Throughout the process I felt that achieving the 'right look' for a high-end architectural products showroom was just as important to you as it was to me.
- Richard S. Cohen, Feather River Wood, Wilmette
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Archive for June 2013

The Cost of Refinishing a Wood Front Door or Garage Door

Failed Coating on Wood Front Door

Stripping the finish off and refinishing a wood door is a time consuming and expensive process. At least fifty times a year, we are asked to refinish wood doors that it be a front entrance or a garage door. In the great majority of cases, marine or spar varnish had previously been used as a clear coat over the stained surfaces. The problem with that clear coat is that it is very brittle. After a couple of years it begins to crack and let moisture infiltrate below the coating. After that happens, the coating deteriorates rapidly. Below is a picture of how a door can look like after a few more years.

Failed Coating on Wood Garage Door

Sometime, realizing the finish on the door is in trouble, an owner will try to hide the problem by adding more stain or having the door coated with a semi-transparent stain. As shown in the other picture, the result can be less than satisfactory. Over my twenty four years as a painting and decorating contractor, I find that homeowners do know how to detect the early signs of trouble and take quick action to prevent further deterioration. The bottom half of the door is most vulnerable, especially the lower rail molding of each panel. At the first sign of the coating beginning to crack in those areas, it is time to intervene! At that stage, the expense is very limited: a cleaning and a re-varnishing will add another two, may be three years, of longevity to the coating before the next round of maintenance.

Unfortunately, homeowners often wait too long. By the time they realize their door needs work, it is too late to save the coating and the whole door has to be stripped and refinished. The bad news ids that refinishing a wood door is expensive. Depending on the intricacy of the door and the presence of side lites or transom, the refinishing cost may range between $800 and $1,300. For a garage door, depending on its size and the condition of the old coating, the refinishing cost may range between $1,400 and $2,500. The good news, is that, by having us do maintenance on the door every two or three years, depending on the exposure, the door will not have to be refinished for a long time and will always look good. Using the right products and doing the maintenance are critical to wood front doors and wood garage doors looking their best.

The Maintenance of Chicago’s Historic Metal Bay Windows and Cornices Presents Major Challenges

Chicago is endowed with scores of old buildings, whose facades are adorned with historic metal bay windows, large crows and cornices. These buildings were largely built between 1880 and 1920. Every one of these metal elements were unique in design and constitute an important part of Chicago’s architectural heritage. Preserving that heritage and helping to restore its beauty is part of our role as painting contractors and historical restoration specialists in the Chicago area.

Chicago Historic Metal Bay Window

Attached are two examples of such beautiful historic metalwork in Chicago, one is a two-story bay window, the other a large cornice. Why is the maintenance of important architectural features like these such a challenge? Their location and the

Chicago Historic Metal Cornice

Chicago Historic Metal Bay Window – Failed Caulk and Flashing

Chicago Historic Metal Bay Window – Rotted Wood Support

Chicago Historic Metal Bay Window – Decaying Masonry

difficulty of access are two clear obstacles. They are often located on the second, third or fourth level of the building. “Out of sight and out of mind” often becomes the operating rule. Additionally, the building’s façade is often located next to a busy sidewalk or just a few feet away. The logistical aspects of going up to inspect these surfaces and perform the needed repairs most often deters the owners from doing the needed maintenance until serious and evident signs of distress appear.

These metal architectural elements are commonly mounted to masonry (brick or stone) and sometime on slate roofs as well. Masonry and metals have minds of their own when it comes to adjusting to temperature shifts and weather. As a result, caulking and flashing materials are subjected to great stresses. The progressive failure of these weather barriers is the entry point to the decay of the metal structures. The maintenance of these weather barriers is critical to keeping serious problems at bay. This maintenance can generally be performed off ladders at a relatively low cost.

However, when maintenance is neglected, water instruction begins to wreak havoc on the inner wood support and the masonry work behind those metal elements. The last two pictures show the damage that ensues. When water intrusion has gone on for a long time, the damage is so extensive that the metal elements have to be entirely rebuilt. Rebuilding the architectural features can easily cost between $20,000 and $60,000, depending on their complexity and size. We are on such a project right now. Stay tuned for pictures of the restoration of one of Chicago’s historic building façades.