Sunday, September 9, 2012

Closing Things Up

Something tells me I'm going to be needing some more Brushing Putty. Happily, my new favorite place Ganahl Lumber stocks it; most Fine Paints of Europe dealers around here don't. In any event, here's what the can looks like now so you know what to look for:

New can, same old stuff.

At the time of the last post, the new siding pieces and the rehabilitated casing boards were ready to be installed, but before I did that I needed to take care of a few things. The first order of business was to repair a crack in the right window frame.

This went unnoticed for a long time, because it was hidden behind the strip separating the top and bottom sash. I at last discovered it when I noticed this:

Happily, at this point it was a simple thing to fix. I just blew out the debris from the crack with some compressed air, applied some 5-minute epoxy, and clamped it together.

Good as new!

The other matter I needed to attend to was to rehabilitate the sill. While the dormer sills are considerably less eroded than were the sills on the south side, they are twice as long, and I didn't have the clearance needed to clamp guide strips to speed my work. Because of this, I had quite a difficult time getting the job done properly. I tried screwing guide strips directly onto the sill, but I couldn't seem to get them in the right place because I really didn't have anything concrete to line them up with. I went through several cycles of placing a strip, puttying, removing the strip, sanding down to find I hadn't done it right, puttying up the holes, and then starting all over again. I really needed to have strips of precisely the right width, because then I could easily line them up with the largely intact bottom edge. My problem was that I simply didn't have the tools to get this done; I knew I couldn't get the kind of straight, clean cut I needed using my circular saw.

By a happy coincidence, when I was at Ganahl to buy the Brushing Putty, I noticed they were advertising a small table saw, a "contractor's saw", for an insanely good price. Usually, contractor's saws in this price range are obvious pieces of junk, but when I inspected the display model carefully, I found that the basic mechanism of the saw was quite solid. The machine certainly wasn't fancy, but neither was it flimsy, and it had all the necessary features. And so, after some serious cogitation, I bought one.

It took a lot of test cuts, and I ended up having to buy a fine-cut blade, but with this and some careful adjustments to the fence and blade guard, I was able to cut myself precisely the pieces I needed.

After this, it was a simple matter to finish the sill. I still have to putty up the screw holes and a few remaining small divots, but I can take care of that business the next time I mix up some epoxy putty.

I wasn't yet ready to put the boards back up, however. First, I had to re-do the flashing along the left side of the dormer behind where the new siding pieces were to go. As you will recall, this area was a particular mess when I first started working on the dormer. Here's how the flashing installation looked after I removed the broken siding pieces and the casing boards:

Yeesh. They had routed the runoff around the sill (and behind one of the trim pieces, remember), with a huge glob of caulk to seal the deal. Before proceeding, I removed the two bottom flashing pieces and the caulk; when I had finished rehabilitating the sill, this is what I had:

By inspecting the analogous area on the other dormers, I had learned that the runoff was supposed to go straight down and under the end of the sill. Sadly, as things stood, I didn't have the materials to do this; I didn't have enough flashing, and I didn't have any extra shingle material.

As longtime readers know, when the going gets tough, the tough go ad hoc. I noticed that above the area to be patched, the flashing pieces were extensively overlapped, far more than was necessary. So I removed some staples, repositioned the next two flashing pieces so that they reached further down while still overlapping safely, and stapled everything back down again. For the small void that needed shingle fill (for cosmetic purposes only, because it was covered by the flashing already), I cut a small piece out of the back of one of the shingles from an undetectable area. Each of these shingles is several layers thick, so this did not compromise watertightness at all. I stapled this small piece in place, and voila!

To tell you the truth, this part of the job had been troubling me for weeks, so I am greatly relieved that I was able to figure it out, with the help of my old pal ad hoc.

With this I thought I was ready to attach the new siding pieces, but I discovered that one more obstacle lay in my way. When I had added 3/16" to the back of the new pieces to shim them out to the thickness of the existing siding, I hadn't noticed that I had made the top of the uppermost piece 3/16" too thick to fit behind the piece above. I thus had to cut a rabbet into the topmost new piece, 3/4" wide and 3/16" deep, before I could proceed.

My heart sank at this discovery: so near, and yet so far! I'd have to make this rabbet the old-fashioned way, with a hammer and wood chisel. With my ruined hands, that would take at least a day. Then I remembered that I had a table saw now. I could do the job with that! A half-hour later, the rabbet was done, and I attached the new siding pieces onto the dormer.

As you can see, the blade height is a bit unstable. I'm going to have to tighten that up. Happily, it doesn't matter in this case.

The rabbet is completely hidden from view, and from the ground the slight difference in profile between the old and new pieces will be unnoticeable.

With the siding installed, it was at last time to install the rehabilitated casing boards. I had to be extremely careful to line the boards up correctly, because they are warped. I measured and marked very carefully and thoroughly, and managed to put the boards back right where they belonged.

Even so, I've only put screws at the four corners of each one in case I have to adjust their placement later on. 

And with that, I'm almost finished with the unscheduled fabrication work. There is one more detail I must attend to before I get back to the painting prep, which I'll deal with next time.

* * *

"Left-two-three-dip-two-three. . ."


  1. Dance with me Henry!

  2. The fluid movement of those puppies is as cool as the ad hoc flashing and sill restoration. A real appreciation for a job well done


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