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Helping owners, tradespeople, contractors and professionals understand and maintain their historic and older buildings.

It is worth taking care of what you have. You don’t have to spend big piles of money to have a nice place to live and work. You can swing into ongoing routine maintenance and minor repairs. If you do have big piles of money, it’s worth assessing conditions and planning an effective project. Either way, I can help you “git ‘er done.”

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Care for a house, it becomes your home–a safe haven for the comfort of your family. 

Got peeling paint? Crumbling bricks? Rotting porch columns? Not sure which way to jump first?

photo of JohnWish you had a brother in the business who could tell you what’s what and who’s who? Well, I’m not your brother, but you can still count on me for objective advice not tainted by the construction industry’s marketing hype and hidden agendas. I don’t do paid product endorsements. I don’t do “associate” sales where a link to Amazon.com gives me a percentage of what you spend there. I don’t even take “free” samples from manufacturers. You will notice that there is no outside advertising here at HistoricHomeWorks.com. So, you know that my recommendations and advice are objective. If I mention or recommend a specific material or product, that is based on my own personal experience and I find that it actually works.

— John
By Hammer and Hand Great Works Do Stand
By Pen and Thought Best Words are Wrought

37 thoughts on “Home”

  1. I hear you’re good on windows. What do you do when the floor of the sash weight pocket has rotted out and the weight is sticking through a hole in it, or, worse, has fallen down the wall? I tried putting a 1-by on top of what is left of the original floor, but it doesn’t hold up to the heavy weights (23 lbs. per side, in one case) dropping on it and it throws off the level of the sash pocket doors. The original floor seems to have been integral with the outer sill (1-inch poplar).

    1. What do you do when the floor of the sash weight pocket has rotted out…

      First, I would investigate the condition of the sill/stile joint to see if it also has decayed. If the joint or the sill needs to be repaired, then that’s the time to fix the bottom of the weight pocket.
      On most windows the weight should always be suspended above the bottom of the weight pocket. If a heavy weight has smashed into the end of the sill, that’s another reason to check out that joint, position of the sill, fit of the pocket door, squareness of the frame, etc.
      Removing an exterior or interior casing might be necessary to fully examine and repair the joint.

      … and the weight is sticking through a hole in it, or, worse, has fallen down the wall?

      Might have to remove a casing, or even open up the wall finish to retrieve the weight. If the weight fell down inside the wall cavity it could be easier to find a replacement weight. In balloon-framed buildings I’ve sometimes found the weight dropped all the way down to the first floor structural sill, and could be easily seen from the basement and taken off the sill.

  2. Hi!
    I love your videos and was able to save the wood windows, which were rotting in my mom’s house. It is a “Spanish ” style white bungalow in Los Angeles, built in 1924. The question I have is this: I want to build a garden shed and have collected a large number of sashes for double hung windows. But I have only come across one article (in Fine Woodworking magazine) about how to build the sash box or frame. I’ve studied the diagrams of some frames and think I have an idea of how to proceed. I’m not an experienced woodworker. I am hoping you might have more info? Right now I’m trying to find a source for parting strip. Any thoughts? I don’t want to toss the sashes or do some silly craft project with them. Thanks for your time . A.L.

    1. Hi Anne,
      If that’s the “Shop-Built Window Frames: Simple Joinery”by Joseph Beals III. Fine Homebuilding #84 (November 1993). pp 76-79, http://www.finehomebuilding.com/1993/11/01/shop-built-window-frames , then you have one of the best guides to window frame construction.
      I suggest you simply get some wood and try to build a frame. Considering your experience level, figure that you will have to build a couple of frames to learn how, then you will know more about building the frames you need. If you bump in to problems or need “coaching” go to my other website, http://www.SaveAmericasWindows.com and register at the Forum where you can post pictures of your progress, ask questions and I’ll help you through it. (when you register use your real name and mention your interest in making frames, that way I’ll know it’s you and can approve your registration)

