Add a window (Let there be light)

When we starting looking for a house in the insane Portland market, we knew we couldn’t have it all–far from it. So we spent our money on location and potential, banking on my DIY skills to take us to the promised land. Luckily my family is pretty patient. They do know I’ll deliver…eventually! By the way, as I fix up this carpeted, plywood-sided, 1979 palace, I’ll blog every step.

My wife had also accepted that the workshop was job one, because I needed it to be functional to start doing my woodworking journalism thing. The garage is big enough for the job, but it is a dark cave. So I framed in my first window ever.

I started by shopping for used windows at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, but those were a mess, and for not much more I could get a new model at the home center. I chose a 4×3 left-hand slider, in all vinyl. A nice Jeld-Wen model was only $170–not as bad as I thought. (OK, I’ll admit I also had to buy a new tool–a recip saw–but those are awesome for demolition, which I’ll be doing a lot of! This is the story I told my wife anyway.)

The plan was to put it right behind my workbench, so it throws good natural light there where I need it most, and just as importantly, shows up in my book photos!

The easiest window to install is the type with nail-on flanges around the outside edge, so that’s what I chose. It came with pretty decent installation instructions. Luckily, my roof has broad eaves (the overhang), which is a big reason we chose the house. So that meant I didn’t have to freak out about how weather-proof the window is. We’ll be covering the nasty T1-11 plywood with Hardiplank later on, and I’ll do a really professional flashing job then.

Luckily, everything went as planned. A fair bit of work, but nothing too tough. If you are considering doing the same, I say go for it!

BEFORE: This is the back wall of the garage/workshop, before the window.


I went online to find a framing diagram like this. Basically, you have to take out some studs, and then use more framing lumber to create a “rough opening” that is really close to the outside dimensions of the window. At the same time, you need to put in a header and jack studs as shown, to carry the roof weight down to the floor safely and securely.


I took the plywood off the walls inside the garage, and put in 2x4s and 2x6s to create the rough opening, and then fixed the insulation all around. Some of the framing is covered, but I pretty much did what you saw in the last diagram. Then I drilled a big hole to get the blade of my reciprocating saw through, and cut out the exterior plywood. That was scary because now there was a big hole in my house. But the window was in one hour later.

AFTER: The wall looks way better now! On the outside I put a self-adhesive membrane on the sill (as recommended), and then screwed the nailing flanges to the house. I put some caulk around them, screwed on some simple molding, and caulked around the molding too. The molding will come off later when we re-side the house.
AFTER: Now I can see outside, which makes the shop a way nicer place to be. I made the window casing (the trim around the window) even nicer inside the shop, in a sort of Asian style. Notice that I also painted the walls white, which also helps to brighten up any shop space.

2 thoughts on “Add a window (Let there be light)

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