Category Archives: weatherproofing

Spring-ization

We have winterization in our lexicon, but not the springtime equivalent. Regardless, that’s how I spent part of my Saturday.

I had four more windows replaced a couple weeks ago (both bathrooms, guest room and upstairs hallway – the latter used to funnel cold air directly into my bedroom), so I had no storm windows to put away this year. Now, I’ve replaced all the windows in the living areas of the house. All that remain are the back hallway, basement and front porch, none of which are a huge priority.

Tulips! And daffodils!

I also cleaned out a winter’s worth of detritus from my flower beds and backyard. I filled an entire yard bag with dead leaves and other junk, and was thrilled to find stuff already sprouting underneath. In the front beds, I had seen tulips beginning to grow, but after removing the leaves, I found daffodil sprouts, too. Along the back fence, I found the early shoots that will become June’s tiger lilies.

Inside, I drained and cleaned the humidifiers, and now they’re air drying until I store them for the summer. I dusted and organized.

Still to do:

The missing piece was finally found in the backyard once the snow melted.

Fix the soffit that the blizzard tore off the side of the garage. Though it’s not very high, it requires a ladder, and thus I won’t tackle this quick fix unless I have someone spot me. Especially at the back of the house, I’m wary of doing anything where I could fall and no one would notice.

Close, but not quite latchable

Fix the frost heave/front gate situation. A couple years ago, a frost heave appeared in the middle of my driveway. As soon as the weather warmed, it collapsed back into itself, enabling me to seal it and move on. A couple weeks ago, when I first tried to close the gates, I couldn’t get the gate over the heave. Now, it’s collapsed, so I can close the gates, but they’re misaligned so they don’t meet in the middle and latch. I’m weighing my options: raise up the gates (oh-so-heavy and cumbersome; would require a second and potentially third set of hands) and install new hinges, sand off the bottom of the gate that currently rests on the ground, or just leave hope that the warm weather adjusts the driveway a bit more.

Put away the boots and clean, clean, clean. I’m afraid that putting away my winter boots right now might tempt fate, so I’ll hold off at least another week on this one. I also need to pull out the hose, turn on the water and get ready to plant.

And I can’t wait to drag the patio furniture out for the year.

What do you have to do for spring?

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So very cold

The heat is blasting, and so are the humidifiers. We’ve got a sheet of ice caked onto the downstairs bathroom and office windows – but finally, the temperature has broken zero!

Times like this I miss my old radiator-heated apartments where I didn’t have to pay for heat and it was nearly too warm.

The Outdoors Beckons

Wednesday, it got nice out. I was working from home, and by the time I went out to retrieve the garbage cans just before noon, the sun was shining and it was nearly 70 degrees. I stripped the removeable caulk from the porch windows and opened them wide. The stale winter air started to seep out and though cool, it felt great. I opened all the windows I could (bedroom, kitchen), and Collette went to town investigating the fresh air and singing birds.

The rest of the week, I cracked those same windows and watched the green tulip leaves grow taller and taller. I even slept with the windows cracked and was shocked awake by the birds at 4 AM. We went to a Cubs game one night, and grilled another night. It’s really spring!

I was hosting Bunco Friday night, so all week I was in full spring cleaning mode. Airing everything out helped a bunch, though Friday evening wasn’t warm enough to use the porch as I had optimistically hoped when I offered to host months ago. So things were a bit cozy, but went off without a hitch.

Saturday loomed rainy and the day alternated between sun and showers. I went to Kohl’s and bought a springy new welcome mat and kitchen towels. Then, during a sunny period, I took advantage of hooking the hose up for the season to scrub the cat’s box (note to self: must install utility sink before winter!), then vacuumed out the car and found 93 cents. I even opened up the basement windows to air that out and vacuumed up cobwebs and dust. In full spring mode, I stripped my bed and switched out the fuzzy winter blanket for the lighter summer blanket. Then we invited friends over and grilled again.

I spend most of today outside, potting dianthus (red flowers) for my hanging baskets on the porch, cleaning up more leaves and detritus around the yard, and planting snapdragons and petunias in the front flower beds. The latter may come back to bite me, as it’s still a bit early in the season – a last frost could be looming. But it was good to be outside in the sunshine, and the beds look great – still no tulip flowers, but they’re getting close.

This evening, I decided to de-caulk the rest of the windows and play the great screen-window matching game while putting away the storm windows.

Most of the windows went pretty quickly. At first, I used a flat-head screwdriver to pull up the removeable caulk I couldn’t get with my fingers, but quickly realized I was nicking up the windows. So I switched to a putty knife (genius!) and knocked out the rest of the porch, the office and the back hallway.

The living room window proved far, far more difficult though. It’s very old and leaky, and doesn’t even stay in place when it’s not locked – the top window slips an inch when the bottom is open. But since it’s a nice wood window – with beautiful finish that matches all the downstairs woodwork – I know it will be a more expensive replacement. Since it’s so craptastic, I used a ton of caulk that has proved a bit excessive, as I can’t get it up. The gap was sizable, so I really slathered on the goop which has now taken up permanent residence. I was getting closer after a solid two hours of careful, gentle scraping, but my hand is numb, so I’m taking a break. This is further motivation to replace that window – and if I do it at the same time as ripping out the air conditioner and replacing it with a window, they’ll match.

Overall, it was a very productive weekend.

