Work continues on the attic floor joists, but I had a whole day of above freezing weather on Sunday and put the first window in upstairs. I decided the easiest window to start with was the single window on the front of the house, rather than tackle the bay windows or one of the side windows that doesn’t have the convenient porch roof as a platform. Like the first floor, the windows in the second floor require a bit more effort than just removing the old and installing the new. Because our house is balloon framed, the existing windows are basically just attached to the sheathing with no studs involved. Since we’re putting two inches of rigid foam insulation on the outside of the sheathing, we need something a bit more substantial to attach the window and have it extend out two inches from the face of the house and bring it flush with the insulation.

Removing the old window took no tools and almost no time. The handful of nails in mostly rotted wood were reinforced by some caulk. I basically took the whole thing in two hands and ripped it out of the wall like a comic book villain takes a safe door from a bank. This window is directly above the first floor front door, so I had a nice level header to put things onto. I started by measuring to the center and then working from the stud on the left side. Technically it’s not exactly centered by about an inch, but I wasn’t about to remove the existing stud to shift it over. I added a jack stud, but discovered that the existing stud isn’t plumb. This is an example of how I’ve gotten better at working on my old house over the years, because in the first floor I actually wound up framing the whole opening and trying to fit in the window before I realized the existing walls weren’t square.


I shimmed the jack stud to get it straight, then continued with another full stud and jack stud on the other side. I built a foam-sandwich 2×6 header and put that above, then put in a sill and fit in cripples above and below. The next step was filling in sheathing, since the new window is a bit shorter than the old one. We’re lowering the second floor ceiling from 10′ to 9′ in order to gain more space in the attic, and I wanted the bottom high enough we can still put furniture in front of the window, so the new window is 60″ tall rather than 72″ or 80″ or whatever the old one is. With the wall re-framed, next I had to build the plywood extension, which extends from the inner edge of the wall to 2″ past the sheathing. Since it’s been a while since I’ve done a window like this (over four years), I forgot to add an extra ¼” to the extension so it actually comes flush to the foam, but it’s passable and I’ll remember that on the other seven windows.

After that I removed a bit of the remaining wood siding up to the top of the second floor so I could put on house wrap. I had to run to the store and buy a new roll, so I picked up the 9′ stuff, which was interesting to do on a ladder by myself, but I got it stapled up and everything turned out fine. I wrapped the extension as well, so water should be channeled out everywhere. I used the 3M All Weather tape this time for the house wrap seams instead of Tyvek tape and that stuff is awesome. I’m also using Zip System tape for the four-inch sections instead of WeatherMate tape going forward.

Installing house wrap

The next step was foam, and by this time it was dark (it is December) but there’s enough light from the street lights to keep going, especially since I try to never leave gaping holes in the house overnight. I picked up the 1″ thick polyiso and doubled it up again. One day I’ll special order the 2″ stuff, but that’ll wait until I’m ready to do the rest of the house and can find room for an 8′ cube of foam. I taped that up with the aforementioned 3M All Weather tape, the split-down-the-middle peel off backing makes it really easy to line it up correctly. I also put in the sill pan and taped that in as well.

Installed (also Derek)

Finally, I was ready for the window. I attached the brackets (they neglected to add the nailing fins I requested to the order), and lifted it into place. Those brackets are every bit as much of a pain to attach as I remember. I always worry I’m going to snap the fiberglass track. By the time I screwed everything into place it was close to 7:30. Not our latest window install, but not great. I’ll come back and put on the Zip tape and spray foam it later. As it is, the holes in the house are much smaller than they were with the old window. I’ve got seven more windows and a door to go, but seeing as it takes a full day to do one, they’ll have to wait for weekends. In the meantime I’ll keep working on the attic joists.


We’ve been putting in the attic floor I-joists, but since that’s not done yet, I’ll wait to post about it and instead write about what we did finish: the master bedroom french door. I took off yesterday and Mike S came down for try number two. This time the weather cooperated and we got to work cutting a big hole in the back of the house on the second floor. I admit, these projects go a lot more smoothly and with a lot less frustration when Mike’s here. In addition to his expertise, he brought a telescoping aluminum work platform that sits up on two ladders, that made the exterior portions a lot easier.

