Part 2 of restoring my home’s original wood windows. Part 1 is here.
Setting the glass means getting handsy with some glazing putty. Now some contractors say you can lay the glass into the rabbit using caulking or an adhesive. But I feel like that is a shortcut. The professionals who have been restoring windows for a while make a bed of the same putty that’s used on the outside of the glass, which is how wood windows would have been assembled originally 100 years ago. Recommended by all the pro’s, I use Sarco Glazing Putty, type M. I found it easy to work with, kind of like play dough. Working it like play dough for a minute or so with my hands makes it so much softer.
I lay an even thickness of putty along the rabbit on the inside the sash, using more than I need. I just move a ball of putty around the rabbit, pressing it in a few inches at a time with my palm. It’s a little messy, and it results in a lot of excess, but I wan’t squeeze out so that’s ok. Then I lay the glass on top. As carefully as I can, and often while holding my breath, I slowly work my hands around the perimeter of the glass, pressing firmly to set the glass into the putty. Also as carefully as I can, I use my glazing tool to press 2 or 3 glazing points into the groove on each side of the glass. I use these newer glazing points:
I think they are easier to set into place – and also because my first experience using the more original triangle glazier points resulted in slipping and cracking an original piece of glass, at which point I nearly gave up. (Instead I found an old glass window sash at a yard sale and was able to cut this piece of glass to fit.) The squeeze out putty can be scraped off and re-used, but using more than enough is important so that the glass makes a tight seal. Then I kind of repeat the process of pushing more putty into the rabbit with my palm, working my hand around the entire sash. I first use a glazing knife to simply push the putty tight into the groove, then it’s time time tool it smooth.
Tooling the putty is an art. Especially in the many videos online of professionals who can flawlessly tool an entire window in seconds. I spend a few minutes on each side of the glass, pressing the putty firmly into place while trying to achieve a smooth texture. Corners are a pain in the ass, I have yet to “master” a corner, but I’m getting better on each window.
Once the putty is tooled smooth – or as close as I can get it without losing my patience – I clean up the oily residue the putty leaves on the glass. This step is kind of fun, like painting only using a white powder called (what else), whiting. It’s the same whiting the professionals use, ordered online from the same company that sells the glazing putty. My understanding is that it’s pure limestone powder – it’s not cheap, but it goes a long way. With a very soft brush it really does clean the oil residue off of the glass that the putty leaves behind. It also skins the putty to encourage it to dry faster in prep for painting.
(I feel the need to insert here that yes, I have had to order many of these window restoration supplies and materials through the internet. The hardware stores around me don’t sell and can’t get many of these products. With as much time and energy I’m investing into these windows, I don’t want to substitute on inferior quality materials and take a chance of lessening how long these repairs last.)
Now onto painting – I’ve read a few different opinions, but the professionals I worked with said that using a good latex paint does not require priming the putty – the putty is manufactured to accept paint. For paint, I went by the recommendation of The Craftsman Blogger (an incredible resource for all things old house restoration!). Instead of a regular exterior latex, I went with Sherwin Williams’ Porch & Floor Enamel. It is a latex paint, but it is formulated to dry to a hard durable finish and unlike many latex paints, it doesn’t stick to other painted surfaces once cured.
I chose my paint colors for the outside of the window to stand out. Although I couldn’t tell the original color of the outside frames, while scraping paint from the sashes I could see that most original coat of paint was actually black. I love to see old houses with colorful window & frame combinations, and I really believe the “all white” or “all beige” window & trim combinations that plague so many homes is a negative result of the replacement window industry.
Although not black, I did choose a dark color for the sashes and a lighter color for the frames.
In my mind, I’m picturing a finished product something like this:
I had to work up an entire exterior color scheme before I could decide on paint colors, even though I’m quite awhile away from painting the outside of my house. But planning ahead, I was able to pinpoint the right colors for the outside of the windows. I decided on SW7069 Iron Ore for the sashes:
and SW 6105 Divine White for the window frames.
It looks more blue in this photo below, but in person its a deep navy/charcoal.
Now the secret to a long lasting window restoration? When painting the angled surface of the glazing putty, it is essential that the paint actually goes just a little bit onto the glass around the entire perimeter. Even if only 1/16 of an inch, lapping the paint onto the glass seals the putty to the glass and, from what I’ve read, makes the difference between a glazing job that lasts 5 years and one that lasts 25+ years. So many people finish their paint job with a glass scraper and scrape off the excess paint to make a perfectly clean line at the glazing putty. This ruins that seal the paint creates.
After 2 coats of paint, I wait a full week to make sure all the paint & putty is cured completely, then it’s time to put the windows back together. I bet I spent at least 3 weeks with each window tore apart. Like I said earlier, it’s all the waiting in between priming, glazing, and painting that takes the longest. Plus the fact that I get most of my work done on the weekends, so M-F of a full work week doesn’t see much progress either.
At this point I’m close to putting the window back together, but there are still a few more steps to ensure the window is air-tight. These include the original type of weatherstripping as well as 2 different types of modern weatherstripping.