Saturday, August 24, 2019

Unhinged and rehinged

Just about every house project ends up being more complicated than originally anticipated and takes twice as long.  However, I just completed a project where, for once, this was not the case.  In fact, it will probably take me longer to write up this quick post than it did to complete the project.

It seems like I've had a big string of recent house projects after not doing anything for a while.  I think it's because one thing leads to another.  I replaced some windows, and in doing so, triggered the need for some painting, which led to the realization that I should do some more painting.  Painting the window trim in turn led me to realize that two of my old inward-swinging casement windows had loose hinges.  These are the old windows that I painstakingly restored a few years ago, not the ones I just replaced.

Loose hinge
It's a little frightening to pull open your window and have it almost fall out of its frame, but that's basically what happened when I opened up a few that I don't open very often so that the painter could do his work.  The hinges on these windows were coming loose from the window frames because the screws holding the hinges in place were actually stripping out the old wood.  I tried tightening the screws, but they just weren't holding.  Plus, they were old flatheads that were filled with paint and pretty hard to work with anyway.

At first, I didn't know what to do.  I thought I'd have to hire a contractor to rehang my windows, and by the time I did that, I figured it might be cost effective to just replace them entirely with modern ones.  Hooray, spending more money!  But, thanks to the internet, I discovered that this problem is actually quite easy to solve.

To fix a hinge whose screw holes have been stripped out:

  • Take the hinge off. I actually had to rip mine out (carefully) because the screws were no longer operational.
  • Drill out the existing holes to 3/8 inch.
  • Cut up a 3/8 in dowel into small pieces.
  • Cover the sides of the dowel pieces in wood glue and shove them in the holes you just drilled out.
  • Let the glue dry for a while.
  • Re-drill fresh holes into the dowels and screw your hinge back in with fresh screws.
This turned out to be super easy and worked like a charm.  My windows are now fully operational and well secured in their frames.  I kept waiting for something to go badly, but it never did.  This is possibly the easiest project I've ever done.

Oh, er, I tried to get the paint off the hardware, but now it kind of looks worse than it did.  One day I really will give everything a bath in a chemical stripper, but not today.

Dowels stuck into screw holes. Glue drying.
New screws were badly needed.

Hinge (sans paint) secured into the dowels with fresh screws

Friday, August 23, 2019

Painting done correctly, and redwood trees

After my disastrous experience with the shoddy painters who ghosted me, I was left with a half-finished project and too much stress.  Luckily, I found another painter to dig me out of this mess.  Julian Garza came highly recommended by a neighbor and colleague, and I spent the time to thoroughly stalk him before hiring him to strip and paint the exterior window frames on the house and all the trim on the garage.  It took him forever, but he did it the way I wanted it done (the correct way), and he did a great job. (Of course, after my experience with the other guys, I was very up front about my expectations and was watching him like a hawk.)

He used a chemical stripper to remove the paint to reduce dust and wore a respirator, long sleeves, and chemical-resistant gloves the whole time.  Big change from the other guys who just happily sanded away and breathed it all in and made no attempt to control dust at all.  Once he'd gotten as much off as he could by scraping with the chemical stripper, he used a power sander to get the remainder off and smooth down the wood.

He also primed carefully with the right kind of primer, filled holes where needed, was careful of my hardware, and even carefully preserved the screw holes for my weather stripping so I could put it back up easily.

He started at 6:30am every day and finished up by about noon on account of the heat. Totally reasonable in my opinion just for his own comfort, but also, the chemical stripper and the paints just don't work properly above a certain temperature, and it was HOT some days (110F).

This project was a ton of work, even though it was only the trim and only the garage and half the house.  I am not eager to repeat this anytime soon.  I asked him hypothetically what it would take to strip all the siding and redo it, and he said it wouldn't be worth it and that it would be better to just replace the siding...

Anyway, the end product looks great.

Bathroom window: before
Bathroom window: after

My house is made of redwood.  I knew that before this project but hadn't really given it much thought, but with all the paint stripped off, you could see the deep red color of the wood.  They built houses here of redwood because it was strong and because termites don't eat it.

Redwoods (Sequoioideae) are magnificent trees native to California. They can be among the tallest, largest (by volume), oldest, and thickest-limbed trees. Take a moment to enjoy Wikipedia's "List of superlative trees", both for the trees and for the amusement factor that the page itself exists.  Redwoods make appearances in most of the superlative lists.

Redwood trees are endangered now, and I feel bad that the builders of my house contributed to this endangerment. But, similarly to how I feel about my mahogany floors, I'm glad that the wood was put to good use in an end product that can be preserved and valued for many generations.  True, the 99 years my house has been around is very short compared to the lifespan of a redwood tree, but hopefully my house can continue as a viable living space for at least another century or so.

I'll leave you with an amusing redwood tree photo from Forest Falls in the mountains near here. This redwood tree was like "Hey, there's rocks here where I want to grow. Oh well, I don't care." and just grew over them.