We did some calculating as to the height of the finished floor, which was complicated by the fact that the second floor joist at the back of the house is about ¾ of an inch higher than the others. We wound up cutting back the floor boards and cutting out that section of joist, since it was going to make everything else that much more difficult. He cut the studs at the top of where the header was going in and we pulled everything out all the way down to the top of the header over the first floor sliding door. In balloon frame construction, you don’t stop when you get to subfloor. I built the 2×6 header (a polyiso foam sandwich for thermal break) and we fit that in, we put in the new king studs that don’t actually go anywhere (again, balloon frame), then fit in the header and jack studs under that.

With that sides figured out, we cut the sheathing back to line up correctly, put the cripples and sill plate in (doubled 2×4). We put ice and water shield on at the bottom instead of just house wrap, then finished everything else with house wrap. Since we’re putting exterior foam on the house, we need to build everything out. In this case, that meant putting some ½ inch of polyiso onto 2x4s, and screwing them to the outside of the door opening all the way around.

Installing housewrap

We put down a plywood sill on top of the edge and the plastic sill pan on that. I covered everything on the outside with Zip System tape, which I’ve come to like more than the WeatherMate tap I used on the first floor. With everything taped up, the only thing left was to put the door on. This time around I made sure to order stuff with nailing fins, and so once we got those folded out, installation went fairly smoothly. I got the perimeter screwed in all the way around and then put some more tape over the fins.

Door installed

As with most of these window and door projects, all the reconstruction and flashing meant that it took all day to do, but it’s looking good, even though there’s no deck yet, so we can’t use the door. It does mean we could crane or forklift in material if the opportunity presents, and the thought of not hauling subfloor or drywall or whatever in and up the stairs a sheet at a time is appealing. I glossed over some details, like removing my silly downspout across the back of the house, the random holes we opened up in the sheathing and had to repair, the patchwork of housewrap that resulted from running out on the last stretch with less than a foot left, and the second floor windows finally arriving in the middle of the day. Hooray for that, it means we can finally get the outside done and finish the porch!


This is a post where very little happens except frustration, so be warned. We needed to buy windows and doors for the second floor and attic. I had my heart set on a Marvin French Door with integrated shades for the master bedroom. We like it dark when we sleep and we live in the city where it never gets very dark outside. For this reason the master bedroom isn’t going to have windows other than the french door. By using integrated eclipse shades we wouldn’t have light leaking in from anywhere and we wouldn’t have the space and expense of a hotel-style drape. Plus, we plan to have cats, and cats love to go in and out of drapes, covering them in fur and letting moments of light in. So, french door with integrated shades.

Sarah and I went to the local Marvin reseller and got a quote, not just for the french door, but the attic door and all the windows. I was disappointed to discover that the shades aren’t available on their all-fiberglass line, only on their most expensive wood-clad line, and that the integrated shades are just obscenely expensive. We did some research and found an after-market shade that attaches to french doors. It may not be as nice, but it’s close and costs way less, since it also meant we could step down a grade in doors. The attic door was also pricey, but the windows were comparable to what we paid for the first floor windows. Lead time is about two weeks, so we’re not in a huge hurry.

The doors were still really expensive, even without the shades, and since we didn’t need to stick with Marvin for the shades, we decided to cheap out and order the two doors from Home Depot, where lead time is four weeks. We got the basement door from Menards and it’s not fantastic, but it’s still has decent glazing, insulation, and air sealing, so we decided it’s good enough. We also decided to order the windows from Inline, the same company we ordered the first floor windows from, since the price was the same and this way they’d all match. About this time is when everything went downhill.

First, my credit card company declined the Home Depot order, apparently because it was suspicious? Like I never order things from there? I go to Home Depot and Menards so often that my phone offers drive time updates, so I’m confused on this point. I click the link the credit card emailed me saying “this was me” and they say it’s ok now. I try to call Home Depot so verify the order is now good, but after navigating the menus the computer just says my order is “pending” and there’s no way to get to a representative. I should have waited a day or two and checked again, but instead I assumed it was actually pending and didn’t follow up a second time.

