408 West Florida Street: Milwaukee, WI
Hellenbrand Glass of Waunakee, WI is renovating a former candy factory in Milwaukee’s dynamic Third Ward neighborhood. 250 windows are being meticulously restored. Upon completion, the seven story building will house ninety apartments along with retail and restaurant options on the street level.
Mark Nelson, estimating and project manager for Hellenbrand Glass, invited us to see the restoration process. Nelson says he has created his process for window restoration based largely on proven methods outlined by the National Park Service’s Preservation Briefs. The process is somewhat mobile, and he can set up a shop virtually anywhere. This project began in September, 2014 and is on pace to be complete well ahead of the scheduled deadline of June 24th, 2015.
We began our tour in an off-site window workshop a few blocks from the project site. The workshop allows work to continue in a temperature controlled environment throughout the winter. Nelson’s window repair process ensures that each sash, sill, and frame is carefully inspected several times by different craftsmen over the course of the window’s repair. Attention to detail is paramount.
The window sash are removed from the building and carefully labeled. Back in the workshop they are arranged based on the location and floor of the building from which they came. Then the sash are worked around the room in assembly-line fashion. The glazing and glass are carefully removed. (Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of the original glass was still intact, so all of the glass is being replaced.) Next, the paint is stripped using a variety of methods, depending on the sash’s condition. The team uses heat-removal, low VOC paint strippers, and good old-fashioned sanding and scraping.
Once the paint has been stripped, the sash are disassembled and inspected to identify areas that require epoxy repairs. LiquidWood® is used to consolidate weak or soft wood. WoodEpox® is used to fill any missing voids or cracks. A mixture of LiquidWood® and WoodEpox is applied to very thin checks and cracks in the wood. The sash are then reassembled and placed into a racking system while the epoxy is allowed to cure.
Finally, the sash are sanded and primed with oil-based primer. The primer helps to identify any areas that might have been overlooked during the first pass through the room. Any minor touch ups required after priming are addressed with oil-based spackle.
After touring the shop, we traveled to the job site where work continued on the window frames and sills despite the frigid conditions. Nelson’s crew hung plywood sheets on hinges over the window openings allowing access to the sills from the interior of the building. By utilizing heaters, the restoration process can continue year-round.