What up party people? Does anyone still say that or is it just me? Wait, don’t answer that. This is Sarah again from WALDOMIDCENTURY and I’m so grateful that y’all are following along the path of home repair with us up here in Wisconsin. If you missed the first few posts, check out the first, second and third ones here. Now, let’s get down to business shall we?
They say titles of posts should be entertaining and real. They should be attention grabbing and honest so they strike a chord with folks and allow them to identify with the writer before you ever begin. With this in mind, I had a hard time choosing between what’s above and the alternate version, “The Time The Neighbors Across The Street Pulled Out Lawn Chairs and Snacks and Watched Us For Two Hours Like We’re an Episode of Family Comedy T.V.” But somehow, it just didn’t roll off the tongue as well, but it’s equally true. This week I’d like to chat a bit about the lessons that we learn in life the hard way like: touching a hot burner or thinking you can leave the house without a bra on just to run to the store for a few things, because it won’t matter you won’t see anyone you know (wrong. so very. very. wrong. you’ll see all the people. ALL THE PEOPLE!). For us, one of the hardest lessons we’ve ever learned took place quite literally one year ago yesterday — aww, the anniversary of when we should have known better to install windows on a limited time schedule and on a day that’s expecting rain and major thunderstorms.
Yeah, I KNOW… when you say it like that, it’s OBVIOUS right? Like, who installs windows when the words tornado and hail are being thrown around? That’s just cuckoo-banana-crackers right? And like all well laid plans and ideas, they’re flawless, until the moment they aren’t — and you find yourself with a bleeding hand, a broken nose and rain shooting into your front room at ghastly, gushing rates until you can muster the courage to stand outside on a ladder in the middle of a lightning storm to plastic up the gaping hole. Did I mention the dog peed on the plastic 30 minutes later? Well of course he did. Why would he not?! Ok, here’s how it started…
Remember back at the beginning of this series when I mentioned that we’ve installed all new windows in our home over the last year? Well the short of that story is that my husband had been asked by friend who rent out storage units to remove all the items left after a tenant didn’t pay their bill. He could keep whatever treasures he wanted as long as he found a way to dispose of the rest. Challenge accepted! Most was trash, trucker logs, furniture and housewares that were so cootie-rific that they walked themselves to the curb/burn pile — but at the back of this particular locker were 14-20 white, double-hung windows and their screens. Hellooooooo nurse! And by nurse I mean gold. And by gold I mean windows. You get the idea.
The windows weren’t the exact size as the ones they’d be replacing, but they were free and kept the cold Wisconsin winters out better than the ones that were currently installed. Even if it meant we’d be replacing them a few years down the road, that’s a few years that I don’t freeze my bahooty off when it drops to 30 below or sweating my booblets off in summer as NONE of our existing windows were able to be opened due to their geriatric age and condition. Even though the summers are relatively mild here up north, it’s like a hot dog in a small car in the sun when none of your windows open!
Adrian spent the better part of two weeks replacing single windows throughout the house in rapid succession. He was a window installing machine. It was terrifying really, I’d make a run to the store for typical groceries or hardware store needs and I’d come home and we’d have a new window where an old one once lived. It was akin to going to summer camp as a kid and having your mom clean your room while you were away. You’d come home and it would be miraculous! (Though in this story insulation from the walls littered the floors and it wasn’t as tidy, but miraculous none the less!)
He installed the majority of the smaller windows and then came time for the big boys! We had two, triple sets of windows that were going to replace 4 single windows. They’d take 3.5 adults who weren’t afraid of heights. Adrian and myself rounded up a good friend of the family, our trusty neighbor on occasion to ensure we had a ride to the emergency room, and also enlisted the oldest son who was both excited to help use intense power tools and saddened that the weekend was in no way shape, or form going to involve video games.
Now, the basics behind installing a window are easy and can be broken down into these simple steps.
- Remove previous window sill and trim.
- Remove window.
- Alter size of window hole to accommodate new window.
- Place new window in hole and secure with screws (that’s what she said!)
- Fill the cracks and add your trim.
