One of the reasons most people love old houses is the beautiful old wood trim detailing. It adds character. It’s the jewelry. I am one of those people.
The downside of wood trim is that it does not last forever. It’s lifespan depends on it’s care and maintenance. Wood from the 1930s is old growth, meaning it is a stronger, tighter grained wood even without chemical preservatives like with today’s pressure treated wood. A good amount of the trim on the outside of my house in at least 78 years old. It has sat through 78 years of summer sun and winter storms. Old peeling paint is also not a very good protector.
Knowing this I expected there to be some damage that I would have to repair. I often mistake the fact that I am a psycho researcher for actual knowledge and plan projects that I have no business taking on. Just because I have watched the This Old House video of a bathroom being tiled 14 times does not in fact mean I can get my own bathroom tiled in a day. So since this whole project was huge already I tried to be conservative.
If I came across a board that was rotted and soft, I feared that removal, replication and reinstallation of said board would end terribly. It would end up like this: a hole in my house, a pile of wasted (& expensive boards) that I had cut incorrectly and couldn’t use, a large bill from the only carpenter who was willing to come fix my mess in November before the snow came and TB threatening to leave me.
I instead purchased two products from Abatron that would help me save as much of the wood as I could. The first is Liquidwood which is a wood hardener. You take the wood you have scraped completely and then brush this stuff on where it sinks in and hardens. It comes in two parts that you mix together to activate. Pretty simple and I thought maybe too simple to actually work. Here is a picture of the porch door sill after scraping. The wood was so soft that I didn’t need anything but a putty knife to get the paint off. The vertical riser board under the sill was so soft it was shredding like a spagetti squash.
I applied the hardener product and left it overnight to dry. My biggest problem with all this was the weather. It needs at least 50 degrees to work but prefers around 70. It was a little chilly overnight and in the morning still sticky. I gave it another day to sit in the sun and we were set! If I had had optimal weather, the box says it will dry in 1-6 hours, which seemed to be true when I used it on a window sill in warmer weather.
After it’s cured the wood is darker and hard! I mean it’s probably better than it was originally. From there I hit it quickly with a sander to knock off all the frayed bits that were hardened sticking up. Then these were ready for primer. It was hard to get a great picture but I highly recommend it. In one spot the wood was almost turning to dust and now is hard and painted without removing the whole piece.
The second product is WoodEpox. It’s a two part putty that when mixed and cured can be sanded and painted. I used it to fill in some small spots that had worn away, you can see it as the white spot in the above picture on the door sill.
I also had a small problem with rotted trim on the cross piece you see below. My guess is the original stairs started right below the door sill. These stairs are much lower and leave the porch boards coming through the wall and leave the end exposed. Exposed means rot which you can see in the above pictures. I pulled off the rotted trim that was covering it and wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I figured I would give the epoxy a shot. Instead of filling in an area I would build out an area and make the end of the boards into a horizontal trim piece. I applied the putty and then sanded after it hardened.
It does not look very nice here I will admit. I was under the gun with a short window of warm weather that had been shortened with my eye injury. I was a little worried that it would, well, look like crap. But the truth is that my adored wood trim has seen 78 years of wear and tear and the epoxy fits in now that it’s primed and painted. A perfect job would have looked out of place. Or at least that’s the story I am sticking to.