Thursday, March 19, 2009

Windows Part 1: Stained Glass

We’re in the process of evaluating the condition of all our original windows to figure out which ones will be fixed this year.  We’ll be repairing all the standard double-hung windows and storms ourselves (or at least that’s the plan), but I don’t have any expertise involving stained or leaded glass.  We have several stained glass windows in the house…

These two are in our dining room (and are in pretty good condition):


Then there’s these two in our front parlor.  One of them is starting to bulge outwards, so we want to get that fixed before it gets any worse:


Also, the other window in the picture above was likely originally stained glass.  I say this because we have other windows elsewhere in the house this size that are multi-lite (2x2) so having a single clear pane of glass would be out of place.  Right now, this window is plexi-glass and has no storm (just a ripped screen on it).

Then we have the two stained glass in the living room:

st4 The blue tape in this picture is holding together the loose pieces of glass that are ready to fall out.  It bulges outward by about 1.5”.  Clearly in need of repair.  Here’s the matching one on the other side of the room:


Actually, the stained glass window is in our basement and is in pretty good shape.  We decided to wait to put it back in until the weather has warmed up, so we might get around to that in the next few days.  I think this air conditioner has been there a while.  It has a pile of pigeon poop on the outside and you can see successive attempts at weather stripping it over the years.

We don’t have much in the way of non-stained leaded glass in our house, except for our front entry door and side-light.  Here is the side-light:

IMG_0910 It has one cracked piece of glass, but otherwise looks pretty good.  The door (to the left in the picture) doesn’t have it’s matching leaded glass insert, it was removed some time ago.  We found it in the basement:


Clearly, it’s in need of significant repair/replacement.

We contacted a local stained glass expert and asked for quotes to repair the one living room window that is bulging outwards (measures around 16”x16”), do a minor repair on one of the parlor windows (16”x24”), repair/replace the broken piece in the door side-light, and do a full restoration on the front door leaded glass.  Here are the prices we got back:

  • $270-320 to repair/re-lead the 16x16
  • $310-$360 to repair/re-lead the 16x24
  • $600-$700 to fix the broken glass in the sidelight (includes some re-leading if necessary)
  • $1100 to re-lead the front door insert and put all new glass in (not beveled like the original), bevel will be an additional charge

I have no idea if those are good prices or not as I haven’t been able to find someone else to quote the job yet.  It seems a little high, and from the preservation brief on stained glass that I read, re-leading is supposed to be the last option in restoration.  I’m not sure that the sidelight and 16x24 need that much work.

We don’t have $2500 in the budget this year to repair these.  So, we might have to add some more tape, try to stabilize them in place, add in the missing storms for additional protection, and wait on the front door for now.  Sigh…

Monday, March 16, 2009

Plans for the spring

We spent some more time working on the second floor bathroom this weekend.  We are ready to start putting up the drywall now.  Our plan is to try to concentrate on the bathroom as much as possible because once the good weather is here to stay, we need to switch over to working on all the outdoor issues.

I’ve got calls into about five different roofers right now to get quotes on the standing seam metal roof over our cantilevered sun porch on the second level and to have repairs done to the two dormers (as described in a previous post).  We also plan to have soffit vents installed around the main roof and have insulation blown into the attic (there’s only about 1/2” of loose insulation sitting up there).  It may seem odd to be insulating in the springtime, but it will help with the summer heat (we don’t have air conditioning, yet) and we couldn’t insulate until all the knob and tube wiring was replaced.

While we get the professionals to figure out the roofing and insulating, we’ll concentrate on the numerous repairs to the windows.  I made a trip over to our local Lee Valley store to pick up some supplies for window repair.  They had decent glass cutters, and a glazier’s point tool (along with glazier’s points).  They also had a small size wood repair kit (made by Abatron). I had to make a second trip to Preston Hardware to pick up the DAP33 glazing compound for glazing.  Unfortunately no one carries copper window weather-stripping (only the cheap plastic stuff), so I’m putting in an order with Kilian Hardware.  Kilian have the Abatron wood repair products in much larger sizes, so if I’m pleased with the results, I’ll order a 2 gallon tub of each of the WoodEpox and LiquidWood (I’m going to need a lot of it to repair all the rotten sills, frames, and window sashes).

