I started in on my back garden to-do list over the weekend! The forecast was for temperatures in the high 60s with clear skies both days, so I figured it was a good time to take on the white vinyl basement window that’s been sticking out like a sore thumb for years. On Saturday morning we went out to buy supplies, and after a nice lunch at Caffe Macchiato (they have a new vegan menu—very exciting) and a stroll around Washington’s Headquarters, I got to work.
The first step was giving the entire window and the wood casing a thorough scrubbing. It took me a while to figure out how to remove that screen on the left—I almost gave up, and then I realized you just have to push it outward from inside. Heh. I used TSP substitute and warm water to make sure the entire area was totally free from any kind of oils, grease or anything else that could interfere with the paint’s adhesion. Regardless of what I’m painting, I’ve made it a standard part of my prep work to always clean with TSP substitute first. I don’t have a preferred brand, but I like the kinds that can be diluted with water better. (Note: TSP substitute will also dull the gloss of most finishes. That’s a good thing if you’re planning to paint, but a bad thing otherwise. Don’t use it as a cleaning product unless you’re in prep mode!)
Once every was super-clean inside and out, I forced myself to walk away and let it dry completely overnight. Water is the enemy of spray paint—even more so than dust or dirt—and as tempting as it was to put a first coat on right away, I knew I’d regret it.
The next morning, I spent about an hour masking off everything I didn’t want to get paint on. I wasn’t too worried about overspray getting on the brick since the window well is recessed, but I taped up some plastic anyway. Ideally this would all have happened before the window was installed (actually no, ideally we would have installed a black window, but I think our choices were limited to white or almond…), but what can you do.
Side note: I keep seeing a person wearing a sumo wrestler costume wig (with blue barrettes) and a pair of white glasses.
I’m usually a Rust-Oleum devotee when it comes to spray paint, but for some reason my Lowe’s doesn’t carry their plastic spray paint line. Lowe’s own Valspar plastic spray paint gets perfectly good reviews, so I let go of my brand loyalty in favor of not having to also go to Home Depot. The color choice were extremely blah, so I’m glad I just needed plain old black. It cost about $5.
Note that the can says, “no primer needed.” That’s the truth. In my experience, if a can of spray paint says it doesn’t require primer, you’re better off without it. Not using primer goes against everything I believe in when it comes to painting, but it’s truly not needed in some cases. This spray paint is formulated to bond directly with the substrate. Skip the primer.
I tried to get a close-up shot so you can see how nice the finish is, but it was so sunny out and the gloss black is really reflective, so it’s hard to tell. It really did come out looking like a factory-finished black window. Do avoid dripping, I did four very thin coats in all, 10 minutes apart.
Then we went to lunch at Tito Santana Taqueria (the new tofu scramble tacos are REALLY GOOD) and took a long walk through Beacon while the paint dried.
Ta-da! The vinyl came out looking great. Nice and smooth. Unfortunately, because the window is double-glazed, there’s no way to paint the white plastic area between the two panes of glass. Of course I’d prefer to not see any white there are all, but it’s not a huge deal. It’s not noticeable from a few steps back.
Obviously it’s too early for me to comment on the durability of the spray paint over time, but I’m not too concerned. We don’t open and close this window, so any wear would come from exposure to the elements. I’ll keep an eye on it, and I’ll report back.
The paint on the wood casing was looking kind of rough and peel-y (I didn’t paint it initially, our contractor did after installing the window…which was part of a major structural repair job on the back of the house), and it had never been caulked properly, so it was as good a time as any to get the whole window in good shape. I used indoor/outdoor caulk that I had on hand. Check the label when you’re caulking exterior windows—it should be able to adhere to vinyl, wood, and masonry.
Fortunately we had half a can of our exterior paint (Benjamin Moore’s Black Beauty, Aura semi-gloss) stashed in the basement! I decided to paint the concrete arch at the top of the window, too. That arch was originally wood, and that piece is painted to match the rest of the casings on all of our other windows and doors. It makes sense to have this window match the others! I don’t know why it never occurred to me to paint that arch before.
Ta-daaaa! Yes, I realize this is a very subtle improvement, but it makes me feel good to have crossed off one of my spring/summer to-do list items already. Of course, the dryer vent hood now looks extra-extra terrible, so I should probably go ahead and cough up the bucks and order a copper replacement. I’ll justify spending $75 on a vent hood by reminding myself that the rest of this little project only cost $5.
Speaking of looking terrible by comparison, THIS is what our windows look like up close. Oy. We can’t rehabilitate them all ourselves because we’d need scaffolding for the upper windows (and anything we do at the front of the house requires prior historic guideline board approval and a building permit—yes, even just to paint a window), but I certainly can and most definitely should fix up the windows I can reach with a ladder at the back of the house. I’m adding the two kitchen windows to my to-do list! I know it’s a drop in the bucket considering we have 15 windows, but it’s a start—and it’ll look nice from the garden.
EDIT: I just found a couple of before-before photos I never blogged before, and figured it made sense to add them to this post…
Wow. That photo from 2007 makes me feel so heavy and sad. I don’t know why I didn’t really blog about a lot of the work that was done on our house back then. It felt very overwhelming and scary at the time. The back of the house was in danger of collapsing—those bricks could be pulled out by hand, and if you pressed on the exterior walls, they’d move. Years of ice buildup on the back of the house (caused by a rotted-out gutter and blocked downspout) caused the mortar to fail, and misguided attempts to patch the area with cement instead of mortar led to deterioration of the bricks. The 2009 photo shows the same corner after being rebuilt using all of the original bricks! They had to dig down about 6 feet below ground level to stabilize and waterproof the foundation. After that photo was taken, the entire back of the house was cleaned and the rest of bricks were repointed (and, of course, a new window was installed). Comparing the 2007 photo to the ones above it from 2014 makes me very emotional. You lose perspective sometimes after you’ve been working on an old house for years and years. It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come when you see it every day.