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

 

A Great Trick Learned from a Master

When I was a younger apprentice and journeyman carpenter, I always tried to work for the finest craftsmen I could, even when it meant leaving money on the table. I’m fortunate to have had 3 years of learning from one of the best carpenters I’ve seen, Brian Leavitt. This simple trick is straight from him.

Repairing cedar shakes can be a little tricky and time consuming. They are woven and overlapped and it can be a real chore to dissect them in a manner so as to be able to weave new ones back in properly. I’m not going to get into all of the particulars for cedar shake repairs, just offer a tip.

Once upon a time I was working under the tutelage of Brian and weaving cedar shakes back together on a wall right at eye level on a deck that’s used for lots of entertaining. Brian said, “Do you know how to slip a new shake in under an existing one and nail it so you don’t see nails on the face of it?”

“No, I don’t.” And as a matter of fact, I thought he was messing with me (I am super gullable). How could this be? Sliding a new shake in underneath the course directly above it and no face nails? No way.

Photo #1- This is the new shake to be installed. I have access to nail the left side of the shake at this point, but can still illustrate the trick for hiding nails with the left side of this shake.

Photo #2

Yes way. As in Photo #2, you’ll start by holding the new shake about a quarter of an inch lower than the rest of the same course of shakes you are trying to continue. Next, use some small tool like the mini pry-bar I used to hold out the existing shake that sits over the face of the new one to be nailed. Then, start your stainless siding nail up at a slight angle and as far up under the existing shake as you can. Drive the nail flush with the face of the shake. Use a nail set to help if needed.

When you finish the steps illustrated in photo #2, you’ll have what looks like photo #3. From here, all you have to do is hold a block of wood to the bottom edge of the new shake and tap it up with your hammer until the shake sits in line with the rest of the course as in photo #4.

Photo #3

Photo #4

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are now ready to abandon the old method of face nailing repaired cedar shakes, at least in high visibility spots. There are a couple of other things to take note of, though. First, this repair will be 100% complete when the cedar shakes are pressure washed to all match and hide the fact that any work was ever done. Second, the understanding of how to look at a cedar shake and determine which is the face and which face to nail to the wall is a dying, yet simple art that you should know.

Photo #5- Left face should be facing out.

In photo #5 the camera is looking down the butt edge of a shake. As seen here, the cup faces to the right. That means that the two edges of the piece of wood already curl to the right side forming a “cup”. We always install shakes so that the cup faces the wall. So from this view, the face on the right will face the wall. This is in anticipation of future wood movement. When wood gets wet and dries out, it cups to the side that it dries to. That means that a cedar shake’s 2 edges will turn away from the wall and cup toward the sun. If the shake was installed so that the cup was already facing that way, then this new movement will have such an impact on the shake that it will very likely split and cause the shake above it to pull away and move and just start it’s decline. This is very easy to avoid with just a fraction of a second of extra effort to look at the shake before installing it. You may now proceed well armed for battle, thanks to Brian.

 

By John Bradshaw

 

Let’s Play Hide the Plywood

 

This is from my initial assessment.

In photo #2- Do you see the same problem I see?

I was called to a home in Rochester (actually I was emailed to visit this home)to examine recently revealed rot and offer solutions.This home has a second story roof overhang that is almost four feet deep. The homeowner started to find some problems when he ripped up the cement pad that was underneath the entire overhang. The columns had entirely rotted at the bottoms – the home was built before pressure treated wood- so we replaced them. We also replaced all of the fascias with pvc trim and installed seamless gutters and leafguards to manage the water. This proactive homeowner also found some soft and punky plywood after removing some of the siding, himself, to see what was going on.

In photo #2 you’ll see that the major problem I identified was the lack of elevation between the finish grade under the overhang and the wood framing, plywood, and siding. The current building code calls for a minimum of 8″ of exposed masonry between finish grade and framing and plywood. This is to protect the home from water damage and insect damage. With the extra wide roof overhang, there is little threat from water, but major threat from insects. The reason there was no prior insect damage was because the concrete pad was poured right up to the siding. When you’ve seen the devastating damage an underground colony of termites can silently wreak on the framing of a home, you evaluate these situations from a different angle.

