This might be our riskiest DIY yet… If you remember when we built our mini toy shed, you’ll know we ordered new basement windows on a whim. We figured, “Hey, we’re paying the same delivery fee, might as well get our money’s worth!” Plus, it was early in our pandemic quarantine days and we were feeling brave and confident.
Our old basement windows were literally just a piece of glass with a little ring at the top that you used to pull it open. No frame… just two little nubs that the window pane hinged over. Super secure and super cute. Our house was built in the 70’s before energy efficient egress windows were a thing. Fire safety, who??
Fortunately, our basement is a walk-out, so we have a sliding patio door and a large window on the exposed wall. The large, sliding window was also single pane and slid side to side on a metal frame. At least this one had a wooden dowel locking bar at the bottom!
Before I get into what we did, in case this is your first time here, you should know that we are not professionals. We just do a lot of reading, Googling, and YouTube-ing. You definitely won’t find “window installation” on our resumes (and you still won’t!). But we love to save money where we can, and not having to invite installers into our home during a global pandemic is a bonus.
We started off by measuring the window openings, taking into account the metal frame that was already present and embedded into the foundation wall. Ordering windows was interesting because the openings are very much not standard and shelling out extra money for custom sized windows wasn’t an option for us. So we ordered the largest windows we could for the opening sizes we had, knowing there would certainly be gaps to fill- hoppers for the small windows and a side sliding window for the egress opening.
Once our order came in, our next step was to remove the existing windows. The small windows were simple to lift up and out (which was actually a little unsettling to see how easy it was to remove them…).
The large window was more difficult. Afraid to shatter the super thin glass (think picture frame thin), we pulled out the rubber trim around the panes and removed the glass first. Then we used a pry bar and a sawzall to bust out the metal frame!
We set the windows up into the openings and measured the gaps that needed to be filled. To prop up the windows, we picked up a couple PVC trim boards (one 1/2″ board and a 3/4″ board) and cut them to fit the openings. We chose PVC for it’s water resistivity. Regular wood could absorb water and swell/shrink in the frame causing gaps and warping.
The next step, and by far the most infuriating of steps, was to drill into the metal frame and concrete surrounding the windows. We marked the drill points on the frame so we could drill more easily without the window in place. After trying to use our normal bits to start a hole in the metal frame, we decided it wasn’t working. We’ll never forget the night (that will forever be remembered as The Night of the June Bugs) when we worked far too late after bedtime and broke three drill bits all while being assaulted by giant beetles flying in the window opening. We called it quits that night with hopes of a fresh perspective the next day!
You’ll notice, in that last picture, some trim board with wet caulk spread all over it for no apparent reason. We had put the window up, hoping to drill while the window was in, but realized the heat from the metal bit drilling into the metal frame was starting to melt the plastic window. -_- It was just a circus of an evening. (I’m giggling over my “we’re not professionals” disclaimer earlier- as if you wouldn’t have gotten that by now.)
With a bright new start the next morning, we made progress with a hammer drill and masonry bit and were able to secure the windows with Tapcon concrete anchors. *insert angel chorus here* (We used wooden shims to level the windows. See below.)
As a note- since we didn’t custom order, our off-the-shelf window came with nailing fins that had to be removed. It was a pretty simple and quick process of scoring with a knife and snapping the fins off!
After the windows were secured, we moved on to the fun part- filling the remaining gaps with foam insulation! We used this Great Stuff expanding door and window foam. Leaving the shims in place allowed the window to stay level while sealing around all edges. The shims can be snapped off later after all of the sealing has cured (also, fun!).
Tyler went around the outside of the windows with Prosoco R-Guard Fast Flash loaded into our sausage caulking gun (Don’t ask me- I wouldn’t have named it that either.). This was our first time using this caulking gun and we were so impressed! Highly recommend it! I didn’t get to try it, though, as this flashing material is nasty stuff and has a lot of safety warnings, especially for pregnant women. It’s also pink, but paintable after curing! Here’s Tyler sealing in the rain!
And just like that, we have new windows! What a huge difference it has made, aesthetically speaking. I’m looking forward to seeing how much warmer our basement feels in the winter without the breeze coming in from around the old windows! In our process of finishing the basement- this was a must. Also, did I mention less spiders?! Yay, for that!!