I'm showing you how to create your own
Do-it-yourself Gorgeous Swing Out Stall Windows
Oh yeah and they're maintenance free!
If your thinking that you can’t have stunning windows in your barn because it’s too expensive or you’ve been told it’s too hard to build custom windows. Think again. I’m going to show you step-by-step how to create your own custom, maintenance free barn windows. I created a total of seven 4’x3′ windows and don’t get me wrong they are a bit of work to make. But they were so worth it when you see how cool they turn out. I’m not a builder and aside from letting me use his tools my other half was totally hands-off on this one. That’s right, this was a one-woman project (aside from hanging them-that part took two women 😉 ). I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m telling you because if I can build them you can build them.
I’m super proud to say these windows are as beautiful as they are functional.
Choosing the right materials
What framing products work best?
These windows were originally made by another builder with cedar boards for the exterior side and treated plywood on the inside. They were painted with high-end exterior paint and we had high hopes of them lasting a long time. Needless to say, it was super frustrating when they started rotting after only about five years. It was a poor design on his part and an expensive lesson learned.
In my search for the perfect material to remake these windows, I ruled out wood products right away. I like riding way more than I like painting so it needed to be something that would not require maintenance.
After doing a great deal of research I found solid PVC exterior grade trim boards with wood grain texture to be the best option. Being solid PVC they will last and I could cut them any width or length needed without having issues with raw edges. They carry a variety of sizes at most larger building supply stores such as Menards. They aren’t the cheapest option but it is nice material to work with when it comes to fitting together square and seating screws. And the best part they scrub up nicely and they don’t require painting!
I also chose to use stainless steel trim screws so that there wouldn’t be rust spots showing up as they are exposed to weather conditions.
Lastly picking out high-quality caulking is very important. I opted to go with a polyurethane caulk that has UV protection, won’t crack, holds up to temperature changes, and is designed to be used on a variety of materials such as plastic and glass.
Where to find glass to go in the windows?
These windows used custom sized, double pane tempered glass with white grill inserts. To have all these nice options in the size you want I would check online at custom glass retailers such as One Day Glass. They have a ton of custom selections, including insulated glass for heated barns, grill/insert choices, and are fairly reasonable on their double pane glass options.
If you’re on a tighter budget you can find basic glass at many hardware stores or building supply stores such as Menards. This option will be reasonable but somewhat restricting. You will have to work with stock sizes, the glass is usually not tempered or insulated, and they won’t come with grill inserts.
Another super budget-friendly idea would be to reframe old storm windows. People are often giving these away on places like Craig’s List or curbside and after they are re-framed with the PVC boards you would never know they were freebies.
You could also choose to use a clear acrylic instead of glass. If you plan to have the windows anywhere that horses will have direct access to them (no window guards) then I would definitely go with acrylic. I would also consider using acrylic to create dutch doors with a window in the top half that horses have access to.
Measure twice - Cut once
After measuring the opening on the building and the size of the glass I was working with I opted to go with 1 1/4″x 6″ PVC boards that were ten feet long. With a bit of strategic planning, I was able to layout all the cuts on paper before buying materials to get an estimate of what I needed. It also made it so that I was able to cut the boards with only a few inches of drop getting wasted. This took a bit of extra measuring but saved a lot of money on materials. Depending on the size of your glass and ability to haul materials you may want to choose to go with a different width or length of PVC boards to best utilize materials.
Check out the diagrams below to see exactly how I measured and planned material needs.
Framing the glass
Next step was creating two frames for each window. The glass is going to be sandwiched between the two frames so you will want to make sure that the frames line up flush with each of them. This will ensure they stay square and are strong in the corners. You can check out the diagram above and videos below to see how I did it.
I chose to use a Kreg jig to screw these boards together to create frames without any screw heads sticking up. That way when they are back-to-back they can be screwed tightly together. If you’re not familiar with a Kreg jig they are super handy to use. I didn’t do a full video on that part but there are some great tutorials on youtube for all the ways to use them. I remember hen Ken first bought one I thought it was an overpriced gadget that we really didn’t need but I have since had to eat my words on all the projects we’ve done with it. It has made things way easier and cleaner looking.
Once all the frames were made, I ripped 1″x2″ PVC boards down with the table saw to create the beveled trim to hold the glass in on the exterior side of the window. Beveling this trim piece gives the windows a nicer look and makes it so that the water will run off the glass easily. You will also need to miter these boards on a 45-degree angle in each corner. Then attach them to the frame with stainless steel screws. *Quick note on all the areas that I used screws I screwed them down slightly deeper so that the heads were below the surface of the board and could be covered with white caulking.
The next step is to lay the frame with the beveled edge attached face down with the glass placed on top of it. Then place the 2nd frame on top with the wood grain face up. The glass should sit just inside of the 2nd frame so that the two frames are tight together. Next, you will use a table saw to rip down a 2nd set of trim pieces (I used 1″x2″ boards for this as well) that will hold the glass in place. To determine how thick to make these trim pieces it’s handy to hold the end of your trim board wood grain down against the glass and mark a line on it at the height of the frame. The part that is sticking out is the part that gets cut off creating a thinner board that fits flush with the frame when the glass is in place. I also cut the width down to 3/4″ so that I could get two sets of trim out of each 2″ board. These trim pieces then attached to the 2nd frame with stainless steel trim screws.
After that, the two frames get screws to each other with the glass sandwiched in between them. I put the screws in on the interior side so that you cannot see them on the outside of the windows and again counter sunk them down a bit so that they can be covered with caulking.
The last step before hanging them up is to caulk them. I like every good perfectionist hate caulking! Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil to keep dirt and moisture for sneaking between the layers and it does do an amazing job of covering up the screws. After using a few different types of caulk I can definitely say that polyurethane caulk is much nicer to work with than other types such as silicone or acrylic. It covers very solidly and dries to a perfect matching finish so you can’t see the seams or holes it was used on unless you look very closely. You will want to caulk all the screw heads so they don’t show and run a bead of caulk around the seam where the two frames come together. This helps it look like one solid piece of PVC wood and prevents the two layers from working their way apart during temperature changes. *A couple people have asked about the little yellow triangles that are in the video that hold up the window so you can caulk both sides at once without having to wait for it to dry. These are called painters pyramids. We first got them when working on other home improvement projects and I thought they were an excessive gimmick but it turns out they are a must have for the impatient painter (or caulker in this case) like myself. You can check them out here.
Hanging them up
The moment of truth. Time to hang them up. If you are looking to have them be able to swing open and closed similar to the way a Dutch door swings you will want to use heavy-duty shed door hinges (*affiliate). You will also want to use a good quality swinging door latches (*affiliate) to be sure they stay shut when you want them to. It can also be handy to add a small flat hook and eye to keep them open when you want to. Ours stay hooked open all summer long.