In this drawing that I scanned and included with my original work proposal you’ll see 2 things: First, the solution that I’ve been using for a few years now to solve this type of problem; and second, my pre-K art skills not so proudly on display! The foam gasket and the bead of caulking work together to try to form an airtight seal to keep the bugs out. Additionally, we’re wrapping the bottom edge of the plywood with ice and water shield in order to hide the plywood from the insects. I’m no entymologist, but I assume that insects will be far less likely to begin nibbling away at petroleum based products like ice and water shield. The foam gasket must be buried under the ice and water shield. I’ve seen carpenter ants eat away an entire wall’s worth of 1/2″ foam board that lay directly under the siding. The only evidence remaining to prove that it ever existed was the foil facing.

Photo #3- We could stand to add some insulation, since the wall was opened up anyhow.

Photo #4- Insulation beefed up and ready to continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo #5

In photo #5, we applied the 7/16″ x 1″ wide foam gasket to the bottom edge of the back side of the plywood. We then began to wrap the bottom edge in ice and water shield. What I did was to gently pre-slice the paper on the back side of the ice and water shield so that I could stick it to the back of the ply and to the foam, but leave the protective paper on the part that will wrap up the front face of the ply.

In photo #6 you’ll see the back edge of the ply wrapped with ice and water shield up and over the foam gasket.

Photo #7

In photo # 7 this is the installation of said plywood panels. Notice I ran the ice and water shield past the first piece of ply, so that I could have good overlapping with the next piece. The process calls for smearing the bottom edge of the ply into a thick bead of high grade caulking. In this case, the local lumberyard didn’t carry Lexel brand caulking (in my opinion the most bad posterior caulking available), so that means 2 things: First, we used Phenoseal translucent caulking (goes on white and dries translucent); second, Ricci Lumber needs to think about opening a satellite location in Rochester, or I need to plan ahead and schedule for them to deliver my sundries along with the lumber order next time. Phenoseal is also amazing, it has my 110% confidence.

Photo #8

 

In photo # 8, note that it’s important to nail the bottom edge of the ply approximately every 6″. Also, remember to set the depth of the nail gun so that the nails don’t just blow 1/2 way through the plywood.

 

By John Bradshaw

Photo #9- Peel off the remaining paper and stick the ice and water shield to the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo #10- Finish the prep with more ice and water shield tucked all the way underneath components that are directly above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo #11- Pvc trimboard installation with hidden fasteners. We also installed proper flashing above the trimboard and replaced siding above that. All that’s left now is touch up paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finished product from the road. The homeowner can finish his hardscaping now, sorry Rich.

In summary, when repairing rot in New England, or elsewhere, we must evaluate whether standard operating procedure will suffice. In this case, just nailing up plywood would handle the repair, but not protect the home for the long term. Invest the extra effort to think about and evaluate what forces will be working against the project in the future. Then, find or create the solution that will stand against these forces. It’s an investment you will not regret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Rot Repairs Using PVC Trim Boards

While having the pleasure of working in a beautiful neighborhood in Newcastle, NH recently, I was approached, on separate occasions, by 2 friendly neighbors. Both of these gentlemen were astute “Do -It- Yourselfers” in want of information. All of the homes in the neighborhood were built about 20 – 25 years ago and are beginning to have some of the same issues. They’ve got roofs that are starting to show minor problems, roof boots that have dried out and cracked, windows that have exceeded their serviceable life, and generalized exterior rot. Both neighbors seemed to want to see how we handle some of these things, and determine for themselves whether there is anything of value they might be able to take from it.

