Restoring Old Double-Hung Windows using Spring-Loaded Balances

Project: Bob's Shingle Style Home, Episode 17, Part 3

With the decision made on what color to paint the house, bob takes a look at the prep involved on the exterior.  Danny’s restoring some old windows using springloaded balances.  We take a trip to New Holland, Pennsylvania, to the Heritage cabinet factory, then back at the site, Bob’s beautiful new cabinets are installed in the kitchen.

Part 1: Pressure Washing the House, Prepping for Painting, and Beginning Kitchen Cabinet Installation
Part 2: Touring a Custom Cabinetry Factory and Reviewing Plans for the Kitchen
Part 3: Restoring Old Double-Hung Windows using Spring-Loaded Balances
Bob discusses the advantages and disadvantages of old windows, such as the glimmer glass that is beautiful but has significant energy loss, comparable to leaving the front door open. Bob meets with architect Gregory Rochlin and expert carpenter Danny Ruffini to restore old double-hung windows and replace lead sash weights with new spring-loaded balances.
This project centers around the remodel of Bob Vila's own gracious Shingle Style home in Cambridge, MA. It's a house with a lot of history and beautiful architectural details, many of which were obliterated in remodels of the 50s and the 70s. On the centennial of the house's construction, Bob gets together the best talents in the business to recreate and renew it to its former glory, making some important modifications along the way that will transform this into a dream house for today.

Also from Bob's Shingle Style Home

Hi, I'm Bob Villa.
Welcome home, again.
As you can see, we started painting and prepping the backside of the house,
nothing like a crew of ten, but today we're spending most of our time inside.

Kitchen cabinets have arrived, so were gonna be installing some of them.
Also, touring the factory in Pennsylvania, where they're made.
And back here, we are also restoring some of the windows in the house.
We will show you how to install some spring-loaded bouncers.

Stick around. It's good to have you home again.

Bob Villa is home again.

Now, a couple of weeks ago we were talking about the color schemes that have existed on the house in the past.
And, we know that this red has been here although the original color was a dark green, neither which we were sure about.
So, we took the liberty of doing a big sample here in the corner of the house and this is kind of a Venetian red that we've mixed and it's more or less an Essex green trim. I like it but the main thing I want to do is to make sure my wife liked it. She does. Let's go around front and we'll look at the pressure washing.

Now the pressure washing of the house is really an important step because its removing all the dust and all the loose flakey paint that's been there for many years, but what we'll be doing once it's all washed is putting on a complete coat of oil-based primer with some tint in it and then after that we'll put on the latex finish coat. What he has got up there is a pressure washer, a professional one, and there's two different kinds of nozzles you can use.

The one with the circular opening will give you distance. This one here which is more of a little line of Will give you a ban. But the main thing to keep in mind is to not to get too close to the surface that you're power washing because you'll just destroy the siding. Let's go inside and take a look at those kitchen cabinets.

Tod and Jim are in the kitchen installing the first our cabinets. This was actually three separate boxes that you've glued together. Right, Tod?

That's correct, Bob.

Why not put them up one piece at a time?

It's easier to get a good fit and finish if we assemble it on the floor.

And that's the joint where you just had your finger?


Exactly. So in order to get a really good, good fit and to make sure they don't move later when things settle.

That's correct.

You put them all together.

Now, this is a hundred year old house and you've got two plankers here on either side of the door of the dining room. How do you make sure that they're level one with the other?

Well, Used as a water level, because the water seeks it's own level, independent of any other dimension in the house.


So that gets us all on the same level, since the house is out of level.

OK. Great, so you don't have to measure from the floor at this point, and from the floor at that point, you just use the water point like the Egyptians did a few thousand years ago right?

That's right.

Great. And what about at the top? Now do you have to fit in a molding up there?

No, that's actually going to scribe in so we've just left a one inch space for us to scribe it to fit the ceiling.

Boy, that will be a tough little bit of scribe cutting, won't it?

It sure will.

Well, OK. Good luck. We have got a break for a couple of messages. And when we come back we'll be in Amish country in Pennsylvania in New Holland, Pennsylvania visiting the Heritage Factory where these cabinets are built.

Stick around. Back Castro county, Pennsylvania is blessed now is west of Philadelphia. It's the home of the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Amish, a long tradition of an agrarian economy.

You can see the corn fields and the silos behind me, but that is changing there are factories coming here.