Where ladybugs go to die

Last night, in a fit of spring energy mixed with winter disgust, I mopped the floors and pulled down some of the window plastic. Everything seems much brighter. The tile is a much cheerier sandy orange. Though I’ve gotten pretty good at shrinkwrapping my windows so you can’t really tell, the film is indeed a film. Now that it’s gone, the whole room seems brighter.

I was as careful as I could be removing the plastic. Even, so, I accidentally peeled up a couple chunks of windowsill paint in my bedroom. Fortunately, they’re windowsills I painted when I moved in (and removed the baseball wallpaper), so I have plenty of spare paint. It should be a relatively quick touchup some dreary day.

However, I was amazed – shocked, nearly – at the volume of dead ladybugs trapped between the window glass and the film! Most windows had at least three or four beetle bodies, but some – namely the upstairs hallway and bathroom – had a dozen, easy. In the fall, when they start coming in to the house, Collette has a field day chasing them, trapping them under her paws, and crunching them as they try to fly away. She didn’t seem too interested in the long-dead carcases, though.

I wonder how they got there, though. My seals were pretty tight, so they must have wriggled in through both the storm window and the glass. The storm windows wouldn’t surprise me, since they’re old and don’t really fit snugly. The glass itself is a bit concerning, though. Both those windows are on my list to replace sooner rather than later, and they’re exactly the same size and age – big and old.

I can just imagine a whole line of them seeking shelter from the cold October nights, crawling towards the house, hurtling the storm window, and glass before getting trapped by the film.

Unless, of course, I’ve disproved Redi and Pasteur. Maybe there really is spontaneous generation and my house should be a research site!

The Fallacy of Rope Caulk

Every year, I spend a lot of time trying to weatherproof my leaky windows. This stretches back to the apartment days, when my ancient bedroom windows would rattle back and forth with the slightest breeze.

When I can find it, I like removable caulk. It goes on like normal caulk, but dries to the consistency of rubber cement. Come spring, it’s pretty simple to just peel it off, as long as you have enough patience to take your time and not accidentally remove the varnish or paint around the windows. Even so, it’s relatively pricey – especially when you consider how many old, drafty windows I have! – and can be hard to find. I found some very early in the season at Wal-Mart, but despite hunting, I didn’t find another tube until nearly Christmas at an Ace.

For the best possible weatherproofing, I use removable caulk, let it set, and then shrink wrap the windows. This combination works really well, and I use it in areas that it makes a huge difference – namely the living room and my office. In the very few rooms with new windows, I either don’t bother (kitchen, since the time I spend in there is often over a hot stove), or I only shrink wrap (my bedroom).

However, one of the biggest energy losers in the house is my lovely porch, or three-season room. With eleven windows, all of them old and drafty (and one cracked – on my spring project list), it leaks like a sieve. And the giant window between the porch and the living room allows a ton of this frigid air through, despite sealing that window. But it’s not worth the immense time and effort it would take to shrink wrap the whole room. So this year, I tried rope caulk. I’d used it before to middling success in my old apartment, so I bought a roll and spent a November morning wrangling it into place. It presses into place pretty easily- I used my fingers and a putty knife. But I’ve found it doesn’t stay put. Every time I go onto the porch to get my mail, there seems to be another piece of rope caulk on the ground, having fallen from its home. At first, I’d diligently search for its origin and lovingly replace it. But now, I don’t bother – and it seems fully half of what I originally installed has fallen. The cat is delighted – she sees the pieces, usually at least 6-8 inches long, as toys for her stealthy forays onto the porch.

It may be user error on the part of the installer – was it too cold that morning? – or maybe it’s just an inferior product. Ideally, I’d replace all eleven windows, but my limited window funds will be spent on rooms I spend more time in – namely the living room. But either way, I doubt I’ll use rope caulk again.

Stop the Rattling!

It’s still snowing. When I woke up (and decided to go back to sleep for two hours before working from home), there was snow mixed with sleet. The sleet slapped itself against the side of the house, pinging the aluminum siding. I looked out, saw cars sliding their way down the hill, and decided to stay put.

So I’ve been working in my home office all day. It’s a pleasant corner room – lots of daylight, cozy armchair for the cat, three big bookcases overflowing with books. It has two tall windows on separate walls. One had a fitting storm window. The other does not.

When I moved in, the taller of the two windows was sheathed in plastic. It kind of made sense, as I bought in April and the house was still winterized to an extent. One of my first activities (other than removing the baseball wallpaper from the master bedroom) was playing the great screen-window match game. They’ve replaced windows over the years, but apparently never thrown out any of the old storm windows or screens that don’t quite fit any window. I spent a long Saturday running up and down stairs, back and forth to the garage, trying to find the best fits. I went through the reverse process my first fall in the house house, searching for the right storm windows. This past spring, when making the switch again, I had the foresight to write the rooms on some windows (ie, “Guest room” or “upstairs bath”), but found I had nothing labeled for the taller office window.

As a result, despite my best efforts, I didn’t find one that fit very well. Sure, it blocks some of the wind, especially when coupled by the awesome removable caulk I used to seal it up. But today, as the wind howls, it rattles. Loudly. And often. I want to tape it into place to stop the rattling, but don’t want to break my perfect caulk seal. Nor can I really reach it from outside, not without a ladder, which isn’t happening in the driving snow.

My vow for next winter: don’t bother with a storm window. Caulk, shrinkwrap and call it a day.