Q: I plan to convert a dining room into a bedroom for my son. This room has two large windows, facing west and north on two walls, and one wall has a built-in china cabinet. How can I cover up the north-facing window so I can attach shelf brackets or place furniture in front of it and still allow the condensation from the windows to evaporate? How can I make this a usable wall and not create a mold and mildew breeding ground? Eventually I will add on a room for him and return the room to its original design.
A: You’re right-on when you identify the potential problem. Moisture control to prevent a mold and mildew breeding ground is essential.
Mold and mildew thrive in a warm, damp environment and sufficient airflow is critical to control the moisture created when your window sweats.
A quick and “dirty” solution is to remove the glass from the window and cover the opening with plywood. This would give you a solid surface and eliminate concerns about mold, but it wouldn’t do the curb appeal of your house any favors.
Alternatively, you can do a little more work and build a temporary partition wall using two-by-four studs.
You can build such a wall for less than $100 and with little or no damage to the room. Because the new wall is nonstructural and temporary, we suggest that you use a compression (no nail or screw) fit to hold the wall in place. If you’re not comfortable with this idea, a screw through each end of the top and bottom plate into a ceiling joist and the floor will secure the wall. Of course you’ll need to patch and paint when you return the room to its original condition.
Begin by locating the new wall. We’d suggest 16 inches or so from the window–enough room so someone can get behind it and clean occasionally. We’re envisioning a wall that is open-ended, covered with a fabric drape to allow access for cleaning.
Measure an equal distance from the window wall on the floor and the ceiling and snap a chalk line to mark the location of the new wall.
To build the wall, measure the distance from floor to ceiling at each stud location. Cut two-by-four studs that are 33/8 inches less than each measurement. This provides a tight fit and takes into account the thickness of the top and bottom plate.
Nominal two-by-fours are 15/8 inches thick and 35/8 inches wide. So, if the measurement from floor to ceiling is 96 inches at a point, cut the stud 925/8 inches. Build the wall on the floor. Once all the studs are cut, nail them to the top plate and bottom plate. Nail the studs 16 inches on center, so that when you hang your drywall the seams will line up over a stud. When the frame is complete, tilt it into place, getting it close to the chalk lines. With a sledgehammer, gently tap the frame in place so it is plumb. Be careful here, you don’t need a sledgehammer on the toe and we shudder at the thought of a 12-pound sledge flying out that north-side window.
Next, screw drywall into the studs every 6 inches on center. Countersink the screws. Tape the joints, texture and paint.
Again, it’s wise to leave one end of the wall open and cover it with a drape. This not only allows access for cleaning (especially the window), but it also allows for sufficient airflow to stop the growth of mold and mildew.
If the room is large enough and you want form as well as function, consider placing the wall 30 inches out from the window wall and, instead of using a drape, put in a louver door. This way your son gets a walk-in closet.
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