  3. Hi John,
    My name is Sandy Curtis and we have a 1952 Ranch with original casement windows. We love them and wouldn’t think of replacing them and are very capable of repair and restoration. My question is they have interior aluminum storms that clip into the frame of the sash, making them semi-permanent. Only to be removed for cleaning I assume. The issue is most have failed. Even with the sash fully restored, they condensate in the cold Michigan winters. If I put plastic up over the window they stay dry which makes me believe it’s the storm that has failed. What are my options? I have had no luck in finding replacements online. We’ve tried caulking the seams, squeezing weatherstripping in the edges…short of replacing the sash, I’m at a loss. Any advice or suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Sandy, good to hear you are saving your 1950s windows. I’d need more details (including photos) to give you some specific advice. Please head over to my other website, SaveAmericasWindows.com, and register at the Forum, where you can post photos to show me what you’ve tried and I can see the details of your windows. Here’s a direct link to the Forum:
      http://saveamericaswindows.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=14
      (click on “Register” in the upper right, register, then click on “New Topic” and leave a message, like the one above, and I help you over there.)

  4. Hello John,
    I own a house in southern Ontario, Canada built in the 1870s. It has wood board and batten siding with no sheathing from what I can tell and lathe and plaster walls on the inside. There is no insulation in the walls and most of the windows are original. For such an old, drafty house the heating bills are surprisingly reasonable. The siding and exterior trim is in rough shape and will need to be replaced soon. I have read a lot of opinions about insulating houses like this one and creating moisture issues in the walls. When I remove the siding that would be the time to insulate. Should I bother insulating at all or if I should then what would you recommend? Thanks!

  5. I Recently moved to N. Yarmouth from the southeastern portion of Pa. Being a historic restoration contractor your sight intrigued me. I have owned and operated The Restoration Fraternity for 41 years and would like to pursue my craft in this area. I would enjoy talking with you in hopes of learning more about our craft and acquiring new restoration projects. Thanks

  6. I’m interested in what the best practices are for filling through holes (from nails – average size 1/16″ diameter, 3/4″ deep) in historic trim (1890’s fir) and moulding. Wood epoxy (we use Systems 3) has always been used here as a default. Some are for it’s permanence, some are opposed because of it’s permanence. I’d like to try priming and filling the bottom (side against the building) with epoxy, to create a solid, waterproof base in the wood, then treating the remaining cavity in a more historical manner by using an oil based glazing compound. However, I do not know if the epoxy and glazing compound will bond to each other. Also, I don’t know if this is overkill and maybe it’s just best to fill the hole entirely with epoxy. Thank you for being here for us .

    1. Daniel, I filled some nail holes entirely with wood-epoxy repair methods and materials 37 years ago and they are holding up just fine. I’ve been using these methods and materials since then. Here’s a recording showing small exterior wood-epoxy repair methods on a recent project that includes filling nail holes:

      Were you at one of the NPS P.A.S.T. program training sessions I was teaching?

      1. Hi John,
        Thank you so much for the response! For one reason or another, I haven’t seen it until now.

        The video link is unavailable, but we eventually settled on an all-epoxy filler. We primed the holes with liquid then filled them putty, using the Abatron wood epoxy products. It worked great and it’s good to hear that you have been able to monitor that repair over time and that it holds.

        Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the PAST program. The year I was hired with NPS the program didn’t happen. And when they started it back up again, there was no travel money for Alaskan NPS employees.

  7. John, I have your book on windows. Just wondering if you think window screens are a good idea. I’m thinking about leaving them on year round, as I have limited storage space and energy. If you do, do you have a standard design for window screens for double hung windows?

    1. I do not know about the Red Devil putty.
      When ever I am faced with limited availability of putties I do a field test of what is available, side-by-side on the same sash. I prepare the whole sash with the same methods and materials, then glaze with one putty on the left side, and the other putty on the right side. Then I paint the whole sash using the same methods and materials on both sides. The longer I can let the test run the more I learn about their differences, and which one might be better.

  8. Hello, John,
    I have been researching restoration, etc. For a good year now. I bought an old one room schoolhouse a year and a half ago. I want to try and save it before the elements destroy it. I know nothing of restoration, windows, etc. I am in Michigan, so immediate action is best to take action before the weather makes the condition worse. Can you point me in the right direction as to where to start? Most professionals seem to be far East or west of me.
    Thank you,
    Kristy

    1. Hello Kristy,
      A good place to begin is with a whole-building conditions survey or assessment, to determine the building parts and systems that require attention.
      Then sort those into priority categories:

      ==> Life Safety and Health
      ==> Structure Safety
      ==> Weather Envelope
      ==> Utilities
      ==> Interior Finish
      ==> Grounds

      The Practical Restoration Reports Compendium has a section, “Managing Maintenance” that will guide you through the planning process, with detailed instructions, checklists and forms to fill out. Get the Compendium right over here:

      http://historichomeworks.com/publications/

      Once you have a chance to study the Compendium, stop back here with questions for more guidance.

