“Mahogany” Window Sill Repair

This is the condition of the pine trim repair after just a few years.

Many of our customers in Rollinsford, Portsmouth, Rye, Newcastle, and Rye Beach, NH, and South Berwick, ME have gorgeous historic homes. Some of these clients are open to the idea of pvc trim replacement for rot prone areas and some would prefer to stick with good old fashioned wood. What’s our official Meticulous position when asked if

The building envelope was well done. My predecessor had used a self adhering and self sealing membrane to keep the water from getting into the house. This is also what the bead of caulking looked like before we screwed the new sill nosing into place.

we prefer to use wood or pvc? Our answer is a resounding “Yes.” We would prefer to use wood or pvc, as opposed to…I don’t know, cardboard.

We can’t escape the understanding that there are many benefits of using pvc to replace rotten exterior trim. We also understand that today’s pine is absolutely NOT an option for longevity. But using pvc trim will never be the same experience, for a carpenter, as working with wood.

This is the profile of the new nosing. The rear notch at the top edge is to account for fitting around a lip on the window unit. The notch on the bottom rear edge is to fit over the siding, properly overlapping. The middle groove on the bottom edge is called a rain drip. This is to create an edge for the water to drip from before traveling further back to the siding.

We recently consulted with a great do it yourself homeowner in historic South Portsmouth, NH. Not long ago, he had replaced window sill nosings on the east face of his home that takes a brutal beating from mother nature, being only a couple dozen yards from the river. The work he did was with pine, unfortunately, so it didn’t take long to rot again. He wanted to stay away from pvc and asked what else we could offer. I suggested the solid but pricey “Mahogany.” I wrap this in quotations because I actually purchased a product called Red Meranti at Selectwood in Portsmouth. The way that I understand it, Red Meranti is not actual Mahogany, although is commonly referred to as Mahogany. Actual Mahogany is increasingly rare due to the strict forestry controls put in place after decades of over-harvesting in South America. Red Meranti hails primarily from Indonesia and Malaysia and is a nice solid, stable, insect and decay resistant choice for a sill nosing application, not to mention dense enough to not absorb tons of water. People often ask about cedar. I stay away from cedar in this application because cedar is a very soft wood and has an open grain structure. In my opinion, cedar readily absorbs water, even though it has the ability to resist rotting better than many species. Red cedar is much easier to work with because it’s lighter and softer and thus doesn’t require pre-drilling, but because sill nosings take a beating, I think Red Meranti’s density and close grain structure make it a superior choice.

Small trim screws through the face for holding power. There IS clear primer on this before installation, and notice the intentional bead of caulking to bond the trim to the bottom edge of the window.

In this instance, we were working on a wall system that was already well waterproofed. All we had to do was focus on doing the carpentry repair in a manner to stand the test of time… and the elements. Once we had test fitted the sill nosings to be splendid, we opted to use a higher-end primer that does a nice job of blocking the tannins from the Meranti from bleeding through the paint down the road. We chose to use a product called Trim Magic by manufacturer XIM. This bonding primer adheres very well and also does a nice job of blocking the tannin bleed. It goes on milky white and dries clear to milky white. The nosings don’t appear to be primed, but certainly are on all edges before installation.

We also tried to do the painter a favor and put a quick coat of white exterior paint inside of the bottom notch before installation makes this very difficult to do.

Today’s breeds of windows don’t really have a sloped window sill or a sill that notches out over the face of the siding underneath. So, even though the building envelope underneath was very well done, we still want to keep the water traveling out over the face of the siding. Because the bottom of the window unit is completely flat, we want to bond the new trim to the bottom edge of the window and stay bonded, so water doesn’t run in behind the nosing. This can’t be done by just a nice tight carpentry fit, so we have to leave a touch of a gap to bond the two with a tri-polymer caulking. Like I’ve said in the past, our favorite caulking is Lexel. By the way, did you know that tri-polymers are self-healing? This is because they stay so permanently flexible and gooey that if a bead of this caulking gets sliced somehow, the two ends will bond back together if they just touch. What’s next, are they going to start making cars that can parallel park themselves, or something?

Yes, we do prefer to do these repairs in wood or pvc. There are lots of pros and cons for each. Sometimes pvc is just a no-brainer; sometimes the pvc doesn’t make any sense. If we’re going to use wood, we just want to think about what species to use for the occasion. Cheery-O!

 

Common Repair in New England Architecture

 

Before.

One of the mainstays of quintessential New England architecture is the “Colonial” style home. We also see a terrific array of “Greek Revival” homes. Both of these styles may have some common architectural features, including cornice details. I suppose it may be prudent to start with a quick discussion about nomenclature. The “rake” line of a

Things are starting to pull away.

gable wall refers to the trim running up the angle of the roof. In this case, there is a rake overhang. The bottom portion of this particular rake overhang intersects with the fascia and soffit at the eave line and then “returns” back to the wall section away from the fascia and gutters at the eave line. This small and almost flat section is called a “rake return.”

After tucking the seamless lead flashing, we anchored the new frame in place.

