Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Custom Building Windows...Part 1

In the same house where we did the arch top doors, we had previously completed a custom window build. There was a sun room where there were eight single-hung vinyl windows, two on each end and four across the front. 

The owner wanted new full height thermopane panels installed, to have a better view of the lake. On the inside, there was a display shelf across the top of the windows, as well as an extra wide sill on the bottom, and all of that had to come off, along with the casing.

Before we could remove the windows, we had to have the new ones ready to take their place. No one makes windows like we needed, so we had to design and build them ourselves. The outside had to be rough-sawn cedar to match with the T-111 siding on the house, while the inside had to make a transition to White Pine for the custom stain.

I just happened to have an excess of 2 x 8 Red Cedar planks on hand, so that was the starting place for the new windows. Custom made sills had to be cut which included all the features needed, including a sloping outer surface, and inner dado for the White Pine to fit, and even a drip edge on the outside bottom (not yet cut or shown on the picture below).

We also ordered enough "1 by" Red Cedar to make the side and top pieces of the frame, plus the outer casing and aprons (the part under the installed window sill).

In the next picture, looking at the assembled bottom of the sill, you can see the drip edge slot near the front (upper) edge of the sill. The prevents rain from running back toward the house, and possibly into the siding, The white is standard painters caulk, which we applied to all cut ends of wood that "might" be exposed to weather, although that part was actually within the interior of the wall, and was only painted from the "ears" forward.  The picture below shows the outer portion of the frame, complete with the outer casing installed, and ready for the inside frame to be matched to it.

Because of slight variations which can be found in almost any walls, the inner White Pine frame had to be made to "telescope" into the Cedar frame. All of this had to be worked out on a plan of the window frame, done on the computer, before the first cut was made on any of the window parts. The picture below shows the bottom of the frame, with the outer glass stop installed and nail holes caulked, and then the inner White Pine frame telescoping into it.

The next task was cutting the inner glass stop, which can be seen in the next photo. Although this was all pre-cut, nothing was nailed in until the frame was installed in the window opening. At that point, the inner frame was fitted flush to the inside finished wall before nailing into the outer frame. As always, enough space was left around the frame to shim around it with wood shims to square it and hold it securely in place before nailing.

All exposed end grains that could not be primed and painted were coated with painters caulk, to seal moisture out. Below is a top left corner of one of the windows, showing where caulking was applied between the vertical casing and the top casing.

All eight window frames with inside trim were built like this and ready to install before any of the vinyl windows were removed. 

Custom building windows should not be attempted without the knowledge of all the components of a window, and why they are needed. There are certain angles that are pretty much standard in the industry for sill slopes, as well as knowledge of how all the trim parts fit together. Also, it takes the proper tools, which would include a large table saw and a power miter saw, as well as belt sanders, orbital sanders, power drills with special attachments and much more. Mostly, it takes a keen eye for design. You have to be able to visualize what the final product will look like before you even put the details down on paper or on a drawing program. Final dimensions have to be worked out, with the ability to add and subtract fractional measurements. Not everyone has those skills, and it takes time to learn them. Being able to use a drawing program of some kind with the ability to accurately scale the project really helps when putting final dimensions together, and making sure each piece fits with the other.

In part two, we'll continue with this window project, and show you the prep work involved before they could even be installed.

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