I covered the financing side of this project in my last post, but the hands-on renovation has been going for about 4 weeks now, and a huge amount has been accomplished. I’ll start with a chronology of the tasks from beginning to completion, and will dive into my experience with the first item on that list, choosing windows and what my considerations were.
Here is the approximate order of events in this cabin-to-cottage reno:
• Choose sizes for all windows, both the replacement of existing windows, and windows in new spots and order
• Remove the kitchen (tiny, so not a big deal)
• Remove the unsightly and large hot water tank that was right smack in the kitchen
• Rip out the shower stall that was oddly placed in the middle of the bathroom
• Remove wood paneling to open all the walls
• Replace the ancient screw-in fuse box and rewire the whole house, adding new outlets and four boxes (in the wall) for sconces/wall lights (and more)
• Create a new home for the pressure tank (water) and new on-demand water heater that had lived under the kitchen sink
• Foam insulate all exterior walls (This is actually where I am today as of this writing)
• Close up the walls with shiplap paneling
• Sand the floors
• Fit out the bathroom
• Install all the windows
• Install the kitchen
• Get excavator in to grade exterior land and dig post holes for deck
• Add a wraparound deck
• Enclose the covered entrance
• Add a bluestone patio (probably)
Much to the potential horror of my builder and electrician, who didn’t outwardly react when I told them, I actually have a pressing deadline for this project, because I have friends, a family of five coming to visit from Ireland the first week of August. And so far everyone has done their part to try to get the building at least most of the way there, and with a functioning bathroom. While it’s been, we’ll say, adrenaline-producing, the deadline has helped maintain focus. Any hold-ups so far have largely been on me, as I am, for practical purposes, the GC (General Contractor). That means I coordinate all the trades (builder, plumber, electrician, foam guy, tile guy), so the order has to make sense. You can’t rewire something once the foam insulation is in, for example. So you have to button up certain projects before the next can begin.
I’ll start with what I had considered the most exciting part of the project, and that was altering the whole experience by expanding windows where they’d existed, and punching new openings in areas that had none. I knew I’d choose Andersen, and for me the 400 Series was the obvious choice. I like windows with grilles (the divided panes) and I like wood, even though they would be painted. I went primarily with double-hungs because if you leave casements open while it’s raining, it’s not great for the wood. Having said that, I went with casements above the kitchen sink and in a double and triple set on two corner walls by the dining area.
Why change out the existing windows? They were ancient and single-paned. Since I am moving from “seasonal”, ie not usable in winter, to a year round house, new windows are imperative to creating a sealed-up “envelope” to hold heat. But of course the aesthetics are the exciting thing. The two most dramatic changes will be the bank of 3 new windows to the left of the front door where there had been a solid wall (see video). That wall faces southeast and enjoys morning light which never made it into this house. Understanding the sun’s track and the activities that take place inside and out, is really informative when making renovation decisions. The windows will be 5 ft tall and will run about 8 ft wide in total. It will be transformative, and will create extended sight lines while in the house that will make the space feel larger than it is. (It’s 1,100 square feet including the loft).
I actually edited the video down, because, I go on to explain that I had thought to repack that 11 ft window with one that “bumped-out”, creating a kind of 90 degree bay window where I might be able to even fit a twin mattress. In the end I scrapped that idea because I thought it would look weird from the outside, and too fussy for this small space. I went with the notion that simple is best. Those windows, in fact, will be the same size and style as those on the wall near the front door, but there will be four, so it will run about 11 ft in total.
What I can’t show, because I was late in deciding what to do with the gable above the window shown below, is the set of windows that will appear ABOVE the 4 lower windows. Allowing light through that upper space will brighten the place up like crazy, and will also provide light across the way in the loft. So my delay means these windows will come in a few weeks after the others. I’ll also throw in, looking at this pic below, that that darned fan/light combo drove me crazy. Here is the cathedral ceiling, but the fan and the light make you feel like the ceiling is on top of you. It’s since been pulled and made a huge difference to the perception of space.
As my final comment, I’ll share cost. The windows in total, before labor, come to about $12k. For me this was one of the key components to making this a really exciting house, and I knew that it was an important investment. There are loads of items you can upgrade at a later date, but the windows should be a top priority from the outset. So I’ll be excited in a couple weeks to share the updates when all but the gable end windows will be replaced, and the new look starts to take shape.