We are about to tour a kitchen cabinet factory but you know a tradition of craftsmanship has been here for centuries. It is still here. Let's get together with Cassey and tour the place.
Tell us then, what's the first step involved in crafting a custom kitchen here at heritage.

Well the first thing that we do is we like to interpret your order and make sure that we looked at all your plans and drawings to understand exactly what it is that you want.

And then what we do is,we then build the face franks and those face frank are handmade and then handglued as you see them down here.

That's what he is dealing with right now is the styles on the rails.
Exactly. The styles of the rails are then put together in a traditional mortesan and tenant construction. Absolutely.

And then the.

This is the way it was done 100 years ago building furniture.

Exactly. It's done exactly the same way.

The particular style that you have, the drawers and doors will fit inside the face frame so it has to be very precise in how it's managed.

OK. And then this goes into

Into this press.

The press here.

And the press make sure that it is absolutely square.

Yes. Now tell me something, once you've created the face frame, then what about the doors and the drawers?

Well, each one your door front's, end doors, which were custom made, will fit exactly into one particular place on your kitchen.

So it has to be fitted exactly for this face frame just where it is.

So that's done individually.

Yes. You can't swap one into another location.

No, no you cant do that.

Gotta tell you, Lynn, this is one of the cleanest, quietest woodworking shops I have ever been in.

How big is the space here?

Well thank you Bob. The plant is 165,000 sq. ft.

And what's happening at this station.

This is a very important function. Ed here, has to precisely locate exactly where the hardware's going to go. So, he does it using a laser-guided router system.

So the drawer fronts come here and they already have a mark where the holes goes right?

There's a mark put on by the fitter. We locate the mark with a laser and then the routers come up from underneath and do the drilling.

What are the other holes for, the larger hole?

The other one is to put in this cam and the cam is designed to allow the leveling of the drawer front, so you always have an absolutely perfect line for your drawer front.

I get it. How did you get this perfect, you know, smooth finish on the wood at this point?

Well, all our wood has to be, have it's final sanding done by hand. If you did it any other way your eye would notice it wasn't a top-quality cabinet.


So we do all that by hand sanding.

And what I see is that you've got these bright lights trained on the wood. What does that do?

Well, we have not only the overhead lights but we have side lights. The side lights allow you to see any imperfections that happen to being going on with the wood itself.

And you can almost see the part of being sucked out. This has got the whole plan. Right?

It has got a great evacuation system.

It allows the atmosphere for the workers environment to be very safe and very clean.

Now tell me about the construction of the boxes?

Actually we don't like to call it a box, we call it a case and right here is where the face time which is seen earlier comes together with a size in a bag and order the form in a case itself.
Is it just birch plywood?

Oh, no. Right here we use a special type of plywood that has a popular core center for strength and durability.

Popular wood, okay. And then what happens when you get the cabinet all glued together? Is this all get ham sanded?

Well, everybody there has to send a lot of techniques and what we use is with in very interesting. This requirement is progress deep press stroke sander.

This particular sander allows to take any size and to pay any time and get the same quality that you would do hand slamming with that stroke back and forth

And weighs like giant back sanders.
That's exactly what it is

Tell me about the drawer construction here at Heritage.

Well, today, a lot of the people like to think of their kitchen as furniture and what we do is what's traditionally done In furniture making, as we make our drawers with a dovetail construction.

Yeah, look at that. That really is special, cause you just don't get anything studier, than a dovetail joint.

And we find if we make them here ourselves, we know there done absolutely right.

And so.

And that is what Pat here is doing.

Are they dovetails cut by machine?

The dovetails are cut by machine, and then they're assembled as you see and then sanded so you cannot feel anything any longer on the side.

Very good. So there is a lot of hand craftmanship that goes into the kitchens here. Are the bottom panels made out of plywood?

They are made out of plywood.


Boy, that just goes together so nicely. You know, I can't wait to take a look at the cabinets you're making for me.

Well Bob, here's some of your actual cabinets come out already.

Oh, boy. These are fantastic. I love the finish. Now this is kind of a mahogany finish. What do you call this?

This is fireside Cherry.

Fireside Cherry. It is as rich as can be and look at the the way the drawers come all the way out and still . . .

These are the full extension slides on this particular cabinet.

Now, is this European hardware, or is it American?

Actually, this is American.

Great. And then, of course, this is the actual face that's just attached to the duck-tailed box.


