The Basement Window Conundrum

We’ve all put in a lot of hours recently over at the house on Fleetwood, and I am happy to say that it’s paying off. Whether it’s the new white picket fence, the landscaping, or even the simple house-washing it received is anyone’s guess, but the results are undeniable. Today I want to share a little project that was not only necessary for practical reasons but also an aesthetic necessity. The basement only has three window bays in the old section of the house [ref]As to why there are only three basement windows in the old house is anyone’s guess, but I suspect that there used to be more windows where the addition now resides. It should be a simple enough matter to check, but I haven’t remembered to inspect the area yet.[/ref], and they were completely rusted-up. Some of the panes were actually broken already and the rest followed suit when I tried to move their frames. It was time to look into getting some replacements.

After cleaning up the openings they measured 31″ x 12.5″, and it looked as if the entire replacement process should be plug-and-play simple. Needless to say it did not turn out that way. After my search struck out at Home Depot for a window of this size, I looked around online expecting Lowes or someone to stock it. Ideally the window would not only be 31″ by 12″, but it would also be of the sliding sort rather than the hopper style that the old windows were [ref]A hopper style window opens inward with an axis of rotation at the base. This is in comparison to sliding window that is much like the double hung windows you find at home except sideways.[/ref]. Ultimately the search came down to simply finding a window that would even fit.

According to the sites and information that I found, new construction all use 15″ or wider heights. Therefore the only way forward was to cut a larger opening or┬áto custom order a set of replacement windows. The former requires much more work than we were willing to put in, and the latter turned out to be quite expensive. So I opted to take the third option: make my own set of replacements.

For my plan to work I gave up on any hope of having a sliding window and accepted that the replacement would be a hopper window modeled on the old. Material selection is critical for this sort of project since basement windows have to put up with lots of moisture and very little care. The vinyl trim that I’ve used on a number of occasions at the farm came first to mind. Not only is it impervious to water but also resistant to mold, insects and sun. As a synthetic wood, the vinyl behaves similarly to real wood when joining pieces with glue, nails or screws. For the window pane I opted to play it safe and use acrylic sheets instead of glass [ref]While I used acrylic sheets–commonly known as plexiglass–for this project, if I were to do this again I would try out using glass.[/ref]. Acrylic–also known as plexiglass–is lightweight and durable, both big pluses for basement windows. But enough talk, let me show you what I did.

I should also note here that on the interior panes of each of the windows I drilled a 1/4″ hole to prevent condensation between the panes. Without this, anytime there is a large temperature change the windows would fog up.

2014-09-30 16.49.21The finished product turned out to be a perfect fit and looks to be a long term replacement window for about $30 per window[ref]The $30 per window certainly beats the custom ordered alternatives that were quoted for over $200 a piece.[/ref]. The next step will have to wait until I macgyver up a simple arrangement in the next few days . I want to use a magnet to help hold the windows snuggly against the metal sill.

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