Tackling pesky storm windows

September 21, 2002|By ROB KASPER

LAST WEEKEND in a rite of the season, I struggled with storm windows. I tuned the transistor radio to the Ravens game, grabbed a stepladder and tried to tap a ton of patience.

It was a little early in the home maintenance cycle to wrestle with storm windows. But I have become so desperate for cool, wet weather, that I am trying tricks, like starting the fall chores early, to hurry autumn's arrival.

Things did not go smoothly with the windows or the Ravens. Glass cracked. Nerves frayed. Frustration rose.

That is not how weekends in America are supposed to unfold. Your favorite football players are supposed to move in crisp, unified precision as they roll toward the goal line. Your storm windows are supposed to snap snugly into place as they form a protective barrier against the eventual ravages of winter. According to the storm window advertisements and NFL highlight films, life is filled with moments of synchronized precision. Mine is not.

My storm windows have been on the scene longer than Tom Matte, the former Colt running back whose colorful comments and blunt assessments keep me listening to the Ravens game on the radio even when the outcome is gloomy. But they are not as tough as the old football player is. They are flimsy aluminum gizmos that I suspect were sold around town years back by confederates of the Tin Men slick-talking salesmen, who in Barry Levinson's film snookered Baltimore residents into wasting good money on bad siding. And as happened in the film, the manufacturers of my windows can't be found when you have a problem, or need parts. They are no longer in business.

Even though my storm windows are ringed in metal, they seem to be "sensitive" sorts. If you don't handle them gingerly, they fall apart. They are vulnerable at the corners, which come to think of it, could be said about our football team as well.

Every fall, at least one of the windows goes to pieces as I wash it or try to slide it back into the channels that are supposed to hold it in place. This means that every autumn a fallen storm window, or two, is placed in the back of the station wagon to make the trip over to the neighborhood hardware store, like a body en route to a funeral home. There, Maurice, the doctor of windows, replaces cracked glass, repositions the lining and mends the failed corners with braces and screws.

When the repaired storm windows emerge from surgery, they are still vulnerable. They are unstable and, like a big lineman on a crutch, they could tumble in a twinkling.

Mended parts are not as smooth or svelte as the originals. Getting an overhauled window, with its protrusions and bumps, back in its rut, is not easy.

Moreover, with age, things settle. Storm window tracks tend to get wider as they get older. This means that the windows that were once straight, taut and true now sit in the tracks and wobble in the wind, like a tipped pass.

Eventually, the question of motive pops up. Why, you ask yourself, do you bother fooling with these shaky windows or following this undependable football team?

I fantasize about living with better windows - slick sliders, with double panes and low E-values, meaning the glass re-radiates the heat it absorbs. I also daydream about rooting for a football team that scores mountains of points while snuffing its opponents. But turning the reverie to reality would be expensive and would involve tradeoffs that I am not sure I am ready to make.

Moreover, I have a fondness for familiar, if limited, achievers, like my old storm windows. When they are in place and hanging together, they do an adequate job. They keep out some of the cold, some of the time. My football team will have its moments, sometime this fall.

Rather than shopping for the new, I am willing to stick with the old. So last weekend, I cleaned the dirt out of the "weep holes" openings at the bottom of the frame that allow any moisture that collects between the primary window and the storm window to drain out. I didn't cry when the Ravens blew a chance to score a fourth-quarter touchdown. This is, in many ways, a make-do season.

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