Showing posts with label saving resources. Show all posts
Showing posts with label saving resources. Show all posts

Replacing a 'sick' Double-glazed Window with another Recuperated Window

Our house, a vernacular longère was never meant to have glass windows and as it had rarely been lived in during the hundred years before we bought it, that aspect had hardly changed. When we came to think about glazing, we decided use the vast amount of discarded windows available. Luckily there was so much raw material, we found a near match for just about every opening. Below is the raw state of our sitting room (middle of photograph), just a few years after the sheep vacated it. As if to add insult to injury and coincidentally a few months before we came out to start living in our house permanently and begin the renovations, hurricane Lothar hit.

Hurrican Lothar and the Longhouse

Our ruined ruin

Nowadays, we tend to forget and thus to appreciate the value of glass windows, which is probably why people are so ready to replace perfectly good ones and dump them. In past centuries, even the nobility could afford only one set of such precious materials and would ferry them between homes as they moved from Town to Country and back again. The farm where Sue was born had one big picture window bricked up to a tiny 'porthole', due to Window Tax, a stark reminder that even daylight can be subject to payment.

Recuperated double-glazed and single-glazed windows


There is a previous post which covers the recuperation of old windows, where and how to find them - it can be found here

In this post I am going to start with the first of my three window projects for this Autumn, the easiest one, replacing an existent recuperated window (above left). 

recuperated double-glazed window

We luckily recuperated a pair of these double-glazed units some ten years ago and I made a frame for and fitted one of them into our sitting room. In the past few months this window has began to look foggy or 'sick' as the seal between the two layers of glass had started to deteriorate.



All double-glazed windows have a frame with an elaborate profile to ensure a watertight, draught proof joint. 

Work in progress - recuperated double-glazed window

The frame for the window was made using softwood (pine) and if I remember correctly was cut from floor joist wood left over from when we put floors in this part of the house. The wood selected was as thick as the window. On completion the outside face of the window rested against a rebate cut into the frame. The interior face of the window had a 'lip' 10mm thick on 3 edges (top, bottom and latch) which butted against the frame. The lip extended 10mm from the window edge thus, the interior height of the window was 20mm more than the exterior height. The fourth (hinge) edge of the window was not originally cut square but was cut at an angle (inset above).  I could not hope to achieve this when making the frame, so, after removing the hinges, I cut out the angle and made this edge the same as the top and bottom and made the frame to match. 

The profile on the latch side of the window (the one opposite the hinges) was slightly more elaborate in that it had a stepped profile to accommodate the latch mechanism and a rubber seal running the full window height. This meant that in forming this part of the frame I had to make two additional cuts with the circular saw to produce the matching profile.

recuperated double-glazed window

Throughout the the life of this window I have never detected any draught so consider the fit was more than adequate.  

recuperated double-glazed window

Thus with the replacement, after the overall dimensions were found to match the old unit, the hinges were removed. In the following photographs you can see the steps I took to cut the edge square using a circular saw.  

Work in progress - recuperated double-glazed window

The desired cut was 10mm less than the full depth of the wood so as to ultimately furnish a lip that would match those on the other three sides of the window. 

Making a flat surface - Work in progress - recuperated double-glazed window

In my workshop I do not have a saw table but I do have an excellent circular saw. So, whenever possible, I do not use the guide on the saw but use a clamped straight edge against which the baseplate of the saw can slide. In the case of the window I also lacked a surface upon which the saw could move. So, to furnish this I screwed a flat piece of chipboard (recuperated from a pallet top) to the uppermost (inside) face of the window. It is to this surface that I screwed the straight edge to act as the saw guide (below). The second and equally important point about using the chipboard is that prudent packing beneath it brought its upper-face level with the stool (the projecting profile that sheds rain water onto the sill) so that the depth of the saw cut remained constant. You can see the packing in the picture above and below (I used 10mm thick pieces of cladding wood).

Fixing guide - recuperated double-glazed window

When I unscrewed the hinges I had two screws that sheared off in the frame, these I then had to drill out so as not to damage the circular saw blade, maybe I should have put a few drops of release oil on the screws prior to trying to get them out.

Circular saw  - recuperated double-glazed window

It is crucial to set the saw depth to produce the lip the same as on the other sides.