I think this is part of the pantry wall where we'd have linen storage and the like. And this must be part of the . . .

It's part of your office here.

. . . the office, the kitchen office that's here.

Now, these have concealed slides so you don't have to see them. And they have very good drawer stability.

So the slide is on the bottom of the drawer?


Underneath it. OK. Excellent.


This is Andy Tobias, our Marketing Services Manager.

Hi, Bob.

Hi, Andy, how are you?

Nice to meet you. Very well, thank you.

What do you that of my kitchen?

I think they're gorgeous. I was down here taking a look at them, which is something that we do before we ship. We stage all of our kitchens to make sure that everything is just as it was ordered. That the finish is good, that the wood blends, that there's a uniformity.

Yeah. Of course. You were telling me about the grain and matching the grain. And you don't try the hide any of the grain, right?

No, our finishes are extremely clear. It's important that they are.

Yeah, look at this. These three pieces go together as our pantry cabinets. They're wall-hung units. And that's really nice to see how all the grain is very very evident.

Now Ed, you offer a wide range of different finishes, right? Different colors and.

Yes, we have about 84 finishes that are standard colors. But then we do custom color matching to just about anything you can imagine.

And I think we're up to about 400 this year.

This year we've done about 400. Paint, a combination of paints and stains.

And pickling and antiquing.

Right, and then the part of those packages are also some distressing and some of the that old world look where you get into a lot of the wear marking and multi-step finishes where the finish is peeling back off a little bit.

Tell us a little about this particular finish process. I mean, it's not, obviously, it's not brushed on.

Oh no.

How do you apply it?

This is a

It 's, first feel the wood. And then the stain is applied to the exact color that you've ordered.

What kind of machinery is used?

Well, this is actually done by hand.

All the staining is done by hand. And then the top coat is put on with a clear top coat that allow you to see exactly what the wood is really giving you.

Now, do you have to worry about environmental issues when you are applying all these finishes?

Yes, we do and we have EPA standards that we work to. She comes on a regular basis to make sure that we're up to code, which we are. We work very hard at that and we're even looking ahead at some of the finishes that we are going to be doing in the future, water borne materials and things like that.


And our finishers are very sophisticatedly applied, in order to recapture anything that comes off. We run the over spray through a water curtain and we keep the product from ever getting into the environment.

And then it has to be baked, doesn't it?

Oh yes, and we run it through our oven to get the exact curing of the catalyzed.

They are So beautiful. I just wish I could take them home with me now.

Well, you know, Bob, we pride ourselves on our delivery and yours can be there next Thursday as schedule.

And here we are at the loading dock.

And as you will notice Bob, they are being furniture wrapped as fine furniture should be wrapped.

So, you don't box them?

No we don't box them. Now also when they move them, there is a set of sliders underneath, that are removed on installation and that allows them to be moved with a great amount of ease.

So,this whole truck goes to one construction site, the truck driver unpacks it there, and does really treat it like furniture.

He loads his own stuff, unpacks it himself.

Len, I've really enjoyed the tour. Thank you so much.

Its a pleasure Bob thanks for being here.

Andy great meeting you.

Thank you, nice to met you.

OK and they did arrive as promised on Thursday and now that we've started installing them as you know. Let me just give an idea of lay and land here of the geography of the kitchen. The over all kitchen space is about 27 x 19 and the architects layout was to separate it into thirds. This first third which is right half of the dining room is about pantry, an homage to the butler's pantry that was here in the past, if you will, and that's why it's designed with the bead board backing. We'll have glass doors and we'll have counters below. In fact, we'll have a breakfast preparatory area here, and the kitchen table right here.

And this, of course, leads to the meat and potatoes of the kitchen: the center island which helps create a galley. And it's a big island. It starts down at this end with an oven and, of course, were gonna have a soapstone counter-top above this unit, so you'll be able to take something right out of the oven, put it on top here, and you have a buffet situation.

Then , just next to it, we'll have a trash compacter. We'll have the sink, the kitchen sink, right in here, where these drawers, where you can keep all your soaps and things. And, of course, remember there's never too much space here because of the garbage disposer.

And at the end, we'll have the dishwasher. One feature that I really love about the design, is the fact that behind the kitchen sink we've got this cabinet which comes up an additional eight inches. And that provides not only a nice shelf area, but also a visual block. Ark from the dining room and from the eating part of the kitchen, so you don't see the dirty pots and pans inside here.

