Friday, August 8, 2008

New things and old

So Wednesday I taught myself how to replace the old rotted sills in a 1949 Cape Cod styled house. The south side of this place takes a real beating from the weather, and it is barely two hundred yards from Frenchman Bay, so it gets plenty of the worst nature has to offer.

We were scraping the window trim in advance of painting when we discovered that the sills were simply rotted. They were punky and soft and saturated and crumbling. I spoke with the owner and got the go-ahead to replace them, and then had something of a minor melt-down.

I have never replaced a sill before. And I had no earthly idea how to do it.


Well, I came home and did some research. I have two marvelous books by local Maine superwoman (Iowa transplant) Dale McCormick: Against the Grain: A Carpentry Manual for Women, and House Mending: Home Repair For The Rest Of Us. They are both out of print and they are both priceless resources for women (or anyone) who wants to build things or maintain their home. No, you can't use mine. Go find your own on a used book on-line place. That's what I had to do.

I Googled a bunch of information, and mostly what I learned was that I would have to pull the whole window out in order to get to the sill. This was so far from what I had hoped would be the case. Damn.

So I went back to Dale's books. They are remarkable things, really, filled with plainly-written language and clear descriptions of what each thing is and what it does. The pictures are original, hand-drawn diagrams of house guts done by Dale and they show what I need to know without confusing things with lots of extra stuff that I don't need. The diagram of the cutaway of a double-hung window was perfect. It showed me exactly what goes on behind all that trim so I would not be surprised by what I found once I started taking off pieces of wood. The sill I finally removed was in pretty bad shape. Take a look:

I plan to do a very extensive report tomorrow with lots of pictures to explain just how this whole thing works, but suffice it to say that the old nasty sill has been replaced with a new one that I made from a raw piece of lumber. I am so utterly pleased with myself!

Stay tuned!


Sarah P-H said...

Knowing what a Dale McCormick fan you are, you should know that she is being awarded the "Catalyst for Change" award by the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine (the Sampson Center is made up of "archival" type collections of the LGBT community, African-American and Judaica and is housed at USM). The awards event is Monday, October 6th in the evening, here on campus.

Anonymous said...

You're amazing and humbling. I should know and do so much more than I do. I'm so proud that I managed to clean off a crappy table with acetone today and not set the garage on fire. ;)
I'll have to search out those books.