Winter is fast approaching (I’m intentionally avoiding the Game of Thrones reference) and the house is cold. Actually, it’s especially cold because the boiler isn’t working, but that’s a separate issue. We’re planning to put spray foam into our exterior walls to give us a great insulation value as well as air seal to prevent leaks, but we can’t do that until we’ve run our new electrical and plumbing. Or can we? It occurred to me that we could put 1″ of spray foam in first, and then after we have all the mechanicals installed, put in the remaining 2-3/4″. Not only would that give us better insulation in the short term, it would prevent any insulation gaps due to not being able to spray behind electrical boxes.

Considering this plan led us to a stumbling block: we’re planning to remove the windows on the North side of the house. We don’t get much sunlight from the North, the view is entirely of our neighbors house less than three feet away, and with our plan to move the stairs and put a coat closet on the wall, there isn’t a great place for a window in the finished plan. If we spray foam without removing them, we’d be missing the worst offenders of heat loss. There are several inches of vinyl siding visible above the windows from the inside, because when the windows were replaced with smaller ones, they left gaps in the exterior sheathing.

This put us on the path to start work on removing the three or four windows on the North side of the first floor. I say three or four, because it’s hard to say whether the fourth window that we found covered up in the wall technically counts. We’re going to remove it, so it probably does.

Window removed

My Green credibility took a hit on my trip to Home Depot for supplies. The only pressure treated plywood they had that was rated for exterior sheathing was not formaldehyde-free, and was additionally stamped with warnings that the State of California had found the wood dust to be cancer-causing. With only a one-day window of Eriq and Will over to help, I went ahead and got it, along with over-priced Tyvek house wrap, stainless steel staples, and a bunch of coated exterior screws. Next time, I’ll plan far enough ahead to make sure I can get better materials.

I was covered when it came to framing, since we’d salvaged and de-nailed all the lumber I removed from the first floor. Working with the old-growth, hundred-year-old wood is amazing. All my framing up to this point has been with the warped, thin, junk pine they sell at the big box hardware stores. These old boards are incredible, all straight, strong, and not a single split no matter how close to the end we put a screw. It’s just a shame they had to clear cut the Northwest to produce them. When these trees were cut down, the Conservation movement was just starting in the United States, and there wasn’t a single Forestry school in the country. At least they’re seeing good service. Our hope is that by restoring this house the wood will see another hundred and sixteen years of service.

Windows removed

For some reason the first window took us a long time and we only finished the one after working on it all day. Eriq offered to return the following weekend and we made much better progress, finishing two more windows in less time than the one took the previous weekend.


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