Sunday, November 22, 2009

Storm Windows

Sometimes I think it’s an exercise in sheer perversity when we insist, each fall, in removing the big screens from our back porch and replace them with the heavy wooden storm windows that are original to our house.

Actually, they’re not original to our house. Originally, they were windows on a steamboat. That’s what my dad says; his grandpa salvaged them from a steamboat.

I’m posting this mainly to let you know what we go through each fall, and to let you know what most people went through in previous generations. These “real” storm windows are virtually extinct these days, and for good reason—they’re a bear to lift and to fit into place.

They hang from hooks the size of a thumbnail attached to the outside of the house just above the window openings. On our house, these hooks (like the storm windows themselves) are ancient and are coated with layer upon layer of green paint.

The windows are truly heavy, especially the one on the north side, which is over the lowest part of the back porch steps, so there’s no way we could use a ladder to help put it up. It all must be done from the inside.

It’s a three-person process: A pair of us on each side of the window, on the inside of the porch, holding the storm completely outside the opening, and then trying (mostly blindly) to attach it to the two hooks above, then to pull the lower part inward so we can attach the bottom to the inside of the frame with ancient hook-and-eye hardware.

Getting it on the hooks properly is where the third person comes in: This person stands outside in the yard and hollers up at us to let us know if we’re “on” the hooks or not. It usually takes us three or four tries to get both sides hooked at the same time. As we struggle, the window starts getting really heavy . . .

The process is complicated by the inevitable swelling of wood, settling of the house, and other factors that make the storm window a tight fit. It is scary to pull such a heavy window inward, with force, when you’re not quite sure it’s really attached at the top. To make a “mistake” would cause a tremendous crash and mess. And there’s no way for anyone to get on the “outside” to do the natural thing: push.

After we get the “big” one up, the three smaller windows that face east are a piece of cake. They’re much smaller and lighter, and a helper can stand on the steps and assist with both positioning as well as holding and pushing.

Once they’re up, the porch’s character changes drastically. Suddenly, sounds are muffled, echoed, and the air seems still out there. No more fresh breezes. Even though these windows are incredibly drafty, they are much better insulation than the screens would be.

The kitties have the worst time of it—the storm windows block off their direct channel to the sights and smells of the backyard. But then this gives them something to be happy about in the spring when we swap the screens back in.

And now there’s one less thing left to do this fall in preparing for winter.


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