This Space for Rent

Supertrivial carpentry project of the day


One of the perennial heat and coolth eaters in our house is the attic. Particularly in the summer, because the summer sun bakes the singled roof, the heat radiates down into the attic, and then the attic acts like a honking big radiator blasting heat down into the house. And if we open the (outward swinging) casement windows, well, there are no screens, so the escaping hot air will be replaced with wasps, hornets, and the occasional pair of newlywed pigeons looking for a cozy starter home.

So the windows stayed closed and the attic stayed sweltering for 9 long summers. But this spring I bought a reprint of Earnest Flagg’s Small Houses: Their Economic Design and Construction. Mr. Flagg studied in Paris, and picked up quite a liking for French vernacular architecture. Including casement windows. But what Small Houses talks about are casement windows that open inward, and, to keep the bugs out, they have screening semi-permanently fixed to the outside of the window.

Now I’d spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to redo the attic windows so that they could be useful in the summer and in the winter, but I’d never thought of doing it that way. So this morning I walked down to the hardware store, bought a roll of fiberglass window screen and 20 feet of 1x2 pine firring, and came back and (with a slight recess when I managed to use one of my pullsaws to bark a knuckle in a manner that Bert Fegg would have been proud of) made up a prototype screen unit to see how it would look.

The big honking hooks and eyes are a paranoid response to our cats, who will no doubt be attempting to break their way through so they can tumble 25 feet to the pavement below (the actual production windows will be fastened in in a somewhat more permanent manner.) The rest of the screen is, pleasingly, almost invisible (and it would be invisible from the outside if I’d bothered to build the prototype screen out of a good hardwood instead of soft cheap pine) and will work very nicely after I pull the existing windows off and refit them so they open inwards instead of out.

Who knows, with good windows the attic might actually start to be useful, and then we can consider making it into living space (provided, of course, that the property market implodes and keeps us from a reassessment that would make the yearly property tax more than we paid for the stupid house in the first place.)