Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Window sunglasses

I've been working from home since the Coronavirus lockdown started.  This is the, um, 11th week, I think?  I've lost track. Anyway, the first month or so, it was delightfully gloomy and rainy outside, and I really enjoyed my home office setup in the living room where I could look out the window and watch the rain and the birds and the neighborhood activity.  However, once the spring rains ended and the sky returned to its usual blue and the sun returned to its usual excruciating SoCal brightness, I found that I could not keep the blinds open during the daytime without giving myself eye strain.  It was just too bright outside.  Plus, I was reminded how strongly the sun beats down on morning side of the house.

My new windows and door, since they are modern, have double panes and a UV and heat-reflecting film on them of some sort.  However, the living room still has its historically-charming original inward-swinging casement windows, which I painstakingly restored and weather sealed several years ago.  The glass, of course, is just a single pane of plain glass.  In fact, they have the historical wavy window glass that resulted from older manufacturing techniques.  They used to manufacture window glass in large cylindrical tubes which then had to be reheated, flattened, and cut to size, complete with waves, bubbles, and other imperfections.  Historical purists really love this stuff, although I'm not quite sure why.  I find it kind of charming, but although I'm mostly ambivalent about it, I would sort of rather have an unobstructed view and be able to look at birds through the window with my binoculars.  However, I'm not about to replace all the casement windows in the house anytime soon.

But, to continue working comfortably from home as the summer glare and heat increases, I needed to do something.  So, I bought some heat and UV-resistant window film that you can install on existing windows.  It's the Gila Heat Control Titanium Window Film, which I ordered from Home Depot along with an installation kit.  A lot of reviewers said they had a lot of trouble installing it, but I found the process to be very easy as long as I followed the steps shown in their how-to video and used the provided tools.  Basically you just thoroughly squirt the window and the film with their soap-like bonding chemical and then iron out the bubbles with a squeegee and trim the edges.

The photo below shows the front windows. The left one has the film installed, and the right one does not (yet).  You can see it makes a huge difference.  It's like having sunglasses on the window!  When the sun is actively hitting a window with the film on it, I can really tell a difference in how much heat is coming through.  And my eye strain problems are now gone.  I can keep the blinds open during the work day.

All in all, I'm quite happy with my decision here, although if I had to do it again, I think I would have picked this other Gila product that is supposedly less dark in color.  The film I chose is a bit darker and more reflective than I really wanted. In the evening or on a gloomy day, it's pretty dim.

But, I think this will work out well.  Supposedly it's removable-ish if I decide I don't like it or some future owner doesn't like it.  My boss put something like this on his windows 15 years ago, and apparently it's held up and is still very effective, so that's a good sign.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Patio/porch conversion - a Coronavirus house project

Just like most people these last few months, I've been spending a lot of time at home thanks to the Coronavirus lockdown.  Somewhat on a whim, I decided to finally embark on a bit of creative destruction that I'd been considering for a long time.  I decided to remove the dingy old screens from the porch on the back of the house.

But wait, is it a porch?  Or a patio?  Or was it a porch and now it's a patio?  According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, a porch is "a covered shelter projecting in front of the entrance to a building", but I typically think of a porch as being raised off the ground.  A patio is "a paved outdoor area adjoining a house", but I typically think of a patio as being uncovered.  It seems not to quite fit the Platonic ideals of porchness or pationess, but I'm not feeling particularly pedantic today, so let's just say it used to be a porch, and now it's a covered patio and not worry too much about it.

Here's what it looked like originally:

It wasn't awful, but it was kind of dark and dingy, and it was always dusty and full of spider webs.  We don't really have that many bugs here, and the doors had kind of fallen apart a long time ago anyway.  I never used this space for anything, and I felt like it made the house even more disconnected from the backyard than it was anyway thanks to the add-on room.  Basically the space just didn't work for me.

So, one evening I starting pulling down screens.  It came right down with no problem, and most of the non-supportive wood beams were just nailed in and came right out as well with some prodding from a claw hammer.  Some of it was a little rotten...hooray.  I only had to break out the jigsaw to make a few strategic cuts.

You can see how nicely the space now connects with the backyard!

After removing all the detritus and pulling out about a thousand staples and rusty nails, I needed to do some touch-up painting.  If you refer back to the first picture, you'll see that some previous painter suffered a fit of indecision on the right-most column, started painting it green, and then kind of gave up.  I'll probably never know why.  Other areas now had exposed wood with no paint, and there was a gross and dirty stripe on the wall where the a beam had previously covered the siding.

One curious puzzle: The house's exterior siding is a dark green color, and there's a slightly lighter green used for accents around the windows and on the underside of the roof overhang.  For some reason, a previous painter had used this lighter green for the siding inside the porch (to the right in the photo), but the adjoining siding that was on the outside of the porch (to the left in the photo) was the darker green of the rest of the house.  I wanted to repaint the ugly stripe, but the two greens didn't match.  I decided to go with the lighter green and paint over the smaller darker green area so it would match the entire wall, rather than repainting the much larger section with the wrong green.

As a result the paint colors to the left and right of the back door now do not match. Can you tell?  The neighbor child (an 8-year-old) stopped by to examine my work one day (he was being good about social distancing), and he didn't notice. Even after I explained this paint color conundrum to him and pointed it out explicitly, he still could not tell the difference between the two sides, so I guess it passes the test.  You can kind of see it in the photo here, but I bet you wouldn't notice if you hadn't been told.  (But wow, doesn't that new door look nice even a year after it was installed?)

So here's what it looks like now after removing the screens and decorative wood, repainting strategic areas, and cleaning thoroughly.  I've been doing my weekly now-virtual tap dancing class out there. (Of course, I said I didn't need the screens because we don't really have bugs, and I've now been thoroughly bitten up by mosquitoes...)

It's not 100% done.  There are still some bolts sticking out of the concrete that I cannot remove myself.  There are also some horizontal wood boards along the edge that I want to get rid of, but I dare not touch them because they go under the support beams for the roof.  I will need to hire somebody with more skill than me to either carefully cut the wood or to replace it with fresh timber because it's a little rotten.

I also want to get a comfy porch swing now that I have a place to put it.  I need to get rid of this pile of wood, too.  The neighbor cat agrees.