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DC Rowhouse Renovation - “Dried-in” (at last) by Gregory Upwall

view from alley: old windows are being filled in and opening for glass block is being prepared

The guys un-packing the windows during the window install

view showing the alley side wall partially re-pointed and the new opening for the glass block being prepared

view from the rear showing windows and doors installed and building wrap (base layer) in place

view from the rear during window installation

Looking up the new rear wall while building wrap and windows are being installed

view showing the glass block installed

view showing the alley wall fully re-pointed and the building wrap on the upper addition

It’s official. We are “dried-in”. While this term would make a high school grammar teacher cringe, it is a common term that is used loosely in the construction world to indicate the point when - although still a long way from finished - we can finally keep the elements out of the building (!). The main accomplishments required to get from “rough-framing” to “dried-in” are: a.) installation of the exterior doors & windows, b.) installation of the “weather resistive barrier” or “building wrap”, and c.) installation of the roofing membranes. In our case this phase also included the installation of the glass block into the new large vertical opening in the brick wall facing the alley.  Since weather is hard to predict most construction projects get rained on a few times before they are officially dried-in. In our case, we did not make it to dried-in before getting some rain, so the framing and sheathing did get wet a few times. But thankfully, we had some nice dry and windy days between storms so the building was able to thoroughly dry. And since we chose AdvanTech for the floor and roof sheathing we could rest a little easier since the products are designed to withstand moisture during construction. 

The glass block installation required careful planning and execution since the opening is twenty three feet tall so any deviation would translate into the block being out of level or plumb from the bottom of the opening to the top. Luckily our masons did a great job in preparing the opening and in installing the block and the finished result is something we are very happy with.

 Since this old DC Rowhouse in the Pleasant Plains neighborhood still had the original wood frame, single-pane windows, we decided to replace all of the exterior doors and windows in the project. The product we chose for this project is Weathershield’s Contemporary series. We love this manufacturer and these windows in terms of the look and the quality. The Contemporary series offer more modern narrow exterior frame and sash profiles which is perfect to complement the more modern character of the new portions of the building (additions).  The eight-foot-tall triple-sliding glass doors, and the large four foot by seven foot fixed glass window at the top of the glass block opening were very heavy so moving them to the 3rd floor and maneuvering them into place required an experienced (and strong) crew. We are very happy with the large glazed areas that will bring lots of natural daylight into the space.

 The weather-resistive barrier and flashing tapes that we have selected are manufactured by Pro Clima (a German company) and sold by 475 High Performance Building Supply. We selected these products since they are vapor open and will help to provide a weather tight enclosure that still allows moisture to escape through the envelope from the interior to the exterior. (We should note that currently we have only installed a base layer of Typar, a common building wrap, to cover the exterior walls, the Proclima membranes and flashing tapes (we’re using the Adhero & Solitex UM) will be installed over the Typar when it is time for the installation of the exterior metal cladding (stay tuned for more about this in a future post).

 For the roofing we chose TPO (short for “thermoplastic polyolefin”) for the upper roof and torch-down membrane roofing for the balconies (since they will eventually be covered with floating pavers). TPO is considered to be the roofing material of choice for flat roofs today in terms of durability and maintenance. Since the pavers will ultimately absorb the vast majority of the UV light (the part that is destructive to building products) we decided that the TPO was not necessary for the balcony waterproofing.