  9. Thank you John,
    Great advise and I did’nt know about the metal sash glazing products.

    On the topic of priming and painting. When is it too early to paint and when is it too late? Or, what is the most optimal time to paint the glazing related to its curing?

    Thank you again
    Kyle

  10. Hello,

    I can use some expert experience on a glazing situation as I have only window glazed once. I have an aluminum skylight installed in the 1960’s. I spot glazed the window with DAP 33 but I did not pretreat the remaining glazing with oil prior to glazing with the new DAP 33. I have to say that I spent a long time getting the glazing to look almost perfect, and it looks really really good up close. However there are some micro hair-line cracks in the areas nearest the old glazing that are hard to see. I ‘m guessing that these are from the old glazing drawing the new glazing oil out? Or maybe because it is so hot on the roof with a metal frame? is there a remedy to midigate or reverse these micro cracks? Brush linseed oil to revive? I have not yet painted or primed the glazing and it has been one day since I glazed, although it is hot in San Jose, California and it is on my roof. The window is a two foot by three foot skylight and my window frame outside lip is about one inch tall.

    Thank you!
    Kyle

    1. When glazing metal sash use a glazing compound made for metal, such as Sarco DualGlaze, or DAP ‘1012’ Glazing.
      You are probably correct about the old putty drawing oil out of the new putty causing the cracks. Soaking some boiled linseed oil into the old putty probably would have helped.
      For a remedy removing the cracked putty, soaking boiled linseed oil into the old putty and redoing might work, but I suggest (much as it may be difficult to hear it), starting over with a better putty like the Sarco DualGlaze. Look at it this way, you have given yourself a training experience and now learned more about glazing and developed your tooling technique, so the re-do will go quicker and better. When removing the old putty take it all the way down to bare metal and glass, and so your new putty butts vertically to the old putty.

  11. Dear John:

    I am very interested in knowing how you pick your projects and whether you would be able to provide a quote on window restoration for a 1866 farmhouse in Virginia (approximately 30 windows). They are two-over-two double hung sash windows and then one set of external french doors (very narrow) and two sets inside. We have a historic preservation minded general contractor for a lot of the work but he’s not a pro at windows and we want someone who will take great care. We also are looking to remove the vinyl siding thrown overtop the clapboard and would love to get an estimate of what that might cost us so we can plan for it in the near term. The house is approximately 2,700 sq ft if that helps. So our questions are a) are you available to restore windows in Virginia and b) can you give us a price range for what you charge for window restoration (we already have a ballpark from reading online) and for siding restoration? We just don’t have any idea if the amount we have in mind is anywhere close to what these kinds of undertakings cost.

    Thank you very much! We’re so glad true artisans like you are around!

    Respectfully,
    Anne & Ian

    1. Anne & Ian:
      These days I pick window projects that will be the new chapter in the next revision of my windows book.
      There are a lot of good window restoration specialist between here (Maine!) and Virginia. I suggest getting my book ( http://saveamericaswindows.com/get-the-book/ ) that has a national directory of window specialists, with five right there in Virginia, and at least a dozen more in surrounding states.
      One very effective way to determine costs is to do “sample work.” Pay your tradesperson or contractor by the hour to do a limited amount of work, such as one or two windows, or for siding restoration do a 10-foot wide section of wall from foundation to eaves. Keep close track of time and material costs, and divide the total cost by the number of windows or square feet done. Then you can use that “per window” or “square foot” cost to project costs for the whole project. The limited scope protects you from spending too much money, and the square foot cost figure assures the contractor he will not loose his shirt with a bad estimate. Other benefits include seeing the character of their work and learning what it is like to do business with them.

  12. My 1930’s home is currently under renovation. I want to retain all of the original doors & more importantly the glass door knobs and mortise locks. The renovation is also an expansion and we’ll be adding additional bedrooms and bathrooms. This requires 10 new doors. I was able to find identical matching door knobs and mortises and I’d like them installed in the new doors that are required. My GC seems to be unable to commit to being able to use these old knobs and mortises in the new doors. What can I do to assist/convince him that it can/should be done? I was also able to get an original french glassed door and i’d like him to install that. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks!

