rotted sill = replace entire window?


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Old 04-03-11, 06:11 AM
R
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rotted sill = replace entire window?

Hello,
This is my first visit to this forum. The sill of a window on our 125+ year old house has completely rotted out. I believe it is due to water dripping from eves and damage from snow sliding off the roof. The contractor we've hired for other repairs (with so-so satisfaction) says the entire window should be replaced, and that replacing only the sill is a stop gap measure and we'll only have to replace it again. The rest of the window seems unaffected. There are layers of caulk, insullation and what-not behind the sill that came out, indicating that some past owner(s) tried to creatively address the issue.

I'm wondering if others can offer opinions from their experience? We obviously need to figure out a way to keep water from dripping onto the sill, which I believe could be addressed by improved gutters and protection from snow slides.
Thanks in advance!
R
 
  #2  
Old 04-03-11, 06:27 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

I used to go to a church that was built in 1903. I replaced 1 or 2 of the sills. The church didn't have gutters but I think the rot was more from lack of maintenance [paint] than anything else. While I no longer go to that church, I know the repair lasted 10+ yrs.

IMO the biggest reason to replace the window would be to get a more energy efficient window and to insulate/seal around the window.
 
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Old 04-03-11, 06:55 AM
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I've replaced hundreds of sills, and while it's never fun or particularly easy, it can be done. There is always the potential for damage to the surrounding window trim, but if you're very careful and have the right tools, it usually can be minimized.

The original window jambs usually extend down along the ends of your sill, so there are usually about 4 nails holding the bottom of the jamb to the ends of the sill. You also have a stool (many people call this the window sill) that overlaps the sloped sill on top. The stool is also nailed to the sill, and the stool likes to crack, so this is an area to be very careful. I usually like to try to bow the stool up in the center of the opening with a putty knife and prybar, then I try to cut the nails, either with a reciprocating saw and metal blade, or a Fein Multimaster and metal blade. Once all the nails in the stool are cut, I cut the sill into pieces with a reciprocating saw. If you take a large chunk out the the middle, and leave maybe 3" on each side, you can then split the 3" that are left on each side with a chisel and it will then come off the long nails that hold it to the jamb.

In all of this you need to be very careful not to pry so hard that you damage the lathe and plaster walls, which crack and crumble easily. You also need to be aware that your siding sometimes fits up into a notch in the bottom of the sill, so exercise care when you pull the nose of the sill upward that you don't crack the siding too- sometimes it's been caulked to the max.

The jamb nails need to be cut off so that the dado in the jambs is clean and ready for the replacement sill. Sometimes it also helps to nail a wedge onto the rough opening to help your new sill sit at the proper angle and to give it full support. While you CAN toenail the new sill to the jamb dado, (sometimes the bottoms of the jambs are also rotted away) it won't hold the sill-jamb connection as securely as it was before when the jamb was nailed to the sill on the ends, so you'll glue the ends with construction adhesive and you'll nail or screw the sill to the bottom of the rough opening. You'll also renail the stool to the sill once it's in. Before you drive the sill all the way in, you'll want to insulate underneath it. If you use foam, be sure it's door and window foam and don't put too much in.

You should be able to figure out the correct shape and size to cut the sill. Basically it needs to be the same length and thickness that it is now. So measure the length and write it down. Once the old sill is out, measure the distance between the dados. Then measure the distance from the where the sill will sit under the stool to the point at which your sheathing starts. This will produce the shape of the sill, it will look like a T, with "ears or horns" on the left and right sides. As far as thickness goes, old OLD sills are often very thick- sometimes up to 2". If that's the case you might want to go to a mill and get a board custom planed to the right thickness. If that's not possible, you will need to shim the new sill up (since it will only be 1 1/2" thick), and glue an additional piece on to the bottom front edge to make up for the difference in thickness.

Other sills are two-piece sills, or "step-sills". They commonly have a thick lower sill, as described above, but there is also a 1" thick secondary sill on top of that. Old wooden combinations used to sit in front of this secondary sill and were hooked to an eyelet in the middle of this sill.

Hope some of this helps. And yes, your contractor is right. If you replace the sill, you will have to replace it again in another 125 years. :NO NO NO:
 
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Old 04-03-11, 03:45 PM
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Thank you!

Thanks so much for these very helpful responses! I wish I'd joined sooner, as it likely would've saved me quite a bit of money (the lil' lady doesn't know better surcharge) and worry. Thank you, thank you!!
 
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Old 04-03-11, 07:55 PM
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Old wooden windows used old growth wood in the frames and with propper care they did last a long time, but unless you get a hold of some old growth pine some place the new sill just will not last as long as the orginal.
Pro's and cons for new window.
Never need priming, painting, reglazing.
Will be far more energy effecent.
No old ropes to replace when they rot out for the weights.
No more big holes in the walls on the sides leaking air when the old weights come out and get filled in with insulation.
In most cases it will take the same or less time to replace the whole window as to cutting out the old sill.

The pro's of fixing the old sill are 0.
 
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Old 04-05-11, 05:13 PM
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If your carpenter doesn't want to replace the sill, you probably don't want him doing the work. He either isn't skilled enough or he'll cop and attitude and do a crappy job and say "I told you so". There's plenty of those types of carpenters around. If you end up deciding to replace the sill you probably want to find a "renovator" who is used to matching period work... (like the guys on this old house) not some young buck who just wants to tear everything out and start from scratch.

There is probably some value to fixing the sill if you'd like to retain the original look of the house, or if you are trying to get by on a budget. Some houses have historic value, and a new window in an old house wouldn't be true to the period. (nor would a vinyl window when all the other windows are wood) Replacing just the sill also keeps you under the radar as far as lead renovation is concerned. Once you go to replace the window, lead safe practices have to be used, which brings added labor costs. So there are plenty of advantages to just doing the sill.

There are still advantages to replacing the window, but it just depends what your long term plans are, and how much you're willing to spend. The main advantage of replacing the sill is that you're only into it for maybe $100-200, or less if you DIY. Replace the whole window and it could be $1000 very easily, maybe more if the plaster starts falling off the wall when they tear the window out, or if you need to get custom trim to exactly match something that's 125 yrs old.

It all depends on your grand plan for the house.
 
 

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