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Installing a storm window

MATERIALS: Storm window, caulk, screws specified by the manufacturer

TOOLS: Tape measure, tin snips, caulking gun, drill with drill bits and screwdriver bits

Before you install storm ' windows, you’ll have to buy I them, and before you buy them, you’ll have to know what size you need. Begin by measuring what’s called the clear opening. When measuring the width, measure from jamb to jamb, as shown in the illustration. When measuring the height, measure from the sill to the top jamb. You’ll also want to note the spot where the top and bottom sashes meet. Measure from the top jamb down to the bottom of either sash. When you select your storm windows, you should make sure the top and bottom sashes meet at the same point as those on the window they’ll cover. Take all three measurements with you to the store.

Once you’re there, you may discover that storms don’t come in the exact size you need. Within reason, this is OK. The skirt or “fins” around the window are made to be easily trimmed. Depending on the window, you may have as much as 2 inches that you can trim. Owners of older homes, however, may find that their windows are simply a nonstandard size. For them, the only alternative is to custom-order a window.

Each storm window has a small hole (called a weep hole) in the bottom fin that allows trapped moisture to escape. A little heat gets out too, but not enough to worry about. Trapped moisture causes the paint to flake and the wood to rot. Check periodically to make sure the hole isn’t plugged. Storm windows cut energy costs significantly, but they are most efficient when installed over every window.

GETTING THE RIGHT FIT - Never underestimate the importance of accurate measurements when you're ordering windows of any kind. After you choose a window, carefully follow the manufacturer's recommendations for clearance to ensure the proper fit.

1 LOOKING AT THE WINDOW FROM THE OUTSIDE, FIND THE NARROW STRIPS OF WOOD NEAR THE EDGES. These are called blind stops, and the window slides up and down behind them. Measure the distance from the outside of one stop to the outside of the other . Then measure the distance from the sill to the outside edge of the top stop. Get a window designed to fit this size opening.

2 TRIM THE STORM WINDOW, IF NECESSARY, to fit it in the opening. Use tin snips to cut along the lines stamped in the fins of the window. Cut equal amounts off each side. If the window is too tall, trim the bottom only, where the cut will be less visible.

3 APPLY A BEAD OF CAULK ALONG EACH OF THE BLIND STOPS. Leave the sill uncaulked, however, to allow moisture trapped between the windows to escape.

4 PUT THE WINDOW IN THE OPENING with the bottom resting on the sill. Tilt the window into place.

5 HAVE A HELPER HOLD THE WINDOW WHILE YOU DRILL HOLES for screws near the edge of the fins. The exact size and spacing depends on the manufacturer. Drive screws through the holes and into the wood behind them to hold the window in place. If the small weep hole at the bottom of the window is plugged by dirt, clean it out with a small finishing nail.

Installing a skylight

Skylights provide natural light to interior areas that normally would receive a minimal amount of outside light. They connect people to the environment and can help save on energy bills by cutting down on the use of interior lights. Installing a skylight requires carpentry skills, confidence when working on the roof, and the willingness to cut a hole in your roof. Lay out a skylight from the bottom up—beginning at the ceiling, working up to the attic floor, and then finally up to the roof. You then install a skylight from the roof down—cutting the holes, putting in the skylight, framing the shaft, and then finally cutting the hole in the ceiling.

Begin by deciding roughly where you want the skylight, and whether you want an opening that’s splayed, offset, or perpendicular. Outline the opening on the ceiling with painter’s masking tape— the easily removable blue kind—and move it around until you’re sure of its position. Next drive 16d nails through the corners of the outline so that you can see them from the attic. Use strings to transfer the layout to the roof, and then stop and look. If pipes, heating runs, plumbing vents, or other obstructions are present, you must either move them or move the skylight. (It’s easier to move the skylight.)

Once you have decided on the location, and once you have marked it on the roof, install the skylight. Then work your way back down—drop lines from the roof to the attic floor to lay out the bottom of the light shaft. Check to see whether the corners are still over the nails you drove through the masking tape outline. If not, drill holes from the attic down to mark the proper location, and cut away the ceiling. Frame the opening, and then build the light shaft above it.

Skylights come in many shapes and sizes. Installation varies in complexity, from installation in roofs directly over rooms to installation in attics and crawlspaces. Some systems refract light through tubes, bringing natural light to almost any area of the home.

Do you really want to work up on the roof? Before you decide to install a skylight on your own, take the gumption test that follows. Give yourself two gumption points for each task you're willing to do. Score one skill point for each task you know how to do, and another skill point for each task you’ve actually done. If you're unwilling to do any one of the tasks, or if the score is anything less than a tie, hire a pro.

1 Any skylight wider than 13 3/4 inches requires a cut through a roof rafter. Once you make the cut, you’ll have to reframe that section of the roof-doubling up rafters on both sides of the opening, and framing in double headers above and below the opening.

2 The hole you cut in the ceiling requires similar treatment.

3 You’ll need to lay out the opening on the ceiling, the attic floor (if any), and the roof, keeping all carefully aligned.

4 To create the opening, you’ll need to go up to the roof and cut through the shingles and plywood. The easiest way is to make a plunge cut with a circular saw: Rest the toe of the saw on the roof, start the saw, and lower the spinning blade into the roof.

5 Once you’ve made the cuts, the plywood will still be nailed to a center rafter: You’ll need to pry it loose while balancing yourself on the roof.

6 Skylights weigh between 40 and 110 pounds and must be hauled up to and installed from the top of the roof.

7 To prevent leaks, you’ll need to put in felt paper, flashing, and shingles. You’ll also need to insulate to prevent condensation and heat loss.

8 A skylight that isn't square in its opening may leak and probably won’t open correctly. You’ll need to shim from below, but measuring is most accurately done from above.

9 The light shaft between the roof and the room below has to be framed, drywalled, taped, and finished. Most likely, at least one of the walls will have to slope.

Getting the shaft - Unless you want to look from the ceiling into the attic, you’ll need a light shaft between the roof and the room below. The shaft can be a piece of duct like tubing, as shown at right, or it can be framed and built almost as if it were a small room the same size as the skylight and perpendicular to it. You can splay one or more of the walls so that the shaft is wider than the skylight, letting in more light. Or you can make the shaft any size you choose and angle it down so that the opening is offset from the skylight.

A splayed opening is the most typical for a couple of reasons: Unless the skylight is rather large, a shaft the exact size of the opening is difficult to drywall, tape, and finish. As for offsetting the opening, very few situations require it. Roofs are big and flat: It’s usually fairly simple to find a spot that’s more or less above the opening you want in the ceiling. The easiest way to lay out a splayed shaft is with string. The wall on the lowest end of the skylight is plumb, as are the two sidewalls. Lay them out with the help of lines and a plumb bob. The wall on the high edge of the skylight is perpendicular to the roof. Lay it out with string too, moving the string until a framing square indicates that the string is perpendicular to the roof, and then marking where the string hits the floor. Double-check for square with the 3-4-5 triangle method.

Lay out other shafts with string too. Lay out a perpendicular shaft by simply dropping a plumb bob from the corners of the opening and marking where it meets the floor. If the shaft is offset, decide on the size of the ceiling opening, and follow the manufacturer’s directions when marking the opening on the roof. Stretch strings between the corners on the floor and the corners on the roof to outline the shaft.

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