The rake return is a detail that very commonly requires a little bit of TLC here in NE. Way back when, these details were often built using antique heart pine, exponentially denser and more stable than the garbage available today. It would have been painted in an

oil based paint that allows the wood to breathe and moisture to escape through the paint. Today’s latex paints don’t afford that luxury, but are much more environmentally friendly. Sometimes, they would cover the rake return with tin or even lead. This would usually last a century…not bad.

Ready for paint.

When Meticulous Remodeling is called upon to repair or rebuild a rake return on a historic home, such as the small roof sections here in Portsmouth, NH, there is generally a need to just rebuild it by the time we get there. If we rebuild it, we’ll always anchor the simple framing to the home and to the other framing members with screws, for greater holding power. There are 2 other very critical components to making sure

No more gaps, and with screws as fasteners, there shouldn’t be any in the future.

this project will be bulletproof for another century. First, we must use flashing that will seamlessly cover the entire surface. Second, we must make sure that this lead is seamlessly tucked up in behind the siding board at the house and tucked up in behind the rake soffit that comes down onto it.

For us, this is virtually impossible

Voila!

to do without removing the existing rake return structure to provide access for us to tuck this special order 16″ lead flashing in behind these adjacent planes without tearing it. Once the flashing is in, we’ll then slide the pre-built frame up underneath it and fasten it to the wall. Next, we add trim- in this case we used pvc trim boards. Finally, we might as well paint everything while we’re up there anyway.

Pigeons…enjoy!

PVC Window Trim Replacement

An overwheleming majority of New England homes will have to undergo some sort of rotten exterior trim replacement at some point. One of the most common needs is replacing rotten window casings and sill noses, especially on the north and east faces of a home. This article aims to instruct how to replace your exterior window trim with glued and screwed pvc window trim, in a manner that will withstand the elements.

This Portsmouth home needed rotten exterior trim replaced with something that would hold up, being just a few feet from the river.

This home in Portsmouth, NH was in need of these repairs. Although I have no photos, the first thing to be done is remove the existing window casings and sill nose, gently, so as to not destroy the existing jambs, etc.. I use my Fein reciprocating saw to slice through these components, for easier removal. The sill nose must be trimmed flush with the jambs.

After measuring for the new trim and cutting and labeling the new pieces, it’s time to begin the assembly. The first thing I do is to assemble the bottom of each side window casing to the sill nose. In this case the bevel angle is 15 degrees. The glue we use for pvc welding sets up relatively quickly (in about 5 minutes), so we’ll want to start our screws before applying the glue. Because the sill nose (made by Royal Moldings) is only about 1-1/8″ thick, we can screw from the underside of the nosing into the casing. The rest of the pvc trim is Azek brand.

Make sure not to use so much glue that it oozes out.

 

 

 

 

 

This pvc glue also fits nicely into a carpenter’s tool pouch when on a ladder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the solvent we use for cleaning off any excess glue. Clean it quickly because the glue will “melt” into the face of the trim after a few moments. This is also the cleaner we use for wiping down the trim after final installation, cleaning our dirty paw prints off of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Window sill and bottom of casings.

 

 

 

 

 

Predrilling the pockets.

For screwing the tops of the casings together, we rely on what’s called a “Kreg” brand pocket screwing kit from the back side of the casings. We first drill the pocket holes for the screws on the back of the side casings. Next, we make sure we’re using the right trims in the right spots, that’s why we mark such as “TR” to mean Top Right corner of the window. Now start the screws into their pocket holes before applying glue. Glue it up, and then use the special clamp and a backer block to protect the face of the trim during clamping. Screw it together and that one’s done!

We now have a pre-assembled window trim package ready to install.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, we must prep the face of the window jambs and sill nose before applying the new trim. We use Lexel brand adhesive caulk exclusively for anything that has to hold up to the elements. It has tremendous adhesion, uv resistance, and flexibility. The flexibility is key. You don’t want to use an epoxy paste or

Notice we don’t pre-paint the sill. We want the adhesive and the new trim to bond to solid wood, not to a layer of paint or primer.

anything that won’t move and expand and contract with the movement of the vinyl and wood components. We apply this liberally to the sill nose and bottom portion of the jambs.

 

 

By making sure that there is total caulking squeeze out along the entire seam, we can ensure that the joint will keep water out.

It’s time to install the trim. We use screws for greater holding power to stay bonded tight to the wood. The screws we use are made for pvc trim. They use a special driver to recess the screws into the face of the trim. Then you gently tap a matching pvc plug into the hole, and the hole has vanished! We clean up all the excess caulking using mineral spirits and a clean rag. Remember not to leave solvent soaked rags bunched up

These are the plugs.

in the sun or high heat (like an attic during the summer). The rags will spontaneously combust. Instead, drape the wet rags to dry immediately after use.

Wait, where did the plugs go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the final product.

Once all the plugs are in, we wipe down the trim with the Goof Off, and then install the storm window and it’s complete. The total time for this project (an easy first story window) is under 3 hours. The total cost for this window was around $200. In this case, the critical joint between the new sill nose and the existing sill is hidden from the majority of the elements behind the storm window. If there is no storm window, I recommend checking the integrity of this joint and re-caulking if necessary every few years, just to err on the side of caution. I warranty this project for ten years, but you can expect it to last much longer.

By John Bradshaw