Kate and Rob over at are in the process of replacing all their old wood windows.  You can read more about it on their blog.  I went by to visit them this afternoon (a big thank-you for the tour!), and they were kind enough to offer us their old windows.  I don’t think they have any that will be an exact fit for the ones we’re missing, but the hardware and hinges, and much of their glass (the nice old wavy stuff) will be incorporated into our window repair project.

I spoke to a local company that does wood window restoration and repair.  I was given their name as a possible source of the copper weather-stripping.  They were nice enough to give me a few suppliers and some tips on restoration.  I asked them how much it would cost to have them do our windows so I could get a feeling for how much we’re saving doing it ourselves.  They charge $200/sq ft of window to do a complete repair.  That includes repair/restoration of any rotten wood (sills, frame, sashes), repair/replacement of any broken hardware (pulleys, weights, locks), copper weather-stripping, replacement of ropes with chain, stripping and repainting (interior and exterior primer), and replacing broken panes with standard glass (extra charge for historic wavy glass).  This also includes restoring the old wooden storm at the same time. This price seems especially high to me.  We have some windows that are 18-21 sq ft (> $3500!).  I asked how busy they are with that kind of work, and they indicated that they could fit me in sometime later this fall.  Either there’s a huge demand in restoring wood windows here, or they don’t want the work; I haven’t decided which.  Regardless, I feel pretty good about doing the work ourselves.

We have 56 windows in total (I’m counting window openings, not individual sashes), 10 of which are replacement PVC windows, so that leaves 46 original windows (62 individual sashes) to restore (plus all the corresponding storms, I think we’re missing only 1 or 2).  I think we’ll be busy this summer…

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

High resolution picture from 1950.

As per a previous request, here is an extremely high resolution picture of the front of the house from around 1950. Warning, the picture is big.


This picture is used with permission from the Carleton University Archives. On close inspection, you can see what appears to be cedar shingles between to the two upper front dormers, and the metal along the bottom of that area. Also, you can see the nice front windows that have all been replaced with PVC. It appears that they are casement (with 3x3 upper sashes), not double-hung like the rest of the windows in our house.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Roofing shots … Part 3

In case you’re wondering why this post has been split up, I’m trying to use MS LiveWriter to post to my blog and any time I’ve tried to upload a post with a large number of pictures, it times out.  I’ll try to fix this, but for now, I’m splitting up my larger posts.

This next photo was taken from one of the windows at the back of our house:

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Another good example of the condition of our windows.  The roof you see in the picture is over the rear sunroom off the second floor hall.  You can also see the original coach house roof (angled-roof on left), and the newer (as in 1950) school building roof (flat roof beside coach house).  The sunroom roof is in pretty good shape compared to the other areas.

Next is a picture looking to the left outside the above window. 

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You can see the top of the fire escape leading up to our 3rd floor bathroom window, and beyond you can see the gap where the gable soffit meets the lower roof ledge.  I’m not sure the best way to address this, but I’m concerned about critters getting in here.

Next is a picture looking upwards from the same window. 

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I like this shot and not just because there’s no horrible damage visible.  This is the only vertically shingled area of the house, across the entire back of the third floor.  It was painted at some point in the past and remains in pretty good condition.  The fascia trim will need to be stripped and repainted of course.

Here’s a picture looking to the right out that window. 

IMG_0890 [1600x1200] Again, the large gap that needs to be dealt with.  You can even see some bird dropping remnants here.

Our roof is worse than we thought, continued

This next photograph is looking out of one of our left-side windows.  I took this to illustrate the condition of the window frame.  I’ll do another more detailed post on the condition of our windows later.

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In the above photo you can also see the metal roof that covers our cantilevered side sun room off our second floor den (see previous post for a better view of the  sunroom).  I’m thinking this roof is constructed of some sort of galvanized metal sheeting that is joined at the raised ridges.

Here are a couple more photos of the roof:

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As you can see, there are some penetrations, especially on the raised ridges.  These are likely where fasteners were that have lost whatever caulking they once had.

In addition to the poor state of this roof, where the eave from the upper roof meets this room, we’ve been getting some ice damming which penetrates into the sunroom below during thaws.  We’ll have to address this soon as it’s causing considerable damage to the plaster and wood work in the sunroom.

