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· Colin Rice

Drip-dry walls and windows

Low-cost DIY refurb

I've just about finished the first phase of my latest project exploring low maintenance cladding and windows. This to overclad my seaside shack, upgrading the thermal performance of the walls and renewing the existing casement windows. 

'Going with the flow', the whole building section is gently reconfigured so that the roof drips over the wall, the cladding drips over the glass and the glass drips over the cladding below. The result is a layered facade in two senses: the three layers of overhangs across the height of the wall, and the layering of the individual wall components to achieve this. 

The windows are home-made simple box frames of 25mm marine ply, with glazing directly fixed to the front, 220mm deep so they make a wall lining too. Vapour control barrier and insulation are fixed to the existing wall and an air barrier aligns neatly with the front of the box frame window. The rough sawn Douglas Fir rain screen cladding hides the fixings of the  windows so they appear frameless and just so. A painted shutter made of the same 25mm plywood provides ventilation. This sits in the same line as the glass, overhanging the cladding below, and closes against a hardwood mullion with an aluminium flat glued into a slot to form a water baffle. I've reused the ironmongery from the casements. Hardly original - think of Corb's aerators at Maison Jaoul etc - but you do get a lovely variety of light with an opening flap.

After years of reputtying and painting and still losing the battle against rot this solution is economical, elegant and cosy. For a price beyond my budget you can get double glazed stepped section units that would even meet the Building Regulations.

Rather than chasing the abstraction of the primitive hut as pure geometric volume, which seems to be the current fashion in spite of its costly failures, this is a game of abstracting window and wall, enjoying the play of light and shade, solid and void that comes from expressing what a wall must do.

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