Adding Windows and Doors

The last few months have taught me that remodeling projects tend to have a freakish ability to snowball. They start as charming, easy-to-grasp little things. But then they start to tumble downhill, gathering both size and momentum, until they reach monstrous proportions that are easily capable of knocking you on your ass.

But there’s also something immensely seductive about the process that makes you forget the fact you’re very likely treading dangerously close to calamity. Before you know it, you find yourself saying crazy things like: “Well, since we’re rebuilding the back half of the house, ripping off all the siding, and replacing the roof, I suppose we might as well do all the doors and windows while we’re in there, too.”

In my defense, he had broke it to me a month or so back that the seals on all my windows and doors were shot. (That would go a long way in explaining the leak my first contractor, mentioned he’d found under the flooring near my front picture window.) Most of the windows were of roughly 1970’s vintage, and I figured it probably made sense to replace them with more energy-efficient versions. Moreover, I had wanted to add a few additional ones anyway to make the center of the house feel less like a shoebox an ambitious six-year-old had wrapped for Christmas.

It’s weird to get so excited over windows and doors but, so far, it’s been the most fun I’ve had as far as the remodeling. I love the two 4 x 5 foot windows he added to the back wall of the former boatwell. I also had him add a teeny-tiny little frosted window over to the toilet in the bathroom and a much larger window across from the sleeping nook. I have no idea how many times I’ve gone back to the bathroom to check out the little window, grinning from ear to ear. It just makes me gleefully happy to see the little window and I have no idea why.

Perhaps it’s because, to my mind it makes such a huge difference to the cramped bathroom space and it was all MY idea. I’ve owned homes before and experienced the creative satisfaction of decorating them as my heart dictated. This is the first time, however, where I’ve had creative control all the way down to the bones of a structure. I suspect my frustrated inner-architect is finally getting a chance to let her hair down and she digging it.

The two large 4 x 5 windows in the back are designed to open about six inches. The advantage to that is there’s nothing to obstruct the view in the center of the frame. The downside is that, in order for my house to meet fire code, I was required to add a back door, which means I’ve lost some of the sidewall on which I’d originally been planning to have a wardrobe for storage. I decided to take the opportunity to select a door with a half-pane of glass in order to let some additional light into the room. (Hey, if you’re going to live on the water, I say you might as well enjoy as much light reflecting off it as possible.)

The other change I made was to the front door. When I bought the house it had a sliding glass door. Most of the external changes I’ve made my house make it look less modern and more cottage-y. (cottage-esque?) I really had my heart set on adding a pair of white French doors in the front with internal venetian blinds for the times I want privacy. Kenny convinced me, however, that that would be a Very Bad Idea, considering my front door faces to the east. He is one of several locals now who’s mentioned the Dreaded East Wind of Winter.

Apparently, in the summer, the wind along the River blows from west to east. It’s a balmy, friendly wind coming off the Pacific. In the winter, however, it’s a whole ‘nother story. Then the wind comes from the east and, for anyone not familiar with Portland geography, that means it’s coming off the snow-clad peaks. We’re talking a cold, wet, unfriendly wind that drops the temperature more than 15 degrees lower than a half-mile inland. It finds its way into any gap or crevice in a structure you haven’t successfully managed to seal and it’s perfectly happy to soak everything it can reach to the bone.

The East Wind has a lot to do with why my marina is more than half-empty come winter. It’s only the strong and the stubbornly die-hard who choose to remain.

Anyway, I digress. Long story short, Kenny made it bluntly clear to me that he’d put a French door in my house if I insisted but I wasn’t to come whining to him when enterprising penguins started up an ice rink in my front room come December. I was just about to relent and stick with the glass Arcadia door when he mentioned this was another option. Apparently there is an Arcadia-style door that looks like a French door but the doors are on tracks and are able to slide sideways as well as one side can swing inward. Dont ask me exactly how this all works, but the advantage is theres a solid center seal between the two side of the door that prevents water from blasting in. So I get my faux French door and Kenny can stop worrying about my welfare my first winter on the river.

My front door actually was delivered the morning I was scheduled to head back to New Mexico, which was neat. I didn’t get to stay for the full install. But I arrived in the early morning mist of rain to discover my old door gone and a good third of the front wall of my house open to the river while Gene worked on the new framing. It was pretty surreal. I’ll certainly not ever have that exact view from the kitchen again any time soon.

I’m eagerly awaiting pictures from Kenny on the finished front of the house including my spiffy new door.