Because I want this blog and this website to be a resource, I figure I might as well share my approach to some of these things that people seem interested in learning about. In this case,

This is the bottom trim molding before.

the front door threshold had been replaced at some point with a pine threshold. It rotted at the corners, where the storm door side tracks sit on top of it. Also, the door surround had been patched with new pine in places, and it too was in need of attention. Originally, I didn’t think about writing a blog for this project, so the beginning pictures could have been better.

 

 

 

In this third picture, you’ll see the short section of pine that was used for a previous patch. The predecessor chose clear pine instead of primed finger jointed. Very conscientious. He/she also cut an angle at the top of the piece which created what we call a scarf joint, or some would call a weather cut. This is important. The patch had also been primed on all sides, including the scarf joint at the top. This is even more important when using wood.

But the patch, beginning at the top right corner, had begun it’s rapid descent down the drain anyhow. How come? Well briefly, (I’ll save the real meat and potatoes of this one for another blog post) because pine available today for exterior projects is complete garbage. Be as conscientious as you want, it’s still going to fail prematurely, everytime.

Step one: Drive screw with special driver (no pre-drilling).

So,I chose to replace these vulnerable components with pvc board and trim. Nothing comes without it’s pricetag, however. And these products have their pricey tag.

Additionally, they must be used with the utmost care and attention to detail, or suffer the wrath of buyer’s remorse.

The brand I use is Azek. A 1 x 12

Step two: Set pvc plug.

comes 18′ long and can shrink as much as 3/4″ lengthwise depending on ambient temperature. Typical wood boards shrink and expand with changes in

moisture, and in greatest fluctuation across their width (the 5-1/2″ width for a 1 x 6). Pvc boards shrink and expand with thermal changes, and in greatest fluctuation along their length (18′ for a typical board that is uncut). Therefore it can be entirely expected that if you install an 18′ 1 x 12 that butts into 2 perpendicular wood surfaces on an 80 degree day in the sun, and then come back to visit (this is where being a remodeling carpenter with repeat customers becomes priceless) during November on a

Final step: Gently tap flush with hammer.

40 degree day, you will probably see a gap at each end approaching 3/8 of an inch!!!!

But, with a whole bunch of awesomeness (I’m actually dusting off the tops of my shoulders while typing) these problems can be averted. I’ve built a deck, during the summer, with 1 x 8 trimboards totaling 39 feet joined together. I went back for another stage of construction during the winter, and none of the joints had opened a whisker.

I was very reluctant to use the super-spectacular new virtually invisible fastening method for these products, but with a bit of coaching from some of the younger guys that were more open to these things, I fell head over heels. The screws are made by Cortex. You just sink ‘em deep with no pre-drilling, and then tap in a pvc plug with your hammer. Boom! Nothing ever happened here. Stainless finish nails can sheer off under the right expansion and contraction conditions.

The glue we use for pvc joinery.

What about glue? We should use the Azek brand glue that Azek specifies, right? Wrong-o! This pvc is cellular pvc, similar to being blown up with air like a marshmallow. It’s not dense like pvc pipe. So, Azek specifies a light body pvc cement because it will not “bite into” their trim board too much and thus compromise it, according to them. I’ve seen this proprietary glue fail time after time  (could I please get Cyndi Lauper out of my head now!). I use a medium body pvc cement, preferably in a squeeze tube to fit neatly in my tool pouch. It “bites into” the trim board enough to hold the joint through the changes in seasons. This allows me to create exterior trimwork that water will never have the opportunity to infiltrate. It can join layers of trim on adjacent planes and at perpendicular angles. A trim product that doesn’t absorb water and adhesives and techniques that ensure tight joinery for years to come. I mean, what’s next? Are they gonna come out with commercial free radio stations or something?

Joining the upper wood with the new, lower pvc. Notice the Gorilla glue squeeze out.

