Sunday, December 2, 2012

Making an Old Window Useful and Beautiful

Window rehab

Many of my friends know I have a love for trash picking.  They may laugh about it most of the time, but when needing a special gift for someone, guess who they call?

Our sweet friends, Laura and Ken, are leaving us in a few weeks to begin a new life in ministry.  Our mutual friend, Stacey, called and asked if I would turn one of my "dumpster dive" windows into something special for them to remember us all by.

I have to share with you the story of my windows. I have a bunch down in our basement (but not nearly as many as I could have had if my husband wasn't so mortified by my climbing in a dumpster) that I obtained a few summers ago in Virginia while at a teacher's conference.  As we were driving through the beautiful college campus there (that will go unnamed since I am not sure if taking trash on private property is legal or not - but the college is beautiful, old, and very historic!), I spied a full dumpster next to one of the dorms they were renovating.  I could see windows...beautiful, old, wooden-framed windows...calling to me from the top of the pile.  I begged my husband to pull over beside it and let me climb on top of the car to get a better look at what was in there.  Would you believe he did not want to???  I don't know what is wrong with him.  But in the end he did it because he loves me:)

I was beyond excited to see many windows - many beautiful windows - filling that dumpster.  They were throwing them away!!! I stood on top of the car to reach as many as I could, and handed them down to my not-too-happy, but consenting, husband to load into our car.  He drew the line, however, when I could no longer reach them and wanted him (and his long arms) to trade places with me.  He wouldn't even consent to my climbing in, which was probably good because there were most certainly nails and pieces of glass in there along with the windows and other debris. Ugh.  I had to let the rest go.

Anyway, this week I was being asked to make something special out of one of my beloved windows and I was more than willing. The finished product is above. I think it (eventually) turned out nicely.

Here's how I made it:

I choose one of the smaller, six-paned windows with opaque glass. I started by cleaning the window, which was quite filthy after years in a college dorm and 2 in my basement.

dollar tree cleaner
Love this cleaner: $1 at Dollar Tree!
I decided to put the word JOY in the top panes. I cut the letters out of regular white paper with my Cricut machine. This allowed me to first try out the letters to see if they were the right size before cutting out of vinyl. Once satisfied with both the size and font, I chose to do them in black vinyl. If you don't have a vinyl-cutting machine, you can buy already-cut letters at Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc... to stick on, or you can print them on regular paper or card stock on your home printer, cut them out, and adhere them with glue.

I wanted the bottom panes to be two magnetic chalkboards and one fabric covered bulletin board. I had never worked with magnetic paint before, but was curious to try it. I bought a small jar of Martha Stewart magnetic paint at Michael's, which only cost me $3.50 (with a 50% off coupon, of course). The instructions said to paint on 2-3 coats to achieve the desire magnetic effect, then to let cure for at least 24 hours before painting over it with whatever color you desired. It did not say priming was necessary, but I was afraid the glass was so slick that it might not adhere tightly, so opted to do it anyway.

priming window

It was dry in about 30 minutes and I was ready to go with Martha and the magic magnetic paint.

It was not so magic. In fact, I would call it a royal pain.  To begin with, it is the consistency of thick mud and does not spread easily or smoothly.  Secondly, 2-3 coats will not do it.  I couldn't get a magnet (even my lightest one) to stay on the board after 3 coats; it took 7 coats!!!  Even then, it was not incredibly magnetic.

While waiting for the paint to dry, I worked on the bulletin board. I wanted to cover it in duck cloth, but first wanted to print a quote on the cloth after seeing a tutorial here (using freezer paper and an inkjet printer). I chose a fitting quote from one of my favorite authors, typed it up in Microsoft Word on the computer, loaded the now freezer-papered fabric into the printer tray, hit print, and voilà!

charles dickens quote

Since this was to be a bulletin board, I needed some cork board to put under the fabric. I have a roll of cork, but I have no idea where I purchased it. I checked on Amazon, which does carry it if you are looking.

My window pane square was 7 1/2-by-7 1/2, so I cut the cork to fit. It was not thick enough to be the only thing to go between the fabric and glass, however. I headed back to the basement and found an old project board that one of my past students had used for a presentation (which I couldn't bear to let go to waste). After rescuing it from the trash, I brought it home and stuck down there for some future use. That time had arrived; I cut a 7 1/2-by-7 1/2 piece and put it to work.