- Do a happy dance and partake in a delicious iced beverage.
See simple right? Right. It’s totally that easy. And although that’s 80% sarcasm, truth be told, installing a window isn’t as difficult as it seems. It’s one of those scary things that you think you’re not equipped to do because that’s “real” construction and not repainting a dresser, but trust me once you price the cost of having them installed for you and then watch a few YouTube videos, there isn’t much you can’t do! Installation quotes are a great source of courage and DIY spirit!
We decided to do the top windows first as they’d be the most difficult windows being installed (or so we thought) as they’re heavy and would involve rope, gross amounts of caffeine and working above your head on a ladder.
The process took us two days. We’d tackle the top floor first and the main floor windows the next. To start on things upstairs, we busted a giant hole in the wall, pushed the old windows to their death on the ground below (it’s like knocking over perfectly stacked boxes of Jello or cereal boxes at the store — weirdly cathartic. What? I can’t be the only one who does that?) and slid the new larger window up dualing ladders and into place. Trim was cut to fit, painted and we called it a night.
Exhausted and exhilarated that we didn’t screw it up, we took a look at the forecast for the next day and although it was supposed to storm later on (after 8pm), the rest of the day was supposed to be stupid muggy, but clear and so we made plans to start early and get things knocked out.
Feeling a bit professional (there may or may not have been strutting), at this point in time, we started in on the lower floor and the removal of its existing two windows. The previous day’s window took us roughly 6 hours to install, including making and painting our own trim. So, rightfully so, we assumed that this one would take less as we didn’t have as much ladder work and not working above our heads seemed 100% easier.
As we started to remove the glass from the existing windows, Adrian busted out the Sawzall and started cutting a larger hole around the windows. We were installing 3 where 2 once lived, and thus, we had to cut the existing wall back to the next stud on each side.
Now, for those who have never decided that it’s a good idea to CUT INTO THE WALLS OF YOUR HOME WITH A GIANT SAW…. rest assured, I can confirm for you that it falls into the category of cool on the outside and freaking out on the inside. Example:
External dialog: My husband is cutting into the wall now. There he goes, he cut into the wall. Cool, cool. We’re such awesome homeowners. He’s amazing and I trust him 100%! Isn’t marriage swell?
Internal dialog: HE’S CUTTING INTO THE FREAKING WALL YOU GUYS IS ANYONE ELSE SEEING THIS! THAT’S THE OUTSIDE WORLD RIGHT THERE! WHAT IF THIS DOESN’T WORK? WHAT IF…. BIRD! THERE’S A BIRD! A BIRD OUTSIDE MY WINDOW THAT’S NOT THERE BECAUSE WE CUT INTO OUR HOUSE LIKE IT’S HAVING ITS APPENDIX OUT! (apparently I yell a lot in my head)
Truthfully, there isn’t anything you can’t fix, but it’s still scary as you quickly realize that the things that surround your precious family and vintage camera collection are just some boards, a little plastic and um, that’s it. They aren’t 4 feet thick, they’re just a few inches and when you’re staring at your lilac bush 3 small inches from your library, it’s this weird adult moment where you’re so very grateful for the safety from the elements that this home, no matter what condition provides!
Story. Seriously people! You have to keep me on track here. So, I’m moving things out of the way to make sure the saw and the cords have proper clearance, when all of a sudden, my super hero husband drops the saw and grabs his hand. The saw hits the ground with a thud and we all freeze. Now, Adrian is the sort of guy that could be attacked by a great white shark and just put a little spit and superglue in it and call it good while carrying on with his day. So when he yelps or hollers, something is GENUINELY hurt. He calls for gauze, tape, steri strips and a pain reliever. That’s a lie, he’d never ask for the pain reliever, but I added that in along with all the neosporin our first aid kit could muster. He then told me that I was overreacting and took the smallest bandaid possible. You know the one I’m talking about, they’re the size of a Tic Tac and I’m pretty sure they only put them in the first aid kit for kid’s pretend ouchies. The saw had bounced and in an attempt to catch it and keep it in it’s groove in the wall, he caught the end with teeth. Ouch. Luckily it didn’t cause any nerve or muscle damage, but had ripped a large slash down most of his dominant hand. He let me use larger bandages but nothing fancy. That’s when I realized that by default, this project was now up to me. Insert comedic, nervous laughing here.