The next thing to think about, with regards to this repair project, is joining the new pvc trim patch to the existing wood trim layers. I chose to save the upper portions of the wood trim that weren’t compromised. they will be out of the snow and rain, and I know we can elevate our game to keep water out of these joints. First, the lower product that would be catching all the water will be pvc. Second, we will use relatively small pieces for these patches so that the percentages that they will shrink with thermal changes will have a miniscule practical effect. Third, when we bond them to the wood we will use the best adhesive ever for this application…next time. I loathe making mistakes, and both times I’ve had a hard time reconciling it (laugh with me). However, I chose Gorilla brand polyurethane glue for this particular application, and then second guessed myself. To satisfy the second guessing, I did a test joint with a piece of wood joining to a piece of pvc trim. The next day it was no good. The glue didn’t bite into the pvc and  I was able to force the joint apart with some effort. One of the reasons that I chose this glue, however, was because of it’s expansive properties. The other was because of it’s insane ability to bond to wood. Boil it down, and the glue I chose did not properly bond the two pieces. It did, however, expand to fill the entire joint 100% and form an unbreakable bond with the upper wood part of the joint. So, the wood end grain is well sealed forever, and the pvc trim board underneath it should not contract beyond a hairline. Lovely.

For the longer pvc trim boards, I made new nose pieces at the top that sit underneath the wood trim (For this whole paragraph, I have no pics…this blog post was an afterthought). I applied a heavy bead of Lexel caulk and then screwed these small pieces into the upper wood trim. I then applied a nice bead of pvc cement to the top butt edge of the long pvc board before butting it into this small pvc trim detail. Because we used the proper fasteners and adhesives, this perpendicular joint will not fail.

It’s alright to use stainless finish nails when using small components. Further, the nails are only going to be carrying the load until the glue sets up in five minutes or so.

The last thing to remember is to account for whether or not your pvc trim is going to be painted. It doesn’t have to be, but machine marks must be eliminated. They leave tiny pits that allow algae and mold to build up in. Raw edges, if unpainted and unsanded, turn almost black with these growths. Finely sand or paint all exposed cut edges. Also, paint doesn’t stick to sharp corners, so ease the outside corners of your work with a piece of sandpaper. Lastly, paint doesn’t stick to shiny pvc trim very well. I know, your painter and paint retailer will contradict me. That’s fine. I’ve been in the position to come back around to a project 6 months later, to see how the paint held up. The right paint, according to the manufacturer, didn’t stick. I now recommend gently scuffing the entire pvc surfaces to be painted to remove the “shine” from the board, beforehand. It is a price to pay, but remember that the new pvc trim will hold paint FAR longer than wood will, due to it’s moisture stability.

Finished product…before being painted to match.

By John Bradshaw

What’s the Science Behind Vinyl Siding?

There are lots of pros and cons of vinyl siding. Weighing heavily in the pros list are: It’s very affordable, it installs quickly, it’s virtually maintenance free, it can come re-inforced with foam insulation backer, and there are plenty of colors and styles to choose from. Weighing heavily in the cons column: There is a void of science involved.

Now let’s just get the record straight, I’m no primadonna. I don’t need to build or even repair a home as if it were a baby grand. I don’t utterly refuse to work with some materials out of sheer carpentry snobbery, and I’m equally grateful to be working on a modest single story ranch as I am on an elegant Queen Anne Victorian.

There are, however, plenty of times when I need to lobby for the implementation of fundamental building principles. The cardinal rule of building has always been Water Management. It starts with the selection of a buildable site, is adhered to when determining the elevation of the building, and so on until the end of time.  With regards to this cardinal rule, vinyl siding offers virtually nothing. Does that mean that vinyl siding shouldn’t be used? I don’t feel that way at all. It just means that it’s critical to have a bulletproof “drain plane” behind the vinyl siding. What’s a proper drain plane? It is the proper overlapping of weather resistant building materials (such as tar paper or Tyvek housewrap) to continually carry water out over the face of the home. This technique used to be common knowledge in the trade. Used to be.

Without making this a doctoral dissertation, do I like vinyl siding? Sure. It’s on my first home now. It won’t be the selection for my dream home. But it will be the selection for my final home. Ahh, the circle of life….

 

By John Bradshaw