Once a Flip Always a Flip

So, our next job is one that sprung on us in an unlikely way. A man in St. Petersburg hired us to re-glaze his historic windows and make storm windows for them. Easy enough. One thing about old windows is that they emerged to actually work really well with the house - with the structure as a whole. They do their job very well. That job? Keeping the outside outside and the inside inside.

Tragedy occurs when a person makes something that looks like a window and puts it in a place where a window would normally be, without understanding all the functions a window is supposed to serve. Does it look like a window? Yes. But does it perform as it evolved to perform? That’s the question to ask. What happens if it doesn’t perform? It’s merely a façade.

That’s what happened to us on this job here. Someone’s truth became manifest. Someone showed up to run the marathon but crapped out after only going a mile, just far enough away that nobody at the starting line could see him.

We knew going into the project that someone before us had reworked all the windows. We were re-glazing and repainting to make sure their work remained solid. They made some sashes and they did a pretty good job at that. I recognized the patterns and the set ups they used to make them, having used them myself in the past. True mortise and tenon joinery – I was impressed.

But that’s about as far as they could take it apparently. Because when it came time to put an actual window assembly together: sash, frame, and mechanics, they were caught with their pants down. What I didn’t realize going into the job is that the windows on the third floor weren’t originally there. Maybe the client did, but didn’t realize that when the people who initially flipped the house - who turned the third story attic into living space, removed the gable vents, built window look-a-likes, and put them where the gable vents used to be - didn’t actually know what they were doing. They were faking it, pocketing the money, and making everything look the part and leaving the burden of their fakery for the buyer to deal with, once they were long gone.

I should have been suspicious before. The house had been flipped, and once a flip, always a flip. The house has all the signs of a wannabe designer. They spend thousands of dollars on a single bathtub, several more thousand on a decorative tile floor, but couldn’t get the trim around the doors to look right. Downstairs are the most expensive scraped walnut floors money can buy, an exotic wood deck, alongside drywall screws holding the antique hardware to the antique door that had been painted with a roller.

The second and first floor windows were somewhat as they should be. Problems here and there, but problems nothing crazy. Third floor windows? Not only had they clearly not built entire window units before, they had especially not built radiused divided lite windows with the corresponding frame. At first glance they were pretty good, but all it took was a little poke here, a prod there and the house of cards came crumbling down. We discovered huge water infiltration problems. And where we had intended on attaching storm windows, we discovered the frames were built so that they wouldn’t allow us. In fact the term 'frame' may be a little generous. The windows incorporated sash and frame all into one unit, fused together, all now leaking and rotting.

The job came to a halt as we began navigating this new labyrinth, trying to find a light switch to unravel what actually happened. We immediately brought the client up to speed. He actually wasn’t surprised, and that makes sense, given that we happened to be working right along side the mold abatement people, who have the third floor half stripped of all the drywall so the walls can dry adequately.

So now we are tasked with restoring what should have been there in the first place. Windows that actually work with the house to direct water away, keeping the outside out and the inside in. It’s not like we haven’t done this before, but we usually get the heads up before we are two thirds through the job.

So today we started on two triple units with a radiused transom on top, and two huge radiused fixed sash, all built properly with proper frames, sash and mechanics. Crazy restoration I know. But solving the problem is what we came to do, and that often entails moving beyond and comfortable contract and verbal agreement.

We don’t just fix windows. We solve problems. It’s implied in our mandate, our core, in who we are. We are Wood Window Makeover, founders of the Artisan Army.

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