I put on my big girl pants and was like y’all — we got a window to take out, we can do this! Honey, you supervise from afar — we got this yo! One of us started sawing where he left off, I started popping out nails from a stud that would need to be removed and the other started pulling back lathe to expose the space for the new window. Now, in my adventures of nail removal, I learned a very valuable lesson this day: One should not EVER use a pry bar in front of our face. It’s obviously easier to see, but as that nail pops out, so does the pry bar and then CRACK! I smacked myself square in the nose with it all. My glasses smashed back against my face, everything got hot and hurt and I sort of fell into a pile on the ground. TKO goes to the pry bar. Ding ding!
I laid on the floor with a bag of whatever frozen vegetable looked like it had been in the freezer the longest, sobbing and sniffling, I took deep breaths, trying to count the revolutions on the ceiling fan in order to distract myself from the swelling. I swore I broke my nose. Surely, I broke my nose and judging by the pain it obviously must be gushing blood and turning black and blue, but alas, after mustering the will power to stand, I checked the mirror it was none of those things.
Deduction: I am obviously a giant, dramatic baby. Nothing appeared to have happened. I then convinced myself that I couldn’t be that hurt and my job of project motivator and coordinator must carry on! I rallied the troops while I changed my shirt as it was dripping in melted stir-fry vegetable juice (ew gross) and took a selfie like any respecting human. Instagram or it didn’t happen.
Adrian of course wasn’t staying away from the action and we all rallied and popped that window right. There we stood, feeling all triumphant, gazing out over the hole that was left in it’s place. That’s when there was a collective breath gasp as we realized that the storm that wasn’t coming in 8 hours time. It was coming now. Like, in 20 minutes now, now. Like PANIC NOW! During the multiple rounds of commotion we hadn’t realized that the front had shifted directions and that doom, gloom and all sorts of horrible things were about to rain down upon us! MOVE PEOPLE!
Scrambling started happening as we had a 7′ hole in our house that wasn’t protected in any way, shape or form. We ran for the garage (something I usually reserve only for being chased), grabbed a giant roll of plastic sheeting, dualing ladders, and a tack hammer. With two folks on the inside and two on the outside trying to maneuver the plastic, the rain started to pour. It was that insulting kind of rain that is fast and furious and leaves you marveling at how sharp raindrops can actually feel!
We hadn’t had time to level the ladders, things were slippery and rocky and thus we ended up letting the inside folks take care of hanging out the hole (giggle) and tacking in the plastic at the top while we finished up the bottom on the outside. Was it pretty? No. Was it effective? Sorta? It was better than nothing and we all sat there wet, wounded, some of us had fuzzy vision puffy cheeks that smelled of year old freezer veggies — we were exhausted, wounded and all of the wind has been sucked from our sails. The boys went to the next room to collapse on the sofas while I stood there wondering if this is what adult life is like? And as if by cue, the dog enters the room, sniffs this foreign plastic material, shrugs his shoulders and has himself a little sprinkle tinkle. Can you see me making unimpressed face? Because I’m totally making it right now.
The rains cleared and we finished the window install by the light of the moon as we made memories of mopping floors and looking past the superficial (like the part where none of the lights in the room worked making it crazy frustrating to see what one was doing) because nothing could stop us now. Not wind, not rain, not disobedient dogs or stupid pry bars — this is the story of real life. I wanted to make sure I shared it as not much can be worse than this series of unfortunate events in conjuction with one another, which should make any window replacing job you tackle seem extra easy. You’re welcome. Oh, did I mention that 8 months later once I got in to see a doctor that wasn’t in the Urgent Care center she asked when I broke my nose and why I never had it reset and because of it I have to perpetually take allergy meds so I can breathe? I’m secretly hoping I’ll be the first female Darth Vader. Luuuuke, I am your lesson learned the hard way!