Q: I have an 1883 all-brick house. I’m replacing interior rotted sills. Do they pull out or are they nailed?
A: Most windows, even very old ones, were installed as setups that contain the movable sash and the frame (two jambs, a header and that pesky sill nailed to one another).
Take off the storm window and raise the lower sash. Saw the middle of the sill at right angles, making two equal pieces. (Save these pieces to serve as a template for a new sill.) Now for the tricky part: With a hammer and a pry, pinch or flat bar, pry and pry again until the sill comes free. You can buy a replacement sill in the BROSCO catalog online. Cut it to fit and slip it into place. Maybe you can nail through the sill and into the mortar between the bricks at the bottom of the rough opening. If you can’t buy a sill, make one out of a pressure-treated 2-by-12.
Fixing damaged mortar
Q: The winter damaged to the mortar between the bricks of my steps. Can I use premixed caulk to fix them?
A: Dig out the damaged mortar and put in new. You can’t use premixed caulk.
Dig out anything loose. Dampen remaining joints and put in mortar, pressing it in thoroughly. You can buy ready-mixed mortar; just add water to form a crumbly, not soupy, mix. Install mortar, then use a pointing tool to compress it. If you spill mortar on the brick, scoop it with your trowel and toss it back onto the mortar board. After the mortar has set, buy muriatic acid at a hardware store, cut it half and half with water (always pour the acid into the water), and apply it to the mortar. When it stops fizzing, scrub and rinse the mortar. Always wear proper protective gear.