Stripping (The Windows! Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter!)

One of us—not naming names here—had the ingenious idea to restore the old windows in our kitchen. We started with a “Kitchen Window Pro/Con List” that looks like this:

PROS:

  • They are GORGEOUS six-over-one wood panes with the original glass
  • Our inspector and old-house-loving family like the idea of restoring them
  • Replacing them with U factor <=0.30, SHGC <=0.30 windows will require 20+ years to “earn the money back” (based on the insulation in our house, heating system, size of kitchen windows, etc.)
  • They are original to the house and have “the look” we want in our new (old) kitchen

CONS:

  • Would require stripping the old paint (boh-ring)
  • We might find more damage to the wood than we think we will
  • Not as energy efficient as new windows would be (cancelled out by related pro)

See? This list just screams “restore those old windows!”

Don’t worry! We didn’t paint the windows pink! We used this pink gel paint stripper, recommended by Hans, the everything-paint guru at our local hardware store:

Like the old paint stripper, it makes the paint bubble up…if you wait long enough…one of us (again, not naming names) can be impatient.

And then you scrape, scrape, scrape and scrape some more. When you think you’re done, there’s another few hours of scraping to do. Well into the night.

At some point, we got wise and started using toothpicks to get some of the details cleaned out. We also found that it’s much easier if you wash with water as you go.

Once we got most of the paint scraped off, we could assess the windows for moisture damage to the wood. Fortunately, it was as we expected! There was very little damage. The areas that had gotten a little blackish were all on the bottoms of the panes, where 70 years of condensation seeped in.

Following procedures we found while researching tons of historic preservation websites, we cleansed the blackish areas with a fungicide and a toothbrush.

When it was good and dry, we painted on a layer of teak oil, which seeps into the wood and hardens from within. We’ll do one more coat of that when it’s all dry again and then paint in a layer of semi-rigid epoxy. A few spots need some wood putty (someone nailed shelves into the window frame). After that, we’ll treat with light sanding, some primer and paint.

Does it seem crazy to do all this work just to paint the windows again? Maybe…but the point is, we restored them and prevented future damage (paint is a great sealer, too) and we get to keep them (they’re so pretty)! We won’t paint until the spring when it’s warmer. We’ll put some new glazing around the panes, a new seal in the sash, and install some new hardware. One of the best parts? The actually open now! Amazing what removing 25 layers of (blue, pink, peach, cream, green, brown…) paint can do!

Anyone else ever restored a window? We’d be interested in exchanging tips, etc. as we’re thinking about doing some of the others and are hoping there’s an easier (quicker) way!

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3 Responses to Stripping (The Windows! Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter!)

  1. Dad & Mom K. says:

    Oh my gosh, you two, what a lot of dedicated, hard work! But the wood looks great! Can you stain it to go along with the counter top? Can’t wait to see it up close!

  2. Mom says:

    Beautiful, well worth saving!

  3. John says:

    Good job T & C, I think you will be happier restoring them and knowing the sweat put into your project…

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