Renovation: Four Guys, a Forklift, and One Big Window

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Thursday, the hottest day this past week, was replace-the-dining-room windows day. That's the last in this batch of new windows for my wonderful but long-neglected house.  

We didn't pick the hottest day of the week on purpose. Thursday just happened to be when the stars aligned for my wonderful contractor, Jeff Durham, to have three helpers, plus the big forklift needed to move the 500-pound window-unit in place. Through my backyard. 

(The photo at the top of the post is pre-window-removal. You can see why I wanted to replace those particular windows: the right-hand one, a 60-year-old double-paned window, is so cloudy from having leaked decades ago that it's like seeing through a scratched lens. The left-hand window, while clearer, has an inoperable awning window with a rotted frame.)

The windows were built as a single unit, which complicates removal. As does the mid-century modern drywall "return," a rounded metal curve that conceals the drywall edge next to the window, without the need for additional trim. I love that clean, simple look. And its hard to duplicate if damaged.

Jeff, who I am convinced can do anything related to house construction or destruction, carefully Sawzalled (Yes, that is a verb!) between the old window unit and that metal bullnose to preserve it. And then he and Bo, a former construction guy turned personal trainer at the local gym who has been helping Jeff with my window-replacement, cut the awning windows out, and carefully removed the upper picture windows. 

Each picture window itself weighed over 100 pounds, so just hauling them to the dump trailer was no small task. Now I had a big rectangular hole in my wall, and the real fun began.

I can see clearly now... But it's a bit open to weather and flies!

The new windows--same style, also built as a unit--were in my garage. Getting that window unit out of the garage and around to the back of the house involved all four guys and a four-wheel drive forklift. 

First the guys muscled that window-unit onto the forklift basket. 

And then off Jeff drove, with Matt and his brother Jake balancing the window unit! Down the street, around the corner, up the alley...

And through the backyard (if you wondered why I haven't gotten started landscaping the back yard, the need to drive heavy equipment across it for our various renovation projects is why). 

Over the spruce stump, under the house eaves... 

And into the big hole in the wall. It fits!

New dining room windows in place. 

The new windows are so clear, and so much more efficient than the old ones (on a hot day, I can feel the heat through the old panes) that now I want to replace the bank of three windows in the living room area. Which is a big gulp! for my renovation budget. 

That new dining room window unit cost almost $2,000 just for the windows, not including renting the forklift and the guys' time, plus exterior trim and painting. I figure the living-room unit will cost around $3,000 and need the same forklift but probably at least one more guy. But oh, my! are the new windows beautiful and a huge improvement... 

So I've asked Julie at the Cody branch of Wyoming Windows & Cabinets for a quote. And while we're at it, there's the single unit in the breakfast room, and five awing windows I'd like to replace too: one in my office, one in the powder room off the kitchen, and three downstairs. 

Renovating this long-neglected house is neither simple, nor cheap. But solving the challenges is so satisfying. And it is such a joy to see and feel a once-beautiful place come back to life. Restoring this house restores me too--it exercises muscles, mind, and creativity, and fills my soul. I feel very, very fortunate to be able to do this work. 

Richard Cabe (1950-2011), sculptor, economist, father, husband, brother, friend, and the love of my life

I only wish the guy in the photo above could see it. He would so enjoy having his hands and creative brain on this project! (He's hand-hammering a steel bowl there, for a firepit he sculpted from a ton of granite boulder. Thanks to Harry Hanson, half of the ridiculously talented duo of Sterling & Steel for teaching Richard how to work steel.)

I've had Richard even more on my mind than usual because today would be his 67th birthday.

Happy Birthday, my love! Thank you for introducing me to design and building--I learned so much from watching you. You'd be surprised, and I hope pleased too, if you could see me now, Tool Girl, happily engaged in house renovation. 

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