Old basement window

Old basement window

About a month ago I decided it was time to finally put in the side windows in the basement. The first step was to remove the existing windows and the “bucks” or the wooden frames that are attached to the brick basement wall. Unfortunately on the first window I found that the brick around the window was crumbling or straight up missing, and the stone sill was disintegrating. Realizing that I now needed to get the masonry repaired before I could install the window, I checked the others and discovered they were in similar condition, plus the back doorway needed some work as well.

We had the inside of the basement tuckpointed back in January, so I called up the masons and left a message. When I didn’t hear back I sent them an email. Finally I got a call back and set up a time to meet, but they never showed up for the appointment,or called. I contacted another mason but there were some communication difficulties and I went back to looking. I contacted two other masons, both of which came out to look, said they were interested and could do the work in a few weeks, and said they’d get me quotes in a few days. I never got quotes from either one, and with the declining temperatures (masonry should be done above 40°) I didn’t want to wait any longer. I decided just to do it myself.

I took some time off work, picked up new limestone sills, tools, and a bag of mortar, and we already have a giant pile of bricks from taking down the chimney, and set to work. I knocked out the existing sills and took the brick down to a layer that was in good shape, scraping all the old mortar off. I was able to build the new sills up to a slightly higher level to prevent water from coming in off the sidewalk while still leaving enough room for the windows. The brick work was slow. I’m not very experienced, I had to run out in the middle to get another 80lb bag of mortar with my motorcycle, and there was a lot of time spent chiseling bricks into shape to fit. I also used the plastic bag method to squeeze mortar into some of the crevices in the sides of the walls, which worked surprisingly well. I also had to spend a fair amount of time grinding down existing bricks and mortar to get the openings the rights size, especially the back door, as well as one of the windows that had been previously repaired with concrete. The end result wasn’t beautiful, but it’s solid and it’s all getting covered up by the new bucks anyway.

I let the mortar set up for a few days before I started on the windows themselves. I framed new pressure treated bucks and put them in with sill gasket and Tapcon screws. Sarah helped me fit the windows and shim them, then I went around and put in backer rod, caulk, and spray foam in all the crevices. I plan to install PVC trim on the exterior at some later date, but we need to figure out what we’re doing about the parging that covers the outside walls, if anything. The side windows are all fixed picture windows so they don’t open, but they let in a lot of light, especially in the case of the back side window that’s been boarded up since we bought the house.

I still have to tackle the back window, but it’s a bit more complicated because it has courses of bricks above it, unlike the other windows that go up to the underside of the first floor framing. That means I need to put in a steel lintel (three actually, since it’s a three-wythe wall). I plan to tackle that this coming weekend.

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One Response to Side Basement Windows

  1. Lucy says:

    Nice work on the windows. Sometimes even despite inexperience you end up doing it better because you care. Certainly that is true with the air sealing around the window. No one else cares as much about that as you do.

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