Getting my order submitted with the distributor for Inline takes some back and forth and a mailed check, so my order isn’t official until August 29th. They tell me it will take 6-10 weeks. Ugh. After waiting the requisite four weeks, I check the status of my Home Depot order and discover it was cancelled after all. In the intervening time we’ve soured on the idea of the cheaper Home Depot french door, and decide since the order didn’t go through we’ll order the Marvin after all. I re-order just the attic door from Home Depot and this time the card goes through.

At this point we call the Inline distributor to see if there’s a shipping estimate. It takes a few attempts to get an answer because “it’s only been a month”. Finally they tell us it will be delivered November 17th, aka 11-and-a-half weeks from when we ordered. Better yet, that’s delivered to the distributor at which point we still need to get it delivered from them. In the mean time, our window (ha!) of good weather is disappearing.

On October 12th, Home Depot let’s me know the attic door is in, so finally something is going right. Remembering the fun of getting the basement door home on the car, I actually take the cordless reciprocating saw to the store so I can cut it free of the pallet and load it onto the roof rack. As a result, we get that home and upstairs without issue, but we couldn’t install it yet because the attic floor hasn’t been lowered yet and we needed to take off the back hip. Now it’s been a couple weeks, so I email the Marvin distributor to inquire about my french door. Apparently the rep I’ve been working with is “no longer with the company” and there’s “no record of my order”. Fortunately my credit card was not charged, so there’s no fraud or anything, but it’s one more setback. I re-place the order (this is technically the third time I’ve ordered the french door). They were good enough to apologize, but they didn’t discount or expedite.

The french door finally came in, because all of this process was still faster than getting the windows, even though we ordered them first. We got that delivered and it’s now sitting expectantly inside the house. Mike S came down a few Saturdays back to help me install it, but it wound up raining all day and so instead we strategized the back deck stairs, how to frame the attic floor, and he tried to sell me on a sunken patio under the first floor deck. He might have sold me on it, to be honest. We could put a hot tub out there and it’d be pretty nice. But I digress.

After talking to Mike, Menards has 11% rebates going on, so I order the I-Joists and LVLs for the attic floor and the polyiso foam boards I need to install the windows. We had to pick up the foam boards and bring them home on the car, but the lumber was delivered. One of the LVLs has a forklift-shaped gouge out of it, so we call Menards. That has to be re-ordered and redelivered a few days later. After all of this, we call the Inline distributor this past Monday because the 17th was Friday. Inline hasn’t shipped the windows yet. They’re now expecting delivery (to them) this Friday.

Someday, I honestly believe we’ll get these windows, but in the meantime we’re installing the new attic joists. At this point I’m thinking we should have just bought it all from Marvin back in mid-August and we probably could have had this all installed by the end of September, but hindsight is 20/20.


We haven’t gotten a ton done on the house recently. Part of this is because we didn’t order our second floor windows soon enough to have them ready when we needed them, and part of it is because the windows are taking much longer than expected. I’ll get into that in another post. For now, we tackled the back gable peak, just as we did the front.

Getting started – hipped roof from the inside

The process for this was largely similar to the front, except that we didn’t have the advantage of the front porch serving as a platform and we didn’t have the advantage of Mike’s help. Instead, Sarah and I did it by ourselves, which meant that we made more mistakes and took a lot longer, even with the example of the front to help. First up, I put a piece of plywood on the joists at the back of the attic under the existing hip roof to serve as a platform and got the ladder onto it.

Roof removed

I cut through the roof from the inside and pulled in a section, from there the removal process was just time consuming, to get the shingles pulled back to a clean point, remove the soffit, and then cut back the plywood at right angles,s o we could cut and fit rectangles rather than triangles. We sistered up new attic rafters to the existing ones to extend the peak, and this is where we made our first mistake. I tried to match the angle of the existing rafter, which is good, but I neglected to make sure that the roof was flat one rafter to the next. As a result, there were dips and rises across only three rafters that I had to remove and re-cut. Because the existing roof has 1×6 boards across the rafters with plywood on top of the boards, I had to shim up on the new rafters to match the level.

Fitting new rafters

Before I put the roof on I needed to finish the new gable wall sheathing. On the front of the house, where we could put ladders on the porch, we fit one big triangle. Since the back doesn’t have a porch and even my 28′ extension ladder isn’t tall enough to reach the peak, I had to fit two smaller triangles from the inside. I nailed down toe boards on either side so that I could finish the exterior work in “safety”. I lifted out all the sections of plywood, test fit them, and then went out on the roof to screw them all down.