In making the second cut to produce the lip, the guide and chipboard were unscrewed and the window placed on the floor, held vertically by clamping one end between the jaws of a 'Workmate'.

Work in progress - recuperated double-glazed window

I clamped a flat piece of timber along the window edge to provide additional support for the saw so as to help maintain the 90º cut along the length. The depth of the cut was set so as to intersect the bottom of the first cut.

Once the cut had been made I was left with the desired square cut edge except that the lip produced was slightly too long, This lip length was important as this is the where the hinges are mounted. 

Work in progress - recuperated double-glazed window

Laying the window back onto the workbench I screwed the straight edge to the uppermost face so as to guide the saw in its third and final cut.

Recuperated barrel hinges

The existing window was hung on screw-in barrel type hinges and as they were in a perfect condition, I intended to use them again. I obviously had not removed the one half of the hinges from the window-frame so I needed to remove the other half from the old window and screw them into pre-drilled holes in the replacement. 

fitting hinges for recuperated double-glazed window

To ensure the holes were drilled vertically into the edge (of the lip), I rested the window on a pallet which was made to be parallel to the workbench top, the window resting against the leg of the workbench. I used a try-square to check that the window was at right angles to the workbench top and used wood packing between the window and leg to achieve this. Once all was checked OK for being square I drilled pilot holes at the pre-marked positions using the small drill press on the top of the workbench,  thus ensuring the hole was square going into the 10mm thick lip of the window. 

fitting hinges for recuperated double-glazed window

I next opened up the holes by drilling once again but with a larger bit, the pilot holes ensuring the bit did not ‘wander’.

Fitting recuperated double-glazed window

When I had finished drilling, I tried the window in place to ensure the fit was good.

fitting hinges for recuperated double-glazed window

Once done, I could remove it and insert the hinges. The hinges had an M6 thread and I have found with exotic hard woods that by running the matching tap into the holes it makes it much easier to screw the hinges in.

What was then required was to lift the new window onto the hinge counterparts in the window frame, again some adjustment was necessary to ensure exact alignment with each hinge. This can be the most time-consuming part of the operation as it may require the screwing in or out of each hinge until the precise alignment is obtained. 

Using recuperated glass windows 

When the window was satisfactorily mounted. I could check that it still fitted in the frame, some slight sanding was required and that the closing mechanism also engaged with the existing holes in the frame.

Et Voilà! - a new window!

replacing a recuperated double-glazed window

Now if you'd like to, sit back and watch the film:

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014

Windows for Free Part 1 - Recuperating glass windows and how we used them to glaze our entire house.

When we decided to renovate our house here in France we chose to recuperate as much material as possible. This because it would be in keeping with both our philosophy and the building; there was such a huge and freely available supply and we were working to a budget.  In particular, when looking at glazing we needed quite a volume for the provision of interior light, which was in low supply due to thick walls and few openings.

Recuperating glass to reglaze a home



Our house is over 300 years old and is a vernacular longère so it was never intended to have glass windows. Each of these Celtic long houses follow the same architectural pattern, in having adjacent, alternate human and livestock accommodation, so these openings were meant either to give light to the cooking area or air to the animals/birds. At night these were closed with wooden shutters and on cold Winter days with sacking. 

Rexcuperating glass and glazing our home

As someone had, many years before, lived in one of the human habitations, now our kitchen, we actually had one window, this dating from around the 1930s. So when we came to the question of windows and doors, we just decided to ask at the local joiner’s, where we had already observed the rows of discarded items, some thirty to forty of them, piling up in his car park.

Where to recuperate glass windows

On enquiring with the proprietor we discovered that the windows were waiting to be dumped or burnt. The majority of his business was in making and fitting double-glazed units  and those in the yard were the ones he had removed from the houses prior to installation. The proprietor was so happy that we wanted to take some away for our own use, his means of disposal being to take them to the tip (for which he would pay a fee) or he would have to take them into a nearby field  and burn them! So we loaded the car up with our chosen windows and over the course of  the next few months collected several dozen units, the majority of which were exotic wood and double-glazed. Additionally, I encouraged neighbours and friends with projects of house restoration and greenhouse construction to visit this company and furnish themselves with the valuable free resource, one completed project being the verandah-style greenhouse (read more)

Recuperating glass window and doors to glaze a house

One thing I should make clear with these windows, is that  most of them were in perfect condition, some of the French windows even having keys - apparently many people just wanted to change to UPVC! As expected, very few windows had any frames as these were broken in their removal. 

