Today we finished placing the outer panes of glass for the big windows. WOW! It is amazing how bright the light is now. We had previously had two layers of somewhat dirty construction grade 6-mil plastic in the window openings to keep in the heat. That worked pretty well but it also blocked a lot of light. Using my Fuji camera‘s meter I estimated that the glass is letting in about 250% as much light (2.5x) as the plastic had been letting into the cottage. That should improve the solar gain! The glass is also sealed tight so there will now be less infiltration, e.g., drafts, around the windows.
Much more importantly in some people’s eyes, we can now look out and see the beautiful scenery. To the north east we can see Knox Mountain and Butterfield Mountain. To the east Hadden Hill. To the south our new pond, picnic area, beyond to the south field and the mountains beyond. Holly was very excited. Our old farm house is set down in the vale and has few windows to boot so no views.
On a funny note, you can easily see right through the house as demonstrated by Holly who is behind the house looking at me in the photo above. You can see her looking in the kitchen window through the east front window. Saturn, one of our livestock guardian dogs, went in and is looking out the front door. From the dining area you can see northwest to the treehouse, south to the upper pond, south east to the south pasture, east to Hadden Hill and northeast to the marshes. Almost a 270° view – pretty magnificent!
All the windows went in smoothly and easily, except one. The west front opening was millimeters too small – Built in concrete no less. Ouch! I spent half an hour carefully chipping and shaping. What had happened was I had used some split half blocks. This all relates back to the concrete block company having delivered the wrong type of block for half blocks. That’s what I get for cutting things too close. But, all’s well that ends well – the window fits perfectly now and there is room for thermal expansion. When I put the stone facing on the chipping work will all be hidden. Frankly you don’t even notice it now unless you look very, very carefully. Lesson: Make all openings generous. Shim and fill later. Trim hides the extra.
We had one other oddity. One of the panes of glass we salvaged has two small streaks. We had thought they were just grime. On closer examination they look like etching acid was dripped onto them. Unfortunately we didn’t notice them until after we had the windows up in place, foam insulation cured and screws in. If I had looked closer and seen those marks I would have used another pane and saved that one for a less obvious location. Lesson: Inspect salvaged, and new, materials more carefully before installation. Still, for $5 per window I’m not complaining!
Our technique for putting in the windows was to set them in place on two 16 penny nails, use minimal expanding foam under the frame to seal it, remove the nails so it drops down on the foam opening a gap at the top, foam the left edge, slide the window right and foam, center it and foam the top. Then we screwed it in from the outside. Since the crack to put in the foam is so small (1/8″) I used the chew the straw technique to get a very narrow applicator. The foam then continued to expand and sealed everything up tight while we had lunch. This worked well, resulted in minimal extraneous foam and an excellent seal. A couple of hours later I cut off the little bit of foam that extruded around the window frames.
This is the view looking out from the back wall. Holly’s standing in the dining area, on a pail, cleaning windows in the right front. Holly says that “anyone who complains about cleaning windows should be so blessed as to have windows to clean.” To the left is the front door. Right now you can see all the way across the partitions but in the final room there will be an archway between the partitions that supports the kids’ loft. Their window is hidden by the pink foam form above – it will be another spectacular view looking out over the upper pond and fields.
While Holly cleaned the windows I scraped foam. We built the walls by dry stacking and pouring cores. This means that the walls were not air tight. When I was locked in because the foam around the door was curing I squirted can of foam into all the cracks I could. When we parge it will further seal the walls but I figured foaming any large gaps (>1/64″) to be good insurance. In retrospect, I would have used can of foam as I dry stacked the block for the spaces between the blocks. It was an interesting chance to review my work. Virtually all the blocks were straight and true. The problem places were where mostly where I had hand split blocks which leaves rough edges. Foam fixed that. But the blobs of foam on the walls looked like psychedelic worms crawling in the corners of my eyes. Scraping them off was a joy. Very addictive and easy with a sharpened spatula. Interestingly, the orange triple expanding foam is much tougher than the white minimal expanding foam. The inside of the cottage looks much better now!
While washing the windows Holly noticed an interesting little chemistry item… She squirted a foam of alcohol and soap onto the window. This mix dribbled downward across the fogged glass. Much more quickly the area around the foam cleared of fog! It was fascinating to watch. I believe what was happening was the soap was acting as a good little surfactant and de-beading the water so the fog coalesced. This made the water on the window pane have a single surface instead of many beads which meant the light was no longer being scattered as the fogged glass did. Pretty cool.
So why is there fog on the glass? Because it is cold outside and moist inside. I put out buckets of water to keep the air inside the cottage humid to help the concrete cure. The glass is only a single pane at this point which has very little R-value. The result is the dew point is inside the cottage on the inner surface of the glass. Water vapor from the air condenses on the cold glass fogging it. Dirty oily windows fog more noticeably since the water beads up causing the light to bend and scatter – that’s called refraction. Cleaning the glass and then wiping with soap keeps them less foggy even with the c
ondensation. Ammonia is an excellent glass cleaner but for health reasons I don’t like it. It also can damage certain materials like OPCs in laser printer drums. Alcohol combined with soap works well and is a bit less toxic. The water that condenses on the glass does drip down to the sill which is why I used cedar, not for its looks but for its rot resistance around windows and next to concrete. The ultimate solution is better insulated windows which we’ll be building soon. The glass we’ve put in is just the outer panes.
Ben and Hope building another snowman. Or perhaps I should say sculpting. Ben said he didn’t want to do the traditional three balls so he carved legs and Hope poked in buttons using her stick. Check out Ben’s blog over at Sugar Mountain Life and leave him a comment – he loves hearing from people.
Outdoors: 44°F/21°F Overcast, Dusting of snow, light rain early morning
Farm House: 63°F/53°F six logs
Tiny Cottage: 55°F/46°F Big windows in place