Monday, April 7, 2014

Removing Glass Block / Using OUTSIDE Windows INSIDE

With another show season come & gone (the three months I'm working like crazy on ShowSpan shows), I spent my first two days off overly excited to get back to housework, buying materials for several different projects.

The first was the removal of the glass block from the master bedroom and the installation of updated windows. Becky and I went to Lowe's to replace some curtains that the dog had destroyed in a fit of panic (I mean, she REALLY had to poop), and decided to look at some windows, just to see what was available. Because they're interior, we didn't need anything crazy, just something somewhat sound-proof that could be opened to allow heat from the radiant system downstairs to filter up. We had talked about getting something antique, but with kids, and the windows being as low to the ground as they are, that's just asking for them to shatter at some point.

Here's a photo from when we first moved in, of the other side that I'd removed randomly before we even put the floor in:


We had talked about just adding trim and leaving the block, but it's pretty outdated block. Now, why wouldn't we just wall it in? Two reasons - one, like I mentioned before, there's only heat on the main floor, so as many openings in these as possible, the better, so that the heat can travel up through the atrium and into the rooms (we usually use a fan in the doorway to move the heat in or the cold out). Two, there are no exterior windows in either room, so the glass allows sunlight to filter through and not make you feel like you're in a dungeon.

We found a 48"x48" window with a flange for $150, and I'd spent so much time thinking and searching and trying to get an idea of what to do with these openings, that we just bought them rather than wasting any more time. And with that plan in place, we went right home and got to work removing the other block.

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Removing block can be tricky, especially when you're trying to preserve them for some other application. I'd like to be able to use them in the studio, or in a potting shed, or some other project down the road. I managed to remove the other side without breaking a single block, and only ended up breaking one on this removal, so I think that's pretty good.

I started in the corner - the hardest part is the first block on each row. I took a hammer and chisel and just started chipping away at the sides of the mortar on the first block. After a while, it started to loosen. On the other window, I had the rubber mallet from the flooring nailer that I used to rock the block back and forth to get it out. I did not have that this time, and instead used my shoe as a buffer and hit the block with the hammer. I got lucky and didn't break one with this method, but I'm impatient and didn't want to take the time to go get one.


Sorry I didn't make the bed, and sorry that my finger seems to be in all these shots. I'm apparently new at this.

After the first block is removed, the rest of the row is pretty easy. I chipped out the center mortar piece, where four blocks meet, to allow the next block to move both side to side and back and forth, and the first row was done. Becky pointed out that the mortar was hard enough to possibly scratch the floor, and our favorite canvas dropcloth was on the garage floor, soaked from the melting snow infiltrating the garage, so we grabbed sheets and a comforter to act as a dropcloth.

On the third row, I tried to crack the mortar from the top by tapping it with the hammer, so that I'd have a starting point for the chisel, and in doing so, I heard a crack and a hiss and I knew I'd broken one.  I don't recommend this unless you're ready to clean up a lot of chipped glass. They break into shards, and makes it difficult to work around to remove blocks around it.

We traded off chipping away and watching our 8-mo old son, and soon enough we were down to the last two rows. I was tired of being careful and just ready for it to be done, so I braced myself against our bed and kicked the last two rows out.  None of those blocks broke, so it was successful in letting out frustration, as well as not being terribly destructive. I think doing it sooner would have broken a few just as a result of the height they'd fall from.


There's a fingerless shot of the completed removal. It was pretty weird to stand in the master bedroom and be able to see almost the whole upstairs, since the other side had the same opening.

So that was all on Friday, April 4 - on Sunday, I had my father-in-law, Paul, over to problem solve and figure out how to get the frames prepped and the windows in. Since I hadn't actually brought them upstairs to fit them in and see, I was assuming the worst. It was in fact the complete opposite. We put the window in, and the holes in the flange was perfectly lined to the wood frame. I had to add a 48"x4.5" piece to the top of each opening, since there were only three sides that had been framed, but that was easy enough, since I had some 3/4" plywood laying around, I just ripped a couple of pieces on the table saw and brad nailed them into place.

When we took all the drywall out of the kitchen, I kept all those screws, being the packrat that I am, so I grabbed that bucket to finally reuse them as I'd intended.  Once they were centered, Paul held them in place while I put the screws in.


They couldn't have been more perfect. I hadn't planned on trimming them out right away, but since the install went so quickly, I figured I might as well. Because they are square, I knew I had to have eight identical pieces of trim, and had recently learned about making and using a stop block for the miter saw when needing to make identical cuts. Once we got the math figured out (the inside of the 45 degree miter needed to be 49", so we had to figure out the outside measurement to use the stop block properly), we made all our cuts.  We placed the first piece above the window, centered it, and nailed it into place with a single nail through the center - this allowed us to pull it out if we screwed it up, as well as allowing the piece to shift up or down if needed. We put in the two sides the same way, and the bottom piece fit perfectly. We finished nailing the pieces in, did the other window, and before long we were done.


The casing is the same as the doorways, and it's just primed, so it'll need to be painted after we fill in a few gaps with some caulk.


The next trick will be to fill all the gaps on the other side and casing that in as well. We also need to decide on how to frost them, or whether we just add roman shades, but for now, it's great to no longer have the glass block!
 

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