Sunday, April 20, 2014

Parlor Renovation, Part II - Window Sashes

A continuation from Parlor Renovation, Part I.

It was agreed that I would strip the window sashes to save on cost in preparation for the work to be done to our southern parlor window.  It was a simple task (isn't it always?).  I purchased paint stripper, a scraper, a dust suite and a lead vapor rated painter's mask.  I setup my area in the driveway placing a disposable plastic tarp on the pavement, two horses atop and dawned my space suite attire.  I retrieved the sashes from the back porch and while carrying them to my work area, one of the rails loosened and nearly fell off.  Well, there goes stripping them...

Turns out, the bottom rail on one of the sashes was rotted at the joint and had come loose.  My tail between my legs, I called Sunderland and requested his opinion.  He felt that it was an easy fix of a job costing roughly $300.  As usual, I wanted to make sure I was getting the best price.  After he explained what that cost entailed (replacing the bottom rail and re-glazing the three bottom panes).  I told him to never mind the whole window altogether and simply focus on repairing the rot and water issue with the frame.  I sought to replace the window sashes outright.

I searched online and came across Caroline Sly of Ashfield, MA.  She is a one-woman shop and claims to make windows by hand (among other wooden assemblies including stringed musical instruments) and after contacting her, she offered to stop by and show a sample of her work.

Prior to her arrival, we exchanged emails.  We spoke of early expectations and I learned just how affordable she is.  As my readers will recall, I always say that money is a matter of perspective, so what does affordable mean?  Well, if Sunderland Period Homes was willing to repair my one lousy reproduction window sash from the 1960's for $300 plus another $400 to weatherstrip with vinyl/plastic strips both sashes; Mrs. Sly was hand-making TWO sashes, with antique glass from the 19th century and weatherstripping of a similar nature for $425 (un-painted).  $700 to repair one reproduction versus $425 for a new period reproduction.  

I'll take your silence as a nod of approval.  She's a godsend when dealing with a constant barrage of high prices.  Mind you that pieces from Mrs. Sly are a custom one, so what may be of one charge for my home, could be different for yours (meaning, you should contact her for specific applications).  Here is her site:

Her work speaks for itself.  Is it perfect, no.  Is it affordable?  For us, yes.  There are little issues I have with her work, details that would annoy me tremendously if Sunderland had done it, especially with his level of pricing.  She gave her opinion with details and listened to our desires.  It took her a week to create the pair of sashes, glaze them and deliver them to our home.  The glazing was still pliable when she dropped them off.

I was hesitant on informing Mr. Sunderland of my purchase.  After all, he is working on our home and has the means and methods of creating windows.  I would not want to offend him by taking business away.  I tried to keep things simple and simply asked that we did not install the weatherstripping on the old sashes and that I'll deal with them later.

But Mr. Sunderland kept on badgering me about the window, that it needs to be repaired or it will not function correctly, etc.   He was right, of course, yet, his pricing is just out of reach for my sanity.  In the end, I relented and confessed the real reason for foregoing the repair of the old sash.  Once my secret plan came to light, Mr. Sunderland really didn't say much.  He didn't seem to mind at that time and I invited him to examine the new sashes. 

Sunderland Period Homes strives for perfection in the details, at least that's the impression.  So, it wasn't until several weeks later that Mr. Sunderland felt compelled to give his full opinion of the sashes.  He examined the window and began pointing out all the inconsistencies in workmanship as well as the structural integrity of the window.  He said that the rebates for the glass were too shallow and that the panes of glass would fall out in time.  He added that the sashes were over tightened while being assembled which warped the sash.  He continued on for a short while, honestly aggravating me quite a bit.  I cannot afford to have Mr. Sunderland do as he pleases on my dime.  I'm not a wealthy person, I'm simply a family man paying my bills with an interest in historic homes.  So, with whatever little extra income we have goes towards our home.  If the expense is too great, something has to give.  I'm not a bottomless pit...

In retrospect (and I'm not an expert) I find it a bit hard to believe that a joiner from the 18th century would have made such perfect sashes by hand with wood sourced from one's backyard that would've passed Mr. Sunderland's critique.  It's been a while since that discussion and I am still annoyed by it.  I'm sure he's also annoyed at me for telling him that he's just too damn expensive for us, literally.

These sashes may not be perfect, but you be the judge.  Do they live up to your expectations?  Here are some closeups as they looked when Sunderland saw them:

The left sash is as Mrs. Sly delivered it, fingerprints and smudges from the glazing process present (so what?).  The right sash was cleaned and prepped for painting.  I think I am satisfied.

Mrs. Sly is due to come back to install the weatherstripping and fitment within our frame.  As of this posting, our agonizingly slow repair is as a result of yours truly having other priorities (a.k.a. LIFE) getting in the way.  As an update can be made, I'll post it up.

Miscommunication, one of the most annoying things in life.  Between the window sash ordering, scheduling, dealing with Sunderland Period Homes, the lead problems; I must've misunderstood Mrs. Sly when she and I discussed installation.  She was unable to install the window sashes due to age (70+ years to her credit).  So I sit here completely beside myself since the promised windows were delivered without weatherstipping pending installation (hence my assumption of her installing them).  Well at least the price of the window, as is, is still more affordable than a repaired replica.