Guess what! We’re about to start talking about my kitchen renovation. Can you even believe it? I can’t. In the first edition of my kitchen renovation story, we’re talking salvaged windows and loving old houses plus their old house parts.
I’ve been hunting for salvaged old windows for MONTHS now, so I’ve put a fun 8-minute long video together of the journey hunting for windows. Take a look below. I know I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty cool and it shares never-before-seen and behind-the-scenes footage. I haven’t even shared this on Instagram Stories, so you better tune in.
Watch the Video:
I hope you enjoyed the video because I genuinely get a lot of joy out of putting these little clips together and setting them to some cool tunes. If you enjoyed it will you pretty pretty please subscribe to my YouTube channel? Even if you never go onto YouTube and you only ever watch my videos embedded in these blog posts, I’d surely appreciate you subscribing on that other platform. Please and thank you.
That video covered much of the journey, but I’ll reiterate and elaborate on it in text using my human fingers to type it out rather than share it in a fun and visual way above. (Can you tell I’m encouraging you to watch the video - but understand if you don’t have the time/ability to watch or hear the vid?)
Alrighty. So let’s back up and set up some context for ya. Our house is made up of beautiful wood double hung windows as seen towards the right hand side of that photo. See those two beautiful wood sashes stacked on top of each other? They open and close like butter thanks to beautiful cotton sash cord tied to the wood windows and the solid steel sash weights. They are classic, and perfect, and there’s basically no reason to replace this type of window in an old house. Simply, I love my old wood windows because they are just work, and if they have an issue they are so so so easy to repair. They can last for hundreds of years unlike their plastic counterparts that last maybe 10 years. I’m smitten.
Other than plastic windows, you know what else I don’t care for? The aluminum garden window seen on the left. That’s our kitchen window. It looks like a weird growth on the side of the house. And from the interior, it’s even less enjoyable. The sloped top collects dust galore and it’s basically always filthy. The only ventilation it gets are those little holes on the bottom that you can slide open and shut. And the whole thing is just a big dirt pile when filled with plants. I’ve spent HOURS cleaning this thing and it seems to always get more messy.
I would have gotten rid of it sooner, but I always thought we’d add more windows, or get bigger windows, or move the windows when we remodeled. But, because of our historic designation, I’ve now learned that we can’t add/move/adjust the existing opening. We’re required by the City to remove the garden window and then replace the existing opening with double hung wooden sash widows like seen on the right - since that’s what would have been there originally. I’m all for it! Granted, I would have loved to add an additional two windows next to those, but the City said, “nope” so I’ll just do as they say and restore the windows to their former glory.
There are three ways to get authentic wooden double hung windows.
make them myself which would include buying some woodworking tools I don’t currently own but could certainly put to use
order them to be custom made from the local authentic wood window maker for a pretty penny of $1,200 (just for the windows - not including installation and not including painting)
find them salvaged - where someone removed them from their original opening and is giving them away or selling them
I focused on the latter option. I’m ALWAYS going to advocate for buying something that already exists rather than producing a brand new something. The amount of resources saved in manufacturing is insane, plus saving the old whatever-it-is from ending up in the landfill is invaluable.
Here are those windows from the inside. It’s fiiiiine - especially when the exposure is blown out like this. I filled it up with plants and herbs and used the greenery to hide the neighbor’s house which is 10’ away from our house.
But from the inside it’s clear what used to be here. Instead of one big garden window bump out, there were originally two sets of double hung windows - or, two sets of stacked windows on either side of the sink.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if the person that removed these windows put them in safe keeping in the garage or the attic or even the crawl space? Believe me, I’ve looked everywhere and I’m just not that lucky.
So, my hunt for salvaged windows began. To get salvaged windows for this project they need to be exactly the right size. Like, EXACTLY - down to the 1/4 inch. Since I’m not creating a new opening to fit the windows, I need the windows to fit the opening. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack.
I went to my local architectural salvage shop, I asked for them on my Buy Nothing Group, I searched on Craigslist daily in all of the communities within a 100 mile radius, I posted “wanted” ads online, and I skimmed eBay and Etsy constantly. The hunt went on for months.
I started calling and emailing Architectural Salvage shops all throughout California and eventually came across the nicest people at the Pasadena Architectural Salvage. I sent them an email with the dimensions I needed for the four windows and Wendy emailed me back within a day to say she found them.
She found them. Exactly what I had been looking for since months prior. She found them. I was ELATED.
So, I told her to put those puppies on hold and I’d drive up that very weekend. Pasadena is about 130 miles from San Diego, which is roughly 2 hours in weekend traffic (or 10 hours in rush hour traffic).
That very weekend I put on my cheesy-yet-appropriate “Save all the Houses” tee and drove up to get my windows (plus admire all of the other old house treats they have).
My windows are exactly as Wendy described. They are old wood windows, but they don’t have any glass. It’s a bummer to not have the original wavy glass, but there’s also something really convenient about not having windows that need to be stripped, sanded, sealed, repaired, and retrofit. These four sash frames need some priming, glass, glazing, paint, and then to be popped in the window opening. Easy peasy.
Spoiler: I have a full tutorial on how to glaze and refinish these windows coming very soon!
While I was there, I picked up another window frame that also lacked glass but it’s the perfect size for my bathroom window. I snagged this fella for $30 and the four sashes I got for $200. Even needing to buy the glass and glazing supplies, the lot of windows is still 1/5 the cost of getting them custom made. WIN.
Of course there was a shop cat that sat near the registers and enjoyed about 5 minutes worth of my petting.
Let it be known now that if/when I ever open a shop, I will have at least 3 cats that lounge around and look at you disapprovingly.
Since the Pasadena Architectural Salvage had such a vast inventory (check it all out in my video) and the staff we so insanely nice and helpful, I browsed around looking for more things I could use.
Their door selection was out of this world.
Are you familiar with my exterior door issue? I’ve talked about it only 100 times by now. Basically the City’s Historic Department is requiring we have a dummy door in the existing back door opening. But, because my current back door was hacked up decades ago to have a bunch of plexiglass sheets on each of the panels, it’s basically become trashed. It’s such a shame but it’s rotting and would take such a reconstruction that the original door would basically be scrapped.
So, I decided getting a new (old) solid panel door would be the best solution. Not just because the original door was destroyed but because nobody wants to look at insulation and drywall through a glass door (again, this door won’t function). So I found myself a nice solid single-panel door. It has a very similar profile and stiles/rails dimensions to the swinging door to the kitchen. It feel like it was meant to be.
The door BARELY fit in my car, but knowing I was able to squeeze it in AND I was able to make that long commute in an electric car felt pretty darn good. My salvaged window and door loot is going to look great in my new kitchen so you best stay tuned to see it all evolve. I’ll share more soon!