Some supplies of windows and doors we obtained as they were being removed, these, often from nearby towns were elegant old windows with hand-made glass and fine astragals. 
where and how to recuperate glass windowsrecuperated windows in our homeRecuperated glass - French doors

For people of our philosophy the opportunity of recuperating these windows and constructing a (softwood) frame to fit them was and is a perfect way of using ‘waste’. Furthermore once the proprietor of the company realised what we needed, he and his men not only tried to carefully retain the frames, handles and keys but also kept a look out for specific sizes and shapes of window and doors!

Greenhouse made from recuperated glass windows

As mentioned above, another way we got windows was to watch for old houses in the area being refurbished. This way we directly approached the building firms as they were loading the windows up to dump or burn. We were able to obtain some really elegant windows this way, many of which we used for our glass greenhouse (read more).

The one and only drawback of recuperated double glazed units

There is however, a problem with old double-glazed units, like the ones we used in our sitting room. Unfortunately, last year we noticed that one of the windows was beginning to get  ‘foggy’ and by the summer of this year it was apparent that it must be changed. By a stroke of good fortune I had recuperated this window with several others from the same contract and in our stable where we store the pallet wood planks I unearthed the twin of the now translucent window. 

Double glazed recuperated window and door

In the next blog post I will be sharing how to prepare and fit a recuperated window into an existing frame but in the meanwhile here is a film showing our recuperated windows in use in our house and garden.

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014

How to dismantle pallets to obtain free carpentry wood.

Once you have your pallets (see Where and how to collect pallets if you have had trouble locating them), then the next stage is to dismantle them so as to obtain the maximum amount of quality wood for carpentry. In the following article I will be looking at how to do this in different ways depending on the type of pallet and the fixings used to put it together.

How to take pallets apart for maximum useable wood


The following is a list of tools I use to dismantle pallets.

Claw hammer
Lump hammer
Flat-bladed screwdriver
Bolster chisel
Wrecking bar/ pry bar
Crowbar  130cm
Crowbar    90cm
Lengths of  timber approx 50mm x 75mm
Nail punch

selecting pallets to use in carpentry
Note: I tend to carry the wrecking bar and the 90cm crowbar in the back of the car when I’m out looking for pallets because I frequently find pallets with vertical backs attached, used for the transporting of glass, bathroom and general furniture and these obviously need to be removed from the pallet so as to fit in or on the car.

Safety wear :
Work gloves
Safety boots
Safety glasses


Block Pallet aka Four Way Entry Pallet


parts of a block pallet

The first thing to do with your pallet when you’ve got it out of the car is look underneath it and see if the nails attaching the planks are visible - if they aren’t, great!

block pallet
This means that the planks (top deckboards/slats) are attached with short nails and should prise off quite easily. If you can see nails they will invariably be hammered flat to the underside of the stringer board. This means you’ll have to straighten the nail before prying the slat off - this will require a little more effort but if the wood looks good quality, it’s worth the effort.

How to take a pallet apart

For the former (straight nail) pallet you need to turn the pallet right way up and put the flattened tip of your prybar under the edge of the slat as near to the nails as possible, if  you have the longer crowbar then use it as a fulcrum by laying it on the pallet behind the prybar otherwise use a piece of timber. If you don’t use an introduced fulcrum then as you prise the slat off, your crowbar will be resting on the adjacent slat and may dent it or at worst, break it.

strategies for taking a pallet apart

I will not try to prise the outermost  and centre slats using this method as these are nailed into the blocks and are much more likely to break. For these it is better to lay the pallet on its edge and use the bolster chisel between the block and the stringer board. 

tips on taking palllets apart

When the chisel is hit with the lump hammer, you may feel the nails ‘give’ and the end of the wrecking bar may be inserted in the gap produced to prise the block away.  This will only happen on your ‘butter-side-up’ days and if you are fortunate to have this happen you will end up with the nails sticking up dead straight. 
how to take pallets apart for carpentry

You should then be able to knock these nails back through the slats so as to be able to use the claw hammer or the wrecking bar to grip the nail heads and pull them out.

stratefges for taking a pallet apart

If you are unsuccessful with the above method, then you will need to use a hacksaw to saw through the nails. Keep the saw blade against the face of the block so as to leave the rest of the nail protruding above the stringer board face. 

