Yes, even though I am in my late 40’s I LOVE YouTube. It has everything. It has taught me the Kitchener Stitch (a knitting technique), dog grooming, cosmetology and after watching hours of VetRanch I could probably neuter a dog (not really.)
So, YouTube talked me into replacing my 60 year old basement windows…myself (with my husband James.) In the 1980’s our mid-century ranch underwent a major expansion that added a lot of living space and created a finished living area in the basement that included replacing half of the basement windows with glass block. When we purchased the house in 2006 I always imagined I would have the rest of the windows treated similarly. Today, having more time than money I started to do a little research. I watched a collection of videos that approached the project in pretty much the same way and convinced me simple vinyl replacement windows were easier, and cheaper than glass block. Here is one that captures the essence of the work (watch out he will make you want a drywall hammer.)
Here is what I learned: I needed a window, expanding foam (low) and caulk. I had to buy a small level, because I could not find mine, otherwise I was good to go for very little coin. We did not use a chisel but instead used a very large heavy file to smooth the cement ridge we encountered.
The Old Windows
At some point previous owners covered the windows with window clings to resemble stained glass; maybe to distract from the cracks or because they had things in their basement more valuable then cat turds.
The detail that I glossed over was his use of a Sawzall and if you have very keen observation skills you will notice that my window frames are steel and married to the house with cement (not the easy going modern wood frame structures other more fortunate people might encounter.) The first window went pretty smoothly so we ran to the store and bought two more. Installing three windows took the entire day. The most harrowing moments were encountered trying to demolish the old window frames. The steel casings didn’t want to budge and we used a hack saw in order to weaken them enough to pull them out. Twice we thought “Oh shit we have destroyed this window (and have made a big hole in our house) and we will need a professional (we can’t afford) to finish the project.”
The New Windows
His advice for measuring both inside and outside was important. While each window looked similar each had different measurements by 1/4 inch but we settled on one window size for all. We removed the screen and glass so that we could install the frame and then just re install the window after we were done, this step (not mentioned in this video) was helpful and I recommend doing it. The window was a good pick and the plastic trim along the edges of the frame was easy to cut off to adjust the fit. The slide-show below highlights the window we purchased, the foaming in and the trimming of foam.
Expanding foam really expands and as you can see I went way overboard. I read elsewhere that trimming it like we did lowers the ‘R value’ (according to https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/insulation thermal resistance or R-value — the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness) and it is better just to push the bubbles back into the frame so I did that were I could. My foam application technique improved with each window but it was pretty fun to work with and hard to refrain from using the ‘more is more’ philosophy. Trust me with expanding foam ‘less is more.’
Finishing With Caulk
My husband and I, and the friendly guy at Lowes, went around and around about whether to use cement caulk or regular caulk and then we went with Silicone. Working with 100% Silicone Calk was not fun. I have done my fair share of work with painters caulk and don’t be fooled they are NOT THE SAME. The reason for using 100% silicone was how well it adheres to a variety of materials. In this case we had wood, vinyl and cement and we needed it to perform well indoors and out. 100% silicone is much softer initially and does not lay down a tidy bead like was highlighted by my Canadian muse Jeff Thorman (what a great name, no wonder he sold me on the drywall hammer.) It wanted to drip and puddle so I learned to apply a little and allow it to set up and then smooth it into place with a plastic putty knife. Not pictured was the masking tape used to keep foam or caulk from sticking to the pretty new window but Mr Thorman recommended it and he was right. I was unsure about selecting grey caulk instead if white but hoped it would soften the transition to the cement (which I think it does) however it is still shiny even when dry which I didn’t anticipate. I used the same product inside even though this type of caulk can not be painted; because the walls surrounding the window are unfinished (unlike in the YouTube video) and if they are eventually finished it will be covered up by drywall and not painted.
Over all, the project took about 8 hours the first day (to demolish old windows and install new) and two hours the second (to trim/poke the foam and apply caulk.) I spent a lot of time outside on my stomach or knees while James was inside on the ladder in the basement with his head in a spider webs (it sounds dirty and it was.) Here is a list of everything we used:
- Heavy metal file
- Blanket (so I was not sitting in the mud)
- Measuring tape
- Masking tape
- Expanding Foam *for Windows and Doors*
- Putty knife
- Utility knife
- Paper towels
- Task brush/broom
- Teenager to make Mac N Cheese while you shower because you can’t use your arms anymore.