Anybody have suggestions on what to replace this with?  I think copper would be beautiful, but it’s a side sunroom, so perhaps just a shingle room or new (cheaper than copper) metal roof?

Taken from the same window, the next photo shows the damage to the exterior render above this roof and near it:

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You can also see the problems that have been created when this roof was put over whatever was there before.  The roof metal acting as flashing up against the bottom of the stucco/wood framing has pulled away.

The above photo is the worst area of render damage, but pretty much all of it needs to be addressed.  You can just barely see it, but the wood lathe behind the render is showing here.  I’m amazed we don’t have much more significant water damage below this area.  You can also make out previous patches that don’t match up with the original render (likely done in Portland cement or some other unsuitable material).

Here’s a close-up of the flashing problem:

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Still more to come…

On second thought, our roof is worse than I thought…

In a previous post, I discussed some concerns about an area of our roof where two dormer eaves touch.  The weather was reasonably mild today and I felt daring, so I hung myself out some windows on our third floor for some more photos.  You should be able to open the high-resolution versions by clicking on the photo).  Try not to cringe…

Here is the first area that will require extensive work.  You can see the rotten wood making up the soffit and fascia, the water penetration, bird droppings, etc…

Taken from the front-right window on the third floor:

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The same taken from the front left window:

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This next photo is of the small roof ledge below this area.  This area has been covered with metal since at least the 1950s. 

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I think it would be preferably to replace it with shingles.  It needs repair as the part acting as flashing against the brick has pulled away (missing caulking).  You can also see some previous repairs.  Note the lovely bird droppings coming from above.  Since we took possession of the property in December, we’ve seen some starlings and more recently pigeons hanging out here.  I went up into the attic a while ago and they haven’t made it in there yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Post to be continued…

Friday, March 6, 2009

Our roof issues

With the weather starting to warm (even if just temporarily), I've been thinking more about our outside work that we'd like to address this year. We have tons of broken panes of glass in our old windows (probably at least 20-30 pieces of glass need to be replaced), not to mention wood rot and general repair to the windows and frames, but we have two issues with our roof that need more immediate attention.

You can see in the following two pictures the first problem:

You can see where the two gables meet in the middle. In this area, the roofing material crosses over and creates a flat valley. I'm not even sure what the roofing material is, but we have huge icicles form here and all the wood work in the area is very damaged, to the point of starting to fall off.

Does anybody have any ideas of what we can do here to repair this? My gut tells me the gable ends should not be covered, but I'm wondering if it's just poor design of the roof line. We're going to be getting some quotes soon, as a lot of the roofers in the area seem to take the winter off.

The second area concerns the cantilevered sun porch on the west side of the house:

Aside of the fact that a broken window pane has provided a nest for some squirrels, and that pigeons like to hang out here (evidence is pretty obvious), if you look closely at the corner of the roof in the first picture, you'll notice the wood work and gutter hanging. This roof is metal (I haven't taken a good picture of it, but I will next time I think of it). and again, we get huge icicles hanging off the entire outside (lowest) edge of the roof. When the weather warms, we get puddles of water pouring through the top of the window frames. Again, we're not sure what needs to be done here. The downspouts (we think original) aren't attached anymore, so I'm not sure the gutter is very effective.

Here are some more random pictures of our roof. You will note the poor flashing job around the chimney, the various holes in the soffits (if you look closely you can see bird droppings beneath one of them), and the at least 2 layers of ashphalt shingles. Overall, the roof isn't that bad, but it's not perfect either. I'd like to find out what the original roofing material was. I'm thinking probably cedar shingles, but I do think that if we ever had the budget for it, a slate roof would look great.

