isn’t any room for you to put your index finger anywhere else. Why’s that important to remember? Because if you pick it up by wrapping your hand around the grip, the weight of the thing will force the nose down and you’ll pull the trigger. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. I must’ve picked up this thing half a dozen times and it cranked itself right up. How I still have all my fingers I don’t know, but I do.

If you’re not clear on why I’m cutting a perfectly good tomato trellis to pieces, let’s just say that assembly didn’t exactly go the way I planned.

image of a window

Okay, back to the window.

The first thing to do is cover over all the gaping holes between the window and the rough opening. My window is thirty-six by thirty-six, but the old window was about thirty-nine by forty. I bought the replacement off the shelf, and the shelf didn’t have any that were the right size, so I went with a smaller window, figuring I would fill in around it. Two years later, here I am, filling in.

I just happened to have just enough half-inch plywood to do the job, and a table saw to rip it into custom-made widths. Part of the reason I didn’t do this last year or the year before – a really big part of the reason – was that I would have had to do all this cutting with a hand saw. Ever ripped a length of plywood with a hand saw? If not, here’s something you can compare it to: Put a chair in your yard, grab a broom, sit down and use the broom to row the chair across the yard as if it were a canoe. Go on. I’ll wait.

image of window

Here’s something else I couldn’t do very easily before: Cut the mitered corners on brick molding.

I have a miter box, of course. Every guy does. I think they come strapped to toolbox saws as a bonus. “Buy the saw – get the miter box absolutely free!” I’ve even tried to use it a dozen times in my life, give or take, but they’re such a huge pain in the ass that I avoid it whenever I can.

Then, at an auction about four years ago, I managed to take home an awesome miter saw. It was a hand saw mounted on a miter gauge so it was still powered by my basic issue Mark One Biceps, but it made mitering a whole lot less like being stretched on a rack by the Inquisition. (I’m going to keep working the Inquisition into this post so you’ll remember to go back and watch the video.)

Even better: I stuck paydirt at another auction just two years ago when I put in the winning bid on a powered miter saw. I can set the cut to any angle I want, and the circular saw will slice through a two-inch-thick length of brick molding faster than you can think, “Oh, shit, I’ve cut my damned thumb off!”

Cutting all the miters on four ordinary pieces of brick molding would have ordinarily taken me a couple hours, but with the powered miter saw it takes me … a couple of hours. I’m not sure how that happens, but at least I don’t have to do it with a hand saw any more. And I get to make a lot more noise.

image of window

This looks like almost the same photo as the one before, but it’s not. I’ve cut up some more brick molding, mitered the corners and nailed it into place to fill in the gaps between the window and the outside ring of brick molding.

I’m not sure why it’s called “brick” molding, in case you’re wondering. It’s one of those homebuilding terms that you never stop any of the people at Home Depot and ask them to explain even though you wonder about it every time you go buy some. Brick molding is just pine stock milled so it’s got a fancy shape that makes it look like a picture frame when you use it to frame around your windows. You can get brick molding made out of vinyl, too, but it’s more expensive. I’m only framing a cheap-ass window in a garage so I wasn’t too worried about buying the premium stuff.

image of window

After all the molding was cut and nailed into place, all that remained was to caulk the hell out of it. Used up a whole brand-new tube of caulk to fill up the various gaps and cracks around the molding. Most of them were pretty modest, but a couple were really very wide and drank up all the caulk I could crank out of the tube. Again, I’m not too worried about making it absolutely weatherproof because it’s a garage window, and because it’s been somewhat less than weatherproof for more than a year (see first photo). I have the feeling I’ll be re-caulking this window again fairly soon.

I should paint it, too. Brick molding comes covered in primer but should be painted. I had to buy a strip of unprimed drip cap, that bare strip of wood at the very top of the molding, because the only drip cap they had in stock that was already primed came in twelve-foot lengths. I don’t think my car is twelve feet long from bumper to bumper, and I wasn’t going to drive home with it on the roof, flapping in the breeze. I suppose I could have broken it in half over my knee so I could get it inside, but I didn’t want to and they can’t make me, nyah.

But I’ve been working on this all frigging day now, almost five hours straight under a hot sun, with a forty-minute break for lunch, so what I really feel like doing right now is not picking up a paint brush and mucking around with that. What I really want to do is take a long shower, then maybe sit on my ass with a book, or maybe even take a nap before I have to go pick up My Darling B from work. After I finish up doinking around on the internet so you can read all about my do-it-yourself home improvement adventures.

Don’t forget the Spanish Inquisition. There. I’m done now.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! | 9:18 pm CST
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