Monday, May 28, 2012

Be Still My Heart

Two cousins continued a tradition this Memorial Day.  One journeyed up from the south and the other down from the north.  They met each other in the middle, to visit together the graves of their ancestors.  But they added an extra stop this year, visiting the stone house that was in their family from 1901-1997.  

The cousins are on their respective ways back home right now. But they were kind enough to leave behind a memento of their family's years here.

That's the Einsel House, circa 1906.  The children are siblings, Carl and Norma Frankenfield.  The woman is probably their mother, Emma Frankenfield.

 For now this picture only graces the blog, but it's going to be framed and hanging on the dining room's west wall just as soon as I can get it enlarged and find an appropriate frame.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For You, Mom

You've been asking for another post here for a few weeks now and since you're on the opposite side of the country right now and any other gift will have to wait until you're home, here's an Einsel House post for you today.  Happy Mother's Day! : )

The basement windows at this house have been an issue as long as we have owned the place.  Previous owners raised the level of the yard in front of the house by about a foot, basically covering the basement windows on the west and north sides of the house.  When we bought the house the west facing basement windows (front of the house) had been removed and the holes filled with concrete.  The concrete is immediately obvious from inside the basement, but when outside the only evidence of the former windows still visible are the original window lintels, which are now right at the soil line.

The west facing basement window had not been removed, but it was in a sorry state when we bought the house.  Poor drainage coupled with a poorly sloped yard meant that whenever it rained water funneled to this window, pouring through into the basement below.  By the time we bought the house the sill for the window was completely gone and the two sides of the window frame were half rotted away.   The window itself was still in place, but we removed it in 2009 to stop it from further deterioration.  Then, because we had other more pressing issues during those late days of 2009, we temporarily "fixed" the resulting opening in the side of the house with a piece of foam board secured in place with liberal amounts of expanding foam.  (Classy, I know.) Outside, we covered the atrocity with a straw bale.

And so remained until this spring.  On one of our nice March days I pulled back the straw bale and dug out the long abused window.  Charles helped to break loose the foam board, and then we stood back and looked at the result:

Not very inspiring results for an afternoon of hard and dirty work.  But it was at least a starting point. 

(On a side note - I was surprised to uncover the poured concrete window well that is visible in the pictures.  It gives a good idea of the original level of the yard prior to it being raised by previous owners.) 

The nice weather in March gave way to a cold and wet April, so the straw bale (partnered with some plywood this time) went back over the gap in the house.  Meanwhile, I cleaned up the original three light window.  What had been the bottom exterior side was partially rotted, so I removed what was too far gone and treated what remained with a rotted wood stabilizer.  I also decided that when reinstalled I would rotate the window, so that the former exterior bottom (most exposure to water/weather) would become the interior top (least exposure to water/weather).  With the window primed and under one coat of paint I got to try my hand at glazing - and found I rather enjoyed it.  Luckily we had enough correctly sized panes of old glass to put two panes in each of the window's lights.  Another coat of paint, and the window was ready to go.  The frame was another story.

After taking the pictures above, I pried out what remained of the two sides of the frame.  They were too far rotted to try to save.  Each piece was a true 2" thick and 11" wide.  I called the local specialty lumber shop, but the owner said he could manage either 2" thick OR 11" wide, but in order to do both he would need to glue pieces together.  That didn't sound like a good idea for wood that was going to be used in a basement window frame below grade.  At my mom's suggestion (Hi, Mom!) she and I went back up to the old Second Empire house we salvaged bricks from last year.  This time we salvaged wood.  While we didn't find any 2x11 boards, we did bring home a 2 x 9 1/2 that we thought we could make work.

With mom's help, we cut pieces for the new window frame.  Under the gray weathered surface of that old wood was beautiful quarter sawn oak.  I commented to mom that you'd never find 2 inch thick quarter sawn oak used to frame a house today.

Back at the Einsel House, I decided to dry fit the pieces we had cut for the new frame before painting them.  That turned out to be a good idea.  At some point during that long afternoon I decided that it was definitely easier for the Einsel House's builders to build the stone walls around the already constructed window frame than it was for me to try to fit a new frame into the already constructed stone walls. When I finally got everything to fit together nicely, I pulled everything back out.  Since this wood will all be below grade I wanted to prime and paint all sides of each piece before installing them for good.

The remaining steps took almost another two weeks, but I can type them out much more quickly:

-seal, prime and paint (2 coats) the new sill and frame
-assemble frame in wall
-fill remaining gaps in top board with epoxy filler, sand, prime and paint (2 coats)
-install repaired window
-tuck point gap between the stone walls and new frame (I called our mason who gave me the correct mortar recipe for this step)
- build a stone retaining wall to bring the window well up to the current level of the yard

And, as of late yesterday afternoon, here is the "new" window:

I'm very pleased with this.  
So pleased I may even take my lunch outside today and eat it while admiring my work.  : )