My kitchen has a slanted window.
It was installed by the previous owners, probably two decades ago, because it gives you a view of Table Mountain (provided you stand in a specific spot and crane your neck).
This window had a wooden frame, but wood that receives no attention for two decades eventually turns to sawdust. And sawdust isn’t waterproof.
I became aware of this fact during my first winter in my 100-year-old house when rainwater started running down the wall one stormy evening. Luckily, the new kitchen cupboards were not attached to the wall – there was a gap – but all the plugs for the fridge, stove, washing machine and tumble dryer were on that wall! I frantically tried to divert the water away from the plugs with bits of Prestik; thankfully, there wasn’t a short circuit. It was time for a replacement.
I got quotes from a bunch of contractors. One guy just about fell off the roof and I nearly abandoned the project when I realised it would take a careful balancing act to install that 4m-wide window. But, eventually, the right people showed up with the right tools and the right references. Their quote was by far the highest and when I questioned the hefty price difference, the factory manager called and convinced me that a company with their history would be able to deliver.
Since the window was indeed high and in an awkward spot, and the guarantee looked good, I accepted the quote; the window is also shaped like a parallelogram so it’s not your standard square. A job for a specialist, I reckoned.
On the day of the installation, a team of people arrived. They covered the wooden floors with soft blankets and draped plastic sheets over the kitchen cupboards. There was a foreman, a supervisor, a team of workers and, of course, the “technician” who sat ready with his tool bag on the roof. They were a well-oiled machine; I felt reassured.
Until they carried in the new window. The frame was indeed a parallelogram but the three inside panels were all square. Maths is not my strong point but I know that three squares side by side form a rectangle.
I asked cautiously: “Is this the right window for that hole up there where you’ve already broken out the old window?” “Yes,” said the foreman. “Definitely,” agreed the supervisor. “Okay,” I said. “Because I can see rain coming; that hole has to be closed soon...” “Right,” confirmed the foreman and supervisor in unison. And then, unsurprisingly, the man on the roof with the tool bag exclaimed: “But these windows are the wrong shape!”
The foreman hastened out the front door while the supervisor anxiously phoned the factory. I grabbed the phone from her and proceeded to behave badly.
It turned out that the window was indeed measured incorrectly (all three times). So the new frame was closed up with planks that night and some or other poor soul in the factory made three new panels overnight, all parallelograms which were installed on time the next morning.
The moral of the story? If you’re building, supervise – this was confirmed by everyone in this renovations issue.
And rather pay more when it comes to specialised tasks. If I hadn’t taken that advice, there might still be planks nailed across the frame above my kitchen...
Enjoy this issue!