Opposite the island exactly 42 inches away we'll have the cook top behind and we will have stainless steel splash back and shells and basically a big hood with the exhaust fan mounted outside.

Either side of the cook top will have the stainless steel counters and plenty of storage space for spatulas and all sorts of search of big spoons and things, AND I love the way they divide some of the interiors of these drawers
so that you've got a very nice place to organize your storage indeed that happens here also.

Lets see back and open this one, this cupboard has plenty of room for shelving, adjustable shelving for spices and condiments and everything you need right next the cooking station.

Now the third, last, area of the kitchen has the back entry to the kitchen and of course there is more cabinets is to came.

May be we can understand it better if we go to the plan we've just left the cooking area this is The third of the kitchen, where you walk in the back door or you got basically a mud room kind of space.

Storage area is here, bench to sit on and over here this sunny corner you've got the kitchen, office and then, of course, back here where we're standing against this wall.

You got a secondary sink for flower arranging or whatever and a two door fridge.

So you really got a very larger goal kind of order to the whole thing.

Get a break for messages when we come back we will be talking with window restoration and don't go away. There are many great features to a late nineteenth-century house. One of my favorites are the original sash, with glimmer glass.

Rolled glass, which in the process of manufacturing, creates these vertical lines. And the rollers do that but what you have is, kind of the effect of this glimmer as you move across and look at the view across the street. It's really neat.

One of the disadvantages of the old sash are the sash weights, these pig iron things that travel up and down on either side of the window and allow the sash to operate. They also create a huge energy loss because you can't insulate in there unless you remove them.

And if you added up all the volume throughout the house, it's almost the equivalent of leaving the front door open all winter long.

So we're changing that. Let's hook up now with Greg Rockland, our architect, and Danny Ruffini, who's doing all this improvement. He fellows, Rick, how you doing?

Hi, Bob. How are you?

Now one of the key things that you had to do here, was the actual size of the window right?

Well, we're probably the fourth or fifth group to work on these windows because they're 100 years old and in all that time with wear and refitting and putting changing sash cords, the windows were a quarter inch smaller than the jams at this point.

So they really wobbled around.

They were wobbling around. You couldn't make them tight.

And now you got them nice and tight.

That' right.

What did you have to do?

Well, we relined all the jambs with cedar.

Yeah. How thick is that cedar?

That's an eighth of an inch.


And then we put in new parting beads, new stops, all, so you've basically got, like, a new jamb.

And of course these windows have interlocking weather stripping which you can see right along here. So that is being preserved as well, right?

Yes, and we're just re-adjusting it.

But the key thing is the spring loading balances that your installing, why don't we figure out exactly how these go in. Well this is a spring loaded balance, and it's a spiral, and you could apply tension to it to balance the weight of the window. And this bracket here has to be in routed into the bottom of the sash, and that's what Danny is doing now.

OK, you've got your eye protection on.

And its just a short three inches that you have to rout out.

That's right.


So we take the jig off.

And this you just really made up for this job. OK. Now it looks fairly simple but is it that simple to?

Well, it really isn't. You have to work out a process. Every window and every household is different and Danny and I Have done up sort of a test window where we understood all the problems, got the bugs worked out and

then Danny has built a set of jigs and templates and pre-cut all of wood, so now we've got 25 sets of windows to do and we can go through in a very efficient way and do


OK, now do we take it to the opening?

A little bit tricky maneuvering here But Greg, do you think this is the kind of job an average do-it-yourself-er can tackle?

No, I don't think so. You need a professional and a lot of experience doing this kind of window. This is a lot of operations and if you make a mistake you've ruined your window.

Alright now this is the easy part right, Greg?

Right. We just need to get this tube up here so Danny can screw it to the top of the jam. but once they're both fastened up to the top, then all the adjustments have to be made.

Yes, that's sort of tricky because you've got to crank up this spiral balance so the spring tension equals the weight of the window and that takes some experience.

Sounds like a good time for us to break for some messages. Stick around.

And this of course is the last critical step to get the right amount of tension, but we're running out of time. Come home again next week when we'll be installing a lavatory in the downstairs powder room and taking you to Kohler, Wisconsin, to see how there made.

Also we expect to have our master bedroom closets fitted out. Till then I'm Bob Vila. It's good to have you home again.



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