    1. Try this, offer to pay him by the hour to work with you to disassemble one of the original mortise lock sets, taking the lock set out of the door, examining the mortise and holes, making a drawing of the mortise with measurements, etc. You might have to get him started on it, but then let him carry through. Then ask him to think about how he would cut a similar mortise into a new door. Then do a mock-up. Take a piece of wood the same size and species as the new doors are being made of, and cutting a mortise in it and installing one of the identical locksets into the mortise. If it doesn’t come out good enough, that’s OK, there’s no shame in that. Then he can think about how to make improvements and do a second and even third mock-up, as he trains himself in how to do this work.
      If the two of you run into difficulty, just post a “new topic” with photos in the door section of the discussion Forum:
      http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=16
      and I’ll give you some detailed guidance from there.

  13. is the scraper for muntins hand made or commercially available? I have 53 windows, 106 sash to restore on my 1895 Victorian thanks

  14. Hi John,
    I’m making some wooden storms. I have one surviving wooden storm, #41, and the bottom rail is 4.25″ wide, all others are 2.25″. Do you suppose that all other storms in the house would have had these same dimensions?

    Do you know of any formulas or tips for these bottom rail widths and for storm window dimensions?
    Are both panes of glass supposed to look the same size? They are on #41.

    I’m thinking that if I made all rails/stiles 2.25″ then put the muntin at the meeting rail point, that the top storm pane would be smaller than the bottom and there wouldn’t be the same proportional width all around the window.

    I’ve been watching alot of your windows videos and reading all your information. I appreciate it!
    Sam Packard
    Lincoln NE

    1. Hi Sam,
      That surviving wooden storm has typical dimensions for storms made from the 1920s through the 1950s. I know because I put up and took down the storms for about 15 years while I was growing up in the house my dad built, right over on 38th Street, between Sheridan Boulevard and Calvert Street. (That’s right, I grew up there in Lincoln.)
      Typically, bottom rails are 1 1/2″ to 2″ wider that the stiles.
      Give me a call (207 773-2306) if you’d like to talk more about storms.
      Here’s the discussion on making wooden storms:
      http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2555

  15. I have columns dating back to 1867. All wood, and they have water rot on the base and the bottom of the columns. Dimensions are 20′ tall, 24 ” diameter, fluted. We want to raise the columns, cut about 2 inches of rot off the bottom of the column and replace the bases. The bases are currently wood, and we’d like to replace with a PVC look-alike to eliminate the potential of this happening again. It appears it has happened in the past and the bases were cut out and replaced about 40 years ago.
    We want to maintain the historic nature of the mansion, but there seems to be discussion about using newer materials even though they have the look of the old.
    Referred by Bob Yapp.

  16. Hi,
    I own a mid century ranch home built in ’69-70 with wood exterior casement windows. They are Pella Windows and the sashes are in bad shape. Can these be restored as Pella does not offer services or parts for these windows. Can you direct me in the direction to go out give me some insight? Replacement windows are expensive and they change the look of the home.
    Thanks in advance.

  17. Hello I have old windows, from late1800’s-1950’s, min.$25
    please let me know if yourself or anyone you know that might be interested, Thank you

    1. Hi Robert, Do you mean you have windows for sale? Where are you located? What size and what condition? Do you mean $25 minimum each or for the whole bunch? Can you post a photo? –John

      1. Hello! My name is Melanie and I ran across this site while looking at restored, repurposed wood windows. I live in Norfolk Virginia and have been selling salvaged windows for the past 3 years. I currently have over 600 of them in stock. If you guys are ever interested in coming by and checking out my stock, my schedule is pretty flexible. I carry all sizes, ages, and makes. Even wavy glass. $10.00 per window, unless you plan on purchasing 10 or more. I even carry large picture windows. They range from $40.00 and up. If your ever interested give me a shout. (757) 324-2457
        You can find my adds throughout Virginia and North Carolina Craigslist, Offerup and Letgo. Ill also be happy to send you pics of my current inventory if you like. Hope you have a great day! Again, I LOVE YOUR WORK!

        Melanie Clouse
        reelmelanie@gmail.com
        (757)324-2457
        Extra Space Storage
        301 S Naval Base Rd
        Norfolk VA
        23505

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