Friday, August 22, 2008

The Perfect Project

I've been doing research into window glazing lately. For those of you who haven't dived into the world of window vocabulary (Sash? Stile? Sill? Glazing? Muntin?), glazing is just the fancy term for window glass. Early on in my research, it became apparent that within the historical renovation community one of the biggest heresies is replacing the original windows. The debate is huge though, with people from the window industry (predictably) pushing to replace the old, inefficient, drafty windows. Meanwhile the historical folks go on and on about the value of preserving the old windows for their look, their quality materials and the cost savings.

We have a few "issues" with glazing around the house. There are several cracked panes. The glazing in one of our front doors was broken in the past and replaced with scratched plexi-glass. Finally, one French door is missing a pane completely. I didn't notice that until I went to clean the French door and found that super clean pane of glass was just air.

I'd been looking for some "quick wins" over the last few weeks. I've got a lot of projects on at the moment, and all of them require at least 20 hours of work to complete. With the girls, I don't generally get more than an hour or two of uninterrupted work time. Some of the projects require set up and clean up time and once that time is taken out of the hour or two, very little time is left over for actually doing the work.

The ideal project is one that has very little setup or cleanup time, one that can be abandoned in a heartbeat ("Daddy, daddy, come quick! I has an emergency!"), one that can be completed in a few hours and one that doesn't cost much money. Most of these projects have been done around the house.

The missing pane of glass in the French doors has been bothering me for a long time. We have a plain blue carpet under our dining room table to keep the chairs from scratching up the wood floor and to catch all the food from the kids. It needs to be vacuumed every night to get up all the food bits that a one year old and four year old leave behind. We often vacuum after the kids are in bed, so I close the French doors to keep the noise to a minimum. No sense in waking up the kids. So every time I closed those French doors, I'd always think about how much noise is creeping through that open glass pane.

Early this week I finally got up enough chutzpah to pry off the wood trim around the pane of missing glass. It went surprising well. And in the space of two days, I was able to replace the glass and put the trim back on. The project went so well, that I decided to replace the plexi-glass in the interior entry door, hence all the research on glazing. I wanted to know what my options were for replacing the glazing; thick, thin, tempered, tinted, etc.

I had hoped to find some low-e glass to replace the plexi-glass. It really wasn't critical that I find low-e glass. The door I was working on wasn't an exterior door. It is just the door that sits between the living room and the front entry, but it does sit between the heated living room and the unheated front entry. In the end, it didn't look to me like there were many options out there for refurbishing old windows with new, high performance glazing. The industry out there seems to take an attitude of throw it all out and replace it all with something new.

Now this is a general complaint I have with our current consumerist society. There are too many examples of current products being sold as an integrated unit, rather than as repairable, replaceable parts. It's one of the things I love about our old house. Almost everything can be taken apart and repaired, even by a layman such as myself, provided that parts can be found. If I could find a place that would provide low-e glass, I'd replace broken panes of glass with that kind of glass.

After all of that research, I just decided to run down to the local hardware store and get the project done, so I bought the $25 worth of materials required. Most of that cost was the 3/16" thick, single pane clear glass. Nothing fancy or complicated about the glass. And in the space of one night I replaced the ugly, scratched plexi glass. For the first time in almost a year, we can see out the two front doors. By all measures, it was a perfect project. I wish more projects were like this one.

Now this isn't to say that in the future I won't try to source some low-e glazing for the exterior windows. But I'm not sure it makes sense to replace the glass simply for the sake of replacing it. There are other areas in the house that my return on investment would be much higher, like insulation. But if I have to replace broken glass, why not do so with higher quality glazing?

And of course I cannot forget to mention that four years ago today Pumpkin came into the world kicking and screaming. Happy Birthday!


ShoNuff said...

Cool, glad it went well. My Grandpa was a glazer and worked on a lot of the skyscrapers in Chicago.

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Mr. Kluges said...

OK. Somebody explain to me how this whole "market to the bloggers" thing makes sense. It totally looks like a waste of advertising dollars to me. These people only do the Virginia area. I'm nowhere near Virginia, and they do window replacement, which is exactly what I DON'T want to do. Reminds me of my days as a web designer when everybody had to have a web page, and we were selling web pages to barbers, mechanics, floral shops and shoeshine boys.