Here's a picture of the roof from the late 1940's. I'm pretty sure those are ashphalt shingles on there, so probably we had cedar shingles to being with (slate would have lasted a lot longer than 30-40 years). Note the nice original windows that are have been replaced with vinyl on the front of the house.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More House History

The archive group at Carleton University responded with some results. They found 14 items that reference our house. They sent me four photographs: two outside shots and two interior shots. One of the interior pictures is hard to tell if it was actually taken in our house as there isn't any recognizable features. The other was taken in our living room facing the opening to our dining room. Photographs courtesy of Archives and Research Collections, Carleton University Library, used with permission:

They also scanned and sent along 3 pages of text from the school calendar, and 7 pages from a book called 'Creating Carleton' (a history of Carleton). The calendar pages are essentially copies of each other and state the following (taken from the 1949-1950 calendar):

"Nearby is a three-storey student activities building [our house!] which provides accomodation for Student Association offices, "The Carleton" (student weekly newspaper), reading rooms, games rooms, darkrooms, radio broadcasting rooms, club rooms, and a student lounge."

The book 'Creating Carleton' has a picture of our house on one page and mentions that Carleton purchased the property in 1948 for $18,000 to provide space for the Students' Council, the Carleton, and the student clubs. The book also talks about some of the activities in our house, including how the Student Council held a 'Frosh Court' for dealing with infractions during frosh week, how an incident involving four students and drinking occurred on the property, and how some thought that student behaviour was getting out of hand.
There is also a cartoon from the school newspaper which depicts some students drinking and gambling on the floor of our current dining room. The cartoon was part of an editorial response to concerns over student behaviour. Published in The Carleton, 20 Jan., 1955, used with permission:

Our house feels a bit different to me now as I walk through the rooms. Knowing that it had such an interesting and rich history makes me think about the space more. The old darkroom lead sinks in the basement were scary on first sight, but now I can imagine some young newspaper photographer trying to develop photos down there.

No records of when the classrooms were built and what classes were taught there could be found in the archives. This opens the possibility that these structures were put in place by the subsequent owner. I wouldn't have thought this to be the case. He bought the property to use it for his electronics school, so why would he buy a property that was split up into student offfices and club rooms, which he would have to undo so he could have his family live there, and then on top of that build three classrooms? It seems more likely that Carleton added the classrooms after the student association was established here, maybe during their expansion in the mid-1950's, then quickly sold the property on to the subsequent owner once the new larger present-day campus became available in 1959. It would have been ideal for the next owner with 3 ready-made classrooms, and a large house for his family, close to other education facilities to draw in potential students.

The next steps when we have the time will be to try to visit the archives ourselves to go through some of the old photos and early editions of the student newspaper. A request was also made with the corporate archive group for the University. Their archivist is examining board meeting minutes, and other corporate documents from that time to find references of our house. This might help shed some light on the classrooms as building them would have required a large expenditure.

House History

Our house was once owned by Carleton University, one of the two universities located in Ottawa (see We've found the records at the Ottawa Land Registry office showing when the house was sold from it's original owner to the organization that eventually became Carleton. They owned the property from 1948 until 1959. We know they modified the original coach house, expanding it to accomodate a large classroom and they also built two more classrooms in a single-level concrete structure beside the coach house. That's all we really know about their use of our house. There is a vague reference on the history of Carleton webpage that mentions that they bought three neighbourhood homes in the area of their main building (the old Ottawa Ladies College, which is now a posh condo development) and used the homes for some classes and for student offices.

After speaking to a friend of ours who is a professor at Carleton, I decided to contact the University of Carleton Archives and ask for more information. So, I navigated over to their website and found this photo on their main photo exhibit page (Photograph courtesy of Archives and Research Collections, Carleton University Library, used with permission):

What a surprise it was to find a picture of our house! This was likely taken in the late 1940's. If you look closely, you can see a small sign centered at the top of the front porch, likely displaying the name of the College.

I contacted the head of the archives and an archives technician is pulling together anything they can find relating to the property for us. In particular, we asked for information about what they used the house for (classes or departments that were located at the house), and any information about the structures they built and other modifications. They are going to go through some of the photos that were taken of social events as well and see if any reference our house. It will probably take a week or two, but when they get back to us, I'll post more.

The picture of the house shows what the original windows looked like. It also shows that the concrete porch was in place at that time; we weren't sure if it might have been added at a later date. I doubt that the concrete porch is original to the house, but it's been there since at least the late 1940s. It also appears that the driveway is on the right side of the house, since the left side (where the coach house is at the back) is all grassy. Other than the replaced front windows, the house looks pretty much the same as today.