 How to take a pallet apart for maximum useable wood

Thus, when all the blocks are removed, the nails can be hammered on their sawn faces through the wood to raise the heads above the slat surface for the claw hammer. If the nails are not proud enough to be hammered through, then they can be driven through using a nail punch against the sawn face.

tips for taking a palllet apart

A more brutal method I have sometimes found effective is, with the pallet on its edge on firm ground, strike the lower edge of the block with the lump hammer, this will often move the block away from stringer board face, I have found this to be particularly effective when confronted with blocks made from composite (they look like chipboard). These composite blocks go to the tip/dump and should not be used in any project (or fire for that matter) as they are bonded with toxic adhesives.

strategies for taking a pallet apart for maximum carpentry wood

Finally, the protruding nails on all of the planks need to be removed using the claw hammer.

screwdriver an awl - tips on taking a pallet apart

With the pallets having the bent over nails holding the top deckboards in place, you need to straighten the nails using the awl and the screwdriver. 

 lifting nail point to take a pallet apart 
Push the point of the awl beneath nail and using the screwdriver as a fulcrum, you can lift the free end of the nail away from the wood. 

straightening nails to take a pallet apart

How to take a pallet apart for maximum carpentry wood 

Straighten it further with pliers or tap it vertically with a hammer. The nail can then be driven out from the underside until the head is clear enough for the claw hammer or pry bar to finish the job.

Because the stringer boards are so heavily nailed and of shorter length, I very rarely consider keeping them and that is why they are the surface against which I use the bolster chisel and the hacksaw..

Now, the only things left nailed together are the blocks to the bottom deckboard. Often these bottom deckboards are in poor condition as they are the workface when the pallet is moved around and hence are often split and dirty and not suitable for most projects.

  how to prise a pallet plank from a block 

I have found that the block can be moved enough to provide a gap for the pry bar by the simple expedient of striking it on the side with the lump hammer. Alternatively, if you have a workbench with a vice on it, you can clamp the block within its jaws and using the deckboard as the lever, lift it off the block. I find this technique particularly useful when collecting the nail-free blocks I use in the insect houses.



DIY insect hotel as a utility box cover

 You can find this project 'An Insect Hotel as a Utility Box Cover' here


Stringer Pallet aka Two Way Entry Pallet

Stringer pallet parts - taking a pallet apart

The stringer pallet is often much easier to dismantle as the top deckboards are nailed into the stringers normally with shorter nails than those into the blocks of the block pallet. 

How to take a pallet apart - Stringer pallet

Removing the top deckboards is the same as previously described except, sometimes, I have found that no matter how careful you are, the nail heads pull through the deckboard and remain in the stringer. 

How to take a pallet apart - difficult nails

how to dismantle a pallet - nailsstragegies for nails - dismantling a palletHow to dismantle a pallet for carpentry wood - nail removal
Tips taking a pallet apart

Remove the nails from the stringer using the pry bar. For some reason I frequently find the nail heads shear off when trying to remove them. If this happens and you still want to use the wood, then clamp each protruding shank of  nail in the jaws of the vice and use the stringer as the lever to pull the nail free. All but the most stubborn nails will succumb to this.

How to take a pallet apart - Stringer

That is all there is to it! You end up with loads of useful wood at a fraction of the cost. I will just repeat what I said in my previous post on choosing pallets, for your own benefit you should only use non-chemically treated pallets.

ippc logo wooden pallet

One note of caution: I have needed to smooth the surfaces of the planks for certain projects and I have sometimes found tiny pieces of wire around the nail holes which can foul the plane or tear the belt in a sander. These pieces are from the pallet manufacturing process where the nails in the nail guns are held together with a wire which comes adrift in the nailing process. So, it is always worthwhile to visually check the wood and then go slowly at first with your tools until you’ve established there is no such contamination in your wood.

how to dismantle pallets to obtain free carpentry wood

Now if you'd like to, sit back and watch the film: 

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014