Somewhere in this process we left it overnight with a gaping hole in the roof, and the next morning while I was re-doing the rafters it rained on us (inside), but we finally managed to get the sheathing attached and covered with ice and water shield. Getting it shingled took another few tries, mostly due to time constraints. I didn’t think to put the bundle of shingles out on the toe board when I had a nice big hole in the roof, so I had to carry it up the ladder on the front, then shimmy down the length of the house at the peak (several times). Sarah harvested roofing nails from the existing scrap and I got it all water tight.

Adding ice and water shield

The last piece was removing the toe boards. I wound up prying up an edge while still standing on it, tying a rope around it, then pulling it up while perched on the peak of the roof. Then, with the other one still tied up in rope, do the same thing to the other one. I was worried my hammer would slip out of my hand, since I could barely reach the toe board from the peak, so I tied the rope around that too. Fortunately, that part went to plan and I got everything down safely, myself included. Another project is completed without a trip to the hospital and I didn’t have to put a ladder up against the back of the house to do it.

New peak

One of these days I’ll take down that satellite dish… and get the new windows in, redo the soffits, and take down the siding and finish house wrap, exterior insulation, siding, gutters, downspouts, the shingles I just put up are temporary until we’re ready to redo the whole roof… one of these days.

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We wanted to use the front porch ceiling as a platform. To do that we first put down plywood across the tops of the joists, screwing it in so it doesn’t blow away. Then Mike built some railings from scrap lumber to provide at least the illusion of safety. With the platform established, we started working on the front of the house, removing the layers of siding. We decided not to remove all of the wood siding, since we can’t put up the house wrap properly until the new second floor windows are in. Those are on order, by the way. We didn’t think of that before we’d started though, so we did put up house wrap on the sections we’d already done.

Since before we bought the house, we’ve been planning to remove the “hips” on the front and back of the roof. These are triangles of roof that are like folded corners on the peaks of the gables. I’m not a fan of the style, but more importantly we want to have the window in front higher than floor level and room for a door at the back of the attic for fire code requirements and the hips clip too much off to do that. First we cut off the existing hips, largely from inside the attic. Next we sistered in new rafters and vertical framing, keeping in mind the aforementioned new windows that we’ll need to re-frame for.

With the structure in place, we fit in new plywood and covered that in ice and water shield. The roof is basically comprised of 2×6 rafters with 1×6 horizontal boards, spaced apart an inch or two. Plywood was later put over this, tar paper, and fortunately only a single layer of shingles. The plywood is in good condition, so it’s probably fairly recent. We’re planning to redo the roof once we’ve finished all the penetrations (solar tubes and vent pipes) and we’ve found a shingle manufacturer that partnered with a solar panel company on an integrated mounting bracket. That way there’s no risk of compromising the roof when we eventually install solar panels. I’m still contemplating whether spray foam will be enough to insulate. I’m a bit concerned about thermal bridging with the rafters and 1×6 boards. One option is replacing the plywood with Zip system, but that would add a lot of waste and cost. We could add a layer of rigid foam, but I’m not a big fan of creating a roof sandwich. We could insulate on the inside, but we’d lose space and it’s not a huge attic (width-wise) in the first place. We’ll figure something out.

We ran out of time to cover the new gable peak with temporary shingles that day, but I put them up with Sarah’s help over the course of a couple weekend days. Of course it got absurdly hot at the start of Fall (95° on the ground, let alone up on the roof) which made that part of the project extra fun, but it’s done. We also had to cut back the plywood sheathing where it overhung the soffit on one side by about four inches. That was interesting. I wound up doing it from above with a circular saw (and a cheap blade that I didn’t mind using to cut through shingles) so I could get a straight cut. Even so I managed to get a bit of a wave in the last couple feet where I couldn’t reach from above, but we’ll put flashing up that will smooth up the edges. We still have to frame new soffit in the peak, do the same thing to the hip on the back gable, which will be interesting since we won’t have the porch roof to stand on, but both of those will wait until Mike can come back. He really helps move these projects along.