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Stabilization of deteriorated windows

By The Old House Web

The preceding description of a window repair job focused on a unit which was operationally sound. Many windows will show some additional degree of physical deterioration, especially in the vulnerable areas mentioned earlier, but even badly damaged windows can be repaired using simple processes.

Partially decayed wood can be waterproofed, patched, built-up, or consolidated and then painted to achieve a sound condition, good appearance, and greatly extended life. Three techniques for repairing partially decayed or weathered wood are discussed in this section, and all three can be accomplished using products available at most hardware stores.

One established technique for repairing wood which is split, checked or shows signs of rot, is to:

  1. dry the wood,
  2. treat decayed areas with a fungicide,
  3. waterproof with two or three applications of boiled linseed oil (applications every 24 hours),
  4. fill cracks and holes with putty, and
  5. after a "skin" forms on the putty, paint the surface.

Care should be taken with the use of fungicide which is toxic. Follow the manufacturers' directions and use only on areas which will be painted. When using any technique of building up or patching a flat surface, the finished surface should be sloped slightly to carry water away from the window and not allow it to puddle. Caulking of the joints between the sill and the jamb will help reduce further water penetration.

When sills or other members exhibit surface weathering they may also be built-up using wood putties or homemade mixtures such as sawdust and resorcinol glue, or whiting and varnish. These mixtures can be built up in successive layers, then sanded, primed, and painted. The same caution about proper slope for flat surfaces applies to this technique.

Wood may also be strengthened and stabilized by consolidation, using semirigid epoxies which saturate the porous decayed wood and then harden. The surface of the consolidated wood can then be filled with a semirigid epoxy patching compound, sanded and painted.

Epoxy patching compounds can be used to build up missing sections or decayed ends of members. Profiles can be duplicated using hand molds, which are created by pressing a ball of patching compound over a sound section of the profile which has been rubbed with butcher's wax.

This can be a very efficient technique where there are many typical repairs to be done. The expoxy process has been widely used and proven in marine applications; and proprietary products are available at hardware and marine supply stores. Although epoxy materials may be comparatively expensive, they hold the promise of being among the most durable and long lasting materials available for wood repair.

Any of the three techniques discussed can stabilize and restore the appearance of the window unit. There are times, however, when the degree of deterioration is so advanced that stabilization is impractical, and the only way to retain some of the original fabric is to replace damaged parts.

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