Let the Repairs Begin!

The long-awaited moment has arrived!  Our contractor, D.W. McAlister, and his crew have “set up shop” and have been hard at work at the Mallory-Neely House. Saws are buzzing, drills are whirring, sanders are smoothing, and hammers are pounding.

Repairs are finally underway, and big changes are taking place!

If you drive past and take a gander, you may see plywood substitutions for empty window frames, or a large crane hovering above a sky-high tower window.  You may even spot a brave craftsman perched upon the sill of an upper-story window executing his artistry.

But the scene outdoors only tells part of the story . . .

Inside the historic mansion, windows are being ever-so-carefully and painstakingly removed and disassembled; their single parts are being labeled and kept in proper order; the parts are being measured, patched, repaired, reconstructed and reinstalled as the top-notch windows they once were at their installation 163-years ago.  Other windows that are totally beyond repair are being rebuilt with historically-accurate wood and parts, creating exact replicas of the originals.

Even that doesn’t totally describe the unbelievably overwhelming process and requirements involved in these repairs.

The National Preservation Standards for historic window repair have been adopted as our strict requirements and are outlined in our contract. They describe the correct way to repair historic windows from start to finish, and they do so in minute detail.

What is Described in the Standards?  Below are a few examples:

  • Proper way to disassemble and reassemble each window. Instructions are given piece-by-piece, down to the putty and nails.
  • A double-hung window, for example, has close to 30 main parts and pieces, not including the hardware and individual panes of glass; so it is easy to imagine the lengthy instructions involved.
  • Identification and labeling of the disassembled window pieces.  By doing this, each piece is sure to be reinstalled into its original position. (If any part is put into a non-original position, the window would be ill-fitting, resulting in gaps, spaces and incorrect operation.)
  • Correct placement of plywood sheets, which act as a stand-in’s for temporarily-removed windows:  Two pieces of plywood will be used for each window – the upper piece must overlap the lower piece on the outside of the lower piece, to keep rain water from entering where the two pieces meet.
  • Exact replacement materials (when replacements are absolutely necessary) are specified down to the last detail.  For example: Sash cords for double-hung windows must be made of cotton-polypropylene and must be approved before purchasing; only approved linseed oil or soybean oil putty may be used for glazing (pieces of glass) installation.
  • Exact techniques and tools are specified for softening and removing putty, scraping and removing paint from surfaces, and re-creating exact profiles of original moldings and muntins (wood pieces that separate and hold in glass panels in place)

The instructions listed here are only the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully they put into perspective the tremendous task the entire project team – especially the contractor and his crew, has been given.  Let me assure you, they are up to the task! Repairs are proceeding nicely and the work is looking quite impressive!

What part of the process are we in now?  The repairs were started a while ago on the top floor of the mansion and will be working their way down to the first floor where the grand finale will take place.

Yes, our visitors will see drop cloths over pieces of art and furniture, and may hear the occasional strike of a hammer or buzz of a saw, but the work is being limited to a few rooms at a time, so that our tours can continue as regularly scheduled, and we have provided pictorials outside each dismantled room so that our guests can still experience that room and its contents.

Visit us this Friday or Saturday and witness history-in-the-making as we proceed with a major “once-in-163-years” repair phenomenon!

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