Do It Yourself: Measurements key to installing new windows

SUNDAY, SEPT. 16, 2012

Q. We have a two-story house with a lot of double-hung windows. About half the windows are the energy-saving type, but the rest are old, single-pane windows. I’m still paying off a loan for getting a contractor to install the first round of energy-savers, but I want to put in some more of them. How hard is it to install these windows myself?

A. If the window frames are in good condition, it is not difficult to install energy-efficient replacement windows. Probably the trickiest step is to take accurate measurements of the window openings so the replacement windows fit well. The windows are self-contained units that fit inside the existing frames. If you give the dealer inaccurate measurements when you order, you will probably be stuck with the windows, because some dealers will not accept returns of wrong-sized windows.

Number each of the windows you want to replace, and make a diagram showing its shape. You should then take three side-to-side measurements inside the window frame, one near the bottom, near the middle, and near the top. The smallest measurement should be written down as the width of the window on the diagram you have made. Take three top-to-sill measurements from the highest part of the sill to the inside of the top frame, at each side and in the middle; again, the smallest measurement in height should be noted.

Make sure you also write down that these are actual measurements – the windows will be made slightly smaller so there is no jamming when you install them. If this is confusing, the dealer should be able to furnish a printed set of measuring instructions. If you order from a do-it-yourself dealer, such as Home Depot, the windows should include installation instructions.

You will be able to work from inside the rooms – no lugging heavy windows up a ladder. Basically, you will need to remove the inside stop molding inside the window frame, pull out the old sashes, and make any needed repairs to the cavity. Remove and handle moldings carefully and they usually can be installed again. Caulk the edge of the outside stop molding where the new window will rest and tilt the windows into place. Seal any gaps around the rim of the new window with a low-expansion foam sealant (make sure it is for windows and doors). Replace the molding to hold the window in place.

Q. My almond- colored fiberglass bathtub has a couple of chips and a small crack, resulting from a wrench that was dropped in it during a plumbing repair. Is there a way to fix this?

A. Repair kits for most types of bathtubs are sold at some home centers and on the Internet. One widely available kit is made by Devcon. Only white and almond colors are available in this kit. However, don’t expect the repairs to be invisible. In most cases, the only way to conceal repairs of this type is to refinish the entire tub after the repairs are made – a job for a professional bathtub refinisher.

The kits generally contain an epoxy compound that is suitable for repairing small chips and cracks in fiberglass, porcelain and plastic tubs. Most of the other materials needed, such as an applicator and fine sandpaper to smooth the repair, are included in the kit, which costs about $14.

Your experience is worth some additional comments: Always protect the surface of materials that are easily damaged when working over them with heavy tools such as wrenches, screwdrivers and hammers. If you are working on a bathtub or sink, line the surface with towels, a folded blanket or throw rug, or some other padding that can cushion the impact of a wayward tool.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

Click here to comment on this story »