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November 19, 2006
Blowing out the windows

The downstairs windows, uncovered for the first time in more than a year

It was November 2006 and the weather was still like spring. (By this time last year, we had already shut down the house because of rain.) We figured that as long as the weather held out, we would keep coming up to do work.

On Friday evening, November 17, Russell came up a day early as usual to set up sleeping accommodations and make other preparations. Our plan for the weekend was to begin constructing the downstairs interior walls. Gail had been doing research on how to do this, and Russell’s brother-in-law Matt (who has helped build houses before) would be joining us as well.

However, the weekend’s priorities were immediately superseded when Russell arrived on site Friday night. The plastic sheeting that wrapped the downstairs exterior – and which had stayed intact for more than a year – was completely shredded. The entire downstairs – and therefore the upstairs living quarters – were open and exposed to the elements. While the days were still like spring, the nights were most definitely like winter.

Russell was greeted with the unwelcome sight of torn plastic sheeting on all of the downstairs windows

Russell spent a cold Friday night sleeping upstairs curled up in a sleeping bag on a hammock. Gail, Cameron and Joss arrived Saturday mid-morning, followed shortly by Matt and his two children. (Matt’s wife, Russell’s sister Joanne was out of town for the weekend.)

The new priority for the weekend would be to install all of the remaining fixed windows downstairs. Five of the eight downstairs walls are spec’ed for glass. We had already installed two of the walls during our last trip at the end of October. This left three walls. At three panes each (minus two panes for the back door), we would need to install seven fixed windows.

Russell had spent the morning prepping by removing the plastic sheeting and staining the exterior trim. Now, Matt and Gail immediately set to work installing the glass panes. By now we had the process down pat, between caulking and installing glazier points. Meanwhile, Russell took the task of cutting and installing the quarter-round interior trim. The four kids variously did homework, helped, and played.

When Joanne first “volunteered” Matt to come up and help us this weekend, nobody realized that it was the same day as the biggest Michigan versus Ohio State football game in history (both Matt and Gail are from Michigan). Matt dutifully (and reluctantly) kept his word and came up to the mountain. Feeling sorry for him, Gail and Russell brought up a small television set just in case we got reception. Coincidentally, Matt also brought up a television set. We were amazed to discover that we got crystal-clear reception of the game on both sets using only rabbit-ear antennae.

We listened to the game as we worked, and Matt was able to sit down and watch it during breaks. Unfortunately, by halftime he gave it up as a lost cause (Michigan ended up losing 39 to 42 in a very disappointing finale).

Matt and Gail listen to the Michigan versus Ohio State game while they install windows
Matt watches the game during a work break

By mid-afternoon, Russell discovered that we were running out of quarter-round trim. It was not an option to wait for another weekend; the trim was necessary to hold the windows in place against winds that reach 100 mph. He took the van into town to buy some more. Two hours later and $112.74 poorer, he returned with 18 more 8-foot sticks of quarter round. (Topsider was supposed to have supplied enough of this. All we can figure is that someone miscalculated.)

Russell installs quarter-round trim to hold the windows in place

While Russell had been down at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Jackson buying quarter round, Lowe’s had been up at the building site delivering our long-awaited new front door, back door, and sliding glass doors.

Lowe's delivers our long-awaited doors

It was now late afternoon, and Gail and Matt had finished installing glass. While Russell continued to cut and install quarter-round, Gail and Matt took a try at installing the new front door.

Step one was to remove the old (incorrect) front door that we had temporarily installed during our last trip. Step two was to put the new front door in place. Step three was to discover that the new front door was slightly smaller than the old front door, and did not fit snugly in place. Step four was to figure out what to do about it.

Gail and Matt looked for bits of scrap wood that could be used to frame the new front door. They even dismantled the old front door in hopes of re-using some of the wood. Unfortunately, the result of this was that not only did the new front door still not fit, but we could no longer use the old front door as a temporary fix.

After a promising start to sealing the house, we were back to putting up plastic sheets to cover the front door opening. Subsequent tasks on the list proved just as frustrating.

The back door had a similar problem. With the 2x6” piece of footer wood in place, the door was too large. With the footer removed, the door was too small. (We could not find any 1x6” wood, despite looking all over the site.) Matt even tried rasping the 2x6”, but that proved to be fruitless.

Gail was just as frustrated by the sliding glass doors. She had ordered “retro-fit” doors, which are slightly larger and have no mounting flanges. Gail had made this decision based on conversations with both Topsider and Lowe’s, as well as measuring our door openings and noting that we already had quarter-round trim around the openings (which a flange would cover).

Lowe’s had delivered “new” doors. When Gail called them, they explained that the “new” doors should work fine; all we had to do was take a knife and cut off the flange.

In practice, we discovered that this would not be so simple. As with the back-door, we discovered that the piece of 2x6” footer wood in each doorway made them too small for the doors. However, we could not remove the footer wood without destroying the quarter-round exterior trim.

So the question was, should we:

  1. Remove the flanges from the doors and keep the quarter-round on the doorways?
  2. Keep the flanges on the doors and remove the quarter-round from the doorways?
  3. Remove the quarter round from the doorways, cut the footer, then re-install the quarter round?

The larger problem was that we currently had four incorrect sliding glass doors being stored upstairs that had to come downstairs. Similarly, we had four correct sliding glass doors being stored downstairs that had to go upstairs. And we couldn’t quite figure out how to do any of that.

We decided to delay any action on the sliding glass doors until another time. We decided to delay any action on the back door until another time. And we decided to delay any action on the front door until another time.

Our new front and back doors... still awaiting installation...

By the time we left at mid-day on Sunday, we were all pretty frustrated. On the plus side, we had finished installing and trimming all of the fixed-pane windows downstairs. On the minus side, the front and back doorways -- as well as all four of the upstairs doorways -- were still covered in plastic sheeting.

One pleasant surprise was that Matt donated the nice, large television he had brought up. So whenever we next come up, we will have a better viewing experience than the small PC screen that we have been using to watch DVDs. That is, if we have any breaks between installing doors all over the place.

The weekend's accomplishment: the last eight fixed-pane windows have been installed downstairs


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