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The Mast-Head: Fighting the Rot

Wed, 11/10/2021 - 16:43

The string of mild days that lasted into this week came at a good time. There are always fall tasks to be done that seem well enough put off in September and October that I tend to get to now, when the wind has turned to the north and east. And so the storm windows came out of the shed to be put in place on a day when they seemed not needed.

Missing glazing putty here and there called for attention, though, and I was suddenly reminded that I had meant in the spring when I took them down to get after some touch-ups. But the day was warm, and I had a can of Sarco from last year that was still good, and I sat outside on the brick patio, rolling the putty in my hands and packing it into the corners where the frames and glass met. In the past few years, I have gotten good at putty. My straight, smooth angles that did not extend beyond the inside rabbets were satisfying beyond words.

Putting the storm windows up is rarely the end of it. Going around the house, I notice peeling paint and winks of rust starting to show up on casement hinges. Under the oddly rubberlike paint on a southwest sill, I discovered rot had set in; this I thought fair enough for a window installed 60 years ago when my parents had that part of the house built. The much-older double-hung windows on the other part of the house remain solid. The worst rot I found was on windows less than 20 years old made of junk wood and not intended to last; the whole replacement window industry would crumble if the makers started to care about their products’ practical lifespans.

Then again, I see a lot of rot around these days that I had not noticed before. When I was young, wood seemed durable and permanent. Now I wonder if it is just that the longer you live and stick around in one place, the more decay becomes apparent. A screw in a door hinge eventually works loose. The stair treads are scooped now. They say our sun will someday burn out. Everything eventually shows its age.

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