One side got a thick coating of Mod Podge and the piece of cork applied to it.
I flipped it over and put some glasses on top to weigh it down while it dried. In 30 minutes it was good to go.
I took the now-printed-on piece of fabric (after pulling the freezer paper off the back), placed the fabric face-down on the table, and put the corked piece of foam board on top with the cork touching the back of the fabric. I pulled the fabric taunt to the back of the foam board and used white duct tape to keep it in place. I was so wrapped up in my work at this point that I forgot to take a picture. Sorry!

I placed it in the middle pane to check the fit. It was perfect - and even tight enough that it stayed in place without any adhesion.

fabric bulletin board

Now back to that darn magnetic paint. Painting and waiting for the paint to dry seven times took two days and made me lose my 24-hour cure time (we were going to give it to them that night at a going-away party). I had to forgo painting it with chalk paint and pull out the roll of Chalkboard Contact Paper. I don't think it works as well as the chalk paint, but I had no choice. I cut it to fit and began to apply it over the now-dry, somewhat magnetic paint. It was so lumpy and bumpy underneath the Contact Paper that I had to pull it off and try to sand that cursed paint down.

The instructions on the magnetic paint said that if sanding was needed, to do so with the scrubby side of Scotch-Brite sponge. No amount of sponge scrubbing, however, did the trick. I moved on to steel wool and had a little more success, but was afraid of losing too much of that "fabulous magnetic power" I had worked so hard to achieve. I quit and put the Contact Paper back on the slightly-less bumpy surface.

Even with the paint disappointment, I loved the look of the finished piece, and so did everyone else. Now the Kunkle family has a beautiful, yet functional piece to hang in their new home to remind them of how much they are missed back here. I look forward to experiencing the "joy of meeting again" with them sometime in the future!

Old window sign

Go to this post to learn about the magnets, decorative thumbtacks, and chalk keeper that I made at the last minute to add an extra touch. The best part is that they were so easy!

I linked to:

Glitter, Glue & Paint


Raising Imperfection
making monday marvelous linky party

The Chicken Chick

DIY Show OffSweet Bella Roos
Add caption


  1. Even with all the ups and downs the project turned out lovely. What a thoughtful gift! I love the image I have of you dumpster diving for window. LOL

    Thanks for linking to Raising Imperfection!

  2. Such a pretty redo! New Follower!

    1. Jessica, thanks so much for visiting and, especially, for following!

  3. Great post! I enjoy your blog and would love for you to come share at my weekly Farm Girl Blog Fest:

    Fresh Eggs Daily

  4. I have a window just like this waiting patiently for me to figure out what to do with it =) I'd love it if you'd share this at my linky party

  5. Great idea. My mother owns a glass shop (they do doors and windows) so she always gets old wooden windows from jobs they do. She has them repurposed all over her backyard on the fence. It looks super cool.
    This is a clever use of it!

    Thanks for linking your favorite post to Raising Imperfection.
    Please come back Friday to see if you were featured.


  6. oh wow!! this is such a creative and brilliant idea!!!

    would love it if you could share this on my link party @

    Natasha xx

  7. What a great way to repurpose an old window! I'm sure your friends are very pleased with their gift.

  8. That's what's called persistence painting on that magnetic paint. Glad I read this post so I don't bother to try it. I dont have nearly as much patience as you do. Bless your heart. Love what you did with your window. Very versatile.
    We had to leave several of the old wood windows in Ky when we moved. I went to a clinic in Bowling Green and noticed there was a window place across from parking lot for the clinic. I'd see windows laying around so one day I went over to ask about them. They said I could take whatever I could haul. I had an old Suburban so that wasn't any trouble. When we moved away just didn't have room for all the windows we had (and a few old doors). We brought maybe 5 windows with us, have 2 left to use. I'll have to find out if there's a window place in Grand Junction, CO where I might get some windows. Happy March

    1. It would have made me cry to leave them behind! Maybe you will stumble across another free pile somewhere. Thanks for visiting!

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