Adobe Homes and Replacement Windows
LESLIE: Going out to New Mexico to discuss window repairs with David. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
DAVID: Oh, I’ve got an old, old adobe home.
TOM: Oh, interesting.
DAVID: Probably 120 years old; something like that. The adobe is very thick at the bottom; it’s about two feet wide and it tapers at the top to about, oh, maybe 16 inches. In that wall, I have double-hung wood windows with the pulleys and the sash cords and the sash weights, et cetera.
DAVID: I need to be able get into the inner part of that window. Now, I’m familiar with that. I restored an old Victorian here a few years ago. But my question is, the adobe – the window is set into the adobe and the adobe has been molded to that thickness in a curve up to the edge of the window. So the entire outer frame of the window is covered with this adobe. I’m going to have to take that off. I’m going to have to remove that to get into the cavity where I can work on the sash cords and …
TOM: Can you open up the trim from the inside of the house or is the adobe surface also wrapped to the inside? In other words, isn’t there window trim on the inside?
DAVID: I’m going to work from the inside. The adobe is wrapped on both sides.
TOM: Oh, boy.
DAVID: OK? So what I need to do – and I know how to get to it but what can I use to make that – to fill in and make that – it’s about three inches thick of adobe trim curve …
TOM: Let me ask you a question, David. How in love are you with these old, wood windows? Have you considered replacement windows?
DAVID: No, I like them. I’m going to keep them.
TOM: (chuckling) OK. Alright.
DAVID: They’re not – I understand that they’re not real efficient but, where I live, the climate is not real fierce.
DAVID: You know? So it’s not a real problem.
TOM: The reason I say this is because this is a situation that is – that a replacement window would be perfect for because the replacement window could fit within the existing wood window jambs. In other words, you would just take the sashes apart, leave the weights inside the wall and slip the replacement window in exactly the same space. All replacement windows are custom made so they can be made to fit that exact space of the old window.
DAVID: I have more in mind to take out part of the adobe – maybe a 16-inch section – and be able to work in – I have to get the sash weight tied to the sash cord. That’s my problem. (laughs)
TOM: David, one of the tricks of the trade for restoring an old adobe building is to actually save the chunks of material that you’re taking off and then to regrind those and use that material to actually create the replacement mortar for the same space. Now, obviously there’ll be some coloration differences but perhaps that could be taken care of with either a dye or a paint.
There’s a good website that has lots of adobe repair techniques – it’s called Old House Web – that you might want to take a look at for some more detailed ideas. It’s OldHouseWeb.com.
DAVID: Excellent. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, David. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.