When we bought our second old house eleven years ago, it needed some serious TLC. The least of our problems was the broken window glass in the basement stairwell door, which I had “temporarily” fixed with blue painters tape. Last week, I decided to do the job right.
I’d done a lot of old-house renovations over 30+ years. Replacing a window would be no biggie, I thought.
Here’s how it went:
Hour 1: I start to remove the old glaze. How hard could it be? Answer: Like chipping away concrete with a toothpick.
Hour 2: I watch some DIY Youtube videos. Lacking the special products and tools shown, I continue to chip away the concrete.
Hours 3-5: Chip, chip.
Hour 6: The glaze is gone, as is my enthusiasm. Later that evening, I say to my husband, Mike, “I wish I had never started this project.” He replies: “I wish you never did, either.”
Hour 7: I watch Youtube videos on removing broken window glass. How hard could it be? Answer: Never ask that question.
I put on goggles and work gloves, and begin to wiggle the broken fragment out of the bottom corner. I realize that if the rest of the glass falls out, it will drop on my bare arm. I stop, look at my arm affectionately and go get a heavy old winter coat.
The broken piece comes out easily. Hah! How hard can the rest of it be? Answer: When will you learn?
I follow a Youtube suggestion to cover the remaining glass with duct tape. Then I tap the glass with a hammer to break it into small, easily removable pieces, just like the first piece. I tap harder. I stand at arms length and bang. Bang again and again.
It occurs to me that the duct tape is doing its job of preventing breakage. So I pull my coat over my glove, turn away, scrunch up my eyes, and THWACK! The glass gives way, crashing into the space between the interior and exterior doors.
Hour 8: After cleaning up the mess, I measure the window opening to within a 16th of an inch. Mike would be so proud. I head to the hardware store for new glass and a young guy puts it in my car. At home, I put on my winter coat to carry it inside.
Hour 9: I set out some glazing points (metal slivers you push into the wood frame to secure the glass) and gingerly lift the arm-amputator into the opening.
It’s too small. Shit. But only barely, so I proceed.
Holding the glass in place with one gloved hand, I reach for the points. I drop them on the floor. I’m afraid to bend over, putting my head in guillotine position but I’m more afraid to remove the glass. I have visions of Mike coming home from work to find me standing in a puddle of pee, hand pressed against the window. I choose to stretch down for the points and I rise triumphant, head intact.
When I finish setting the points, it’s clear the glass is indeed too small. That night, I reluctantly tell Mike I screwed up the measurement, but he’s got a trick to make it work. And it does.
Hour 10: I watch Youtube on applying glaze. How hard… oh, never mind. Locating two containers of glaze in the basement, I open them to find they’re hard as my hammer. Shit.
Back at the hardware store, an associate hands me a can of window glaze. “Good luck with that,” he says with a slight smirk. His expression suggests he’ll have a chuckle later, thinking of me glazing a window.
Hah! You don’t know me, I think as I walk out.
Hour 11: I attempt to apply the glaze. Check You tube. Try glazing again. Go back to Youtube. I must have missed some details. Try again. Admit defeat. Shit.
Hour 12: That night Michael shows me how to apply the glaze and I finish the job.
I hang ivory-colored blinds on the inside of the door. The stairwell glows, as do I. When I finish any house project, I spend some time sitting with it, taking it in, appreciating my handiwork. Perched on the steps, I reflect on the task.
When a simple undertaking becomes difficult, it gives us a window into our strengths and weaknesses, how we handle frustration, and how or if we ask for help. For me, it always comes down to patience, a virtue I often run short of.
Glazing out the window, I realize it’s not so hard after all.
(Mike wants me to add that this